I recently wrote an article talking about how Boomers are retiring en masse – and taking their knowledge with them. I was stunned by its positive reception. Were the readers Boomers, smugly patting themselves on the back that they would be missed? Were they Gen Xers in a panic trying to figure out the void? Or was it Millennials… waving bye-bye? Here I look at how companies need to create consumer-like experiences to keep their staff engaged.
The reality is, the workplace will change dramatically in five years. The Boomers, currently representing one-third of the workforce, will be a memory. Taking not only organizational knowledge, but some of the resistance to new technology.
The digital natives (those born after 1996, fully nurtured in digital media) will be nearing 30 years-old. Bigger than the Boomer generation, they will be a large part of the workforce in 2025.
So, what does this mean? Three things.
Tech adaptive, tech aficionados
This burgeoning workforce is computer savvy and not afraid of technology. They have grown up with smartphones, tablets, and social media. Consequently, they adapt to new technologies easily. It also means they crush technologies that they believe are useless.
This is a game changer in the workplace. For years, technology standards have been set from the top down. We have struggled through horrid and confusing interfaces. In addition, experiencing lousy search engines and dumpster-diving to find data we’re looking for. Digital natives will not suffer any of it.
They will demand interfaces that are more akin to the best shopping sites consumers use. Mobile-friendly, anticipate their needs, and respond to natural language.
They also want (and demand) a work-life balance. According to Deloitte, nearly 75% of Millennials believe a “work from home” or “work remotely” policy all or some of the time is important.
The massive corporate campus will be reduced, and hoteling will be the norm. That work-life balance means mobile will be relied on and applications that are not adaptive will not be relied on for long.
Working from home definitely has its upsides, but it is not easy. As one who has done it for 20 years, there is a disconnect when you don’t gather ‘around the water cooler’.
It becomes tedious and lonely. But Millennials have grown up with multi-person gaming devices, FaceTime and other remote technologies, so companies need to mirror this in the workplace.
Physical meetings, which were a staple of the Boomer generation, will disappear into quick stand-ups. This will allow people to work independently and convene when necessary.
Actually helping consumers, naturally
For all their rebellious natures, Boomers, for the most part, were pretty obedient when it came to following orders. The new workforce wants to be empowered to solve problems, be it for internal or external customers.
Finding solutions means accessing knowledge quickly, regardless of which silos it comes from. This means asking for that information using natural language.
By 2025, the workforce will be fully trained by the Alexas, Siris, Echos and all the mobile devices of the world to use natural language in lien of key term queries. Consequently, your systems need to be able to parse content, whether it is data or text, associate it semantically and assemble only the relevant information to users.
In conclusion, workers will become as finicky as consumers when it comes to finding what they want. Organizations will need to invest in providing user experience satisfaction with the same gusto as their commerce brethren – or risk losing employees that won’t suffer anything less.
Diane Burley is Vice President of Content for Lucidworks, and AI-powered search company. A former digital media executive, she is an author and speaker about the impact of technology on consumers and employees.