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Generational differences in collaboration at work

Generational differences in collaboration at work
(Image credit: Pixabay)
About the author

Sion Lewis is VP of EMEA at LogMeIn.

Generation Z marked an important milestone last year, having entered the workforce for the first time. While at the other end, Baby Boomers are now having to work much longer until retirement. 

This information reveals a key observation – there are now as many as four generations working together under the same roof. Each generation has been heavily influenced by the world they grew up in, having experienced varying approaches to the way they work and collaborate, as well as the technologies that they use. 

As a result, there are considerable differences when it comes to the way each generation works together in the office. Yet, organisations need to ensure that they accommodate all of their employees in order to maintain a happy and productive workforce

Recent research from GoTo has revealed the thoughts and challenges of over 2,000 employees across the world and across generations. The study helps to better understand how collaboration trends and preferences vary between different age groups.

The younger they are, the more tools they use

Younger employees are much more likely to use videoconferencing and chat tools, and also use a greater variety of those tools. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given the younger generations grew up using Facetime and instant messaging. 

However, the difference is still pretty staggering. In fact, for chat and video tools respectively, the gap between the two age groups embracing these solutions shows a real disparity between generations:

  • Use of videoconferencing tools: 86% of employees 25-34 vs. just 46% of employees 55+
  • Use of chat tools: 92% of employees 18-24 and 25-34 vs. just 51% of employees 55+

Collaboration technologies now encompass so many different tasks and functions, from instant messaging, to video calls, to chat and phone. Companies often react by deploying individual solutions that cater to each of these needs.

For instance, 60% of  the younger age ranges (18-44) are having to use three or more tools per day just to collaborate with their colleagues.

Younger generations are swamped by the multitude of apps

While these solutions no doubt intend to ease everyone’s life at work, the use of disparate collaboration tools is unintentionally having the reverse effect. By switching between these apps, younger generations feel that time is in fact wasted. 

  • Many feel they waste a lot of time switching between collaboration tools (60% of employees 18-24 and 63% of employees 25-34)
  • While older generations tend to use less collaboration tools, 40% of employees 55+ still feel they waste time switching between technologies

Old vs young: Lone wolf or social butterfly?

Given the younger generations’ increased use of collaboration tools, it’s no surprise that the survey revealed they expect more communication than older generations and are more likely to appreciate collaborative working. Employees 55+ are also more likely than employees 25-34 to prefer working on their own (41% vs. 33%). Meanwhile, younger employees are more likely to see communication among their co-workers lacking – meaning organisations should facilitate – even encourage – more communication among these team members.

To nobody’s shock, businesses are busy. Advancements in collaboration technologies have played an integral role in helping workers keep up with increasing demands and improving the efficiency of operations. However, both older and younger generations of workers have a message for IT leaders: the buffet of solutions has brought us this far, but it’s time for a new evolution in the workplace. Those who have been in the workforce for a long time aren’t embracing multiple solutions, and younger workers report the constant juggling of solutions is hurting productivity.

Implementing solutions that accommodate every generation is a sure way to drive effective collaboration in the workplace. Having one holistic solution in which workers can both connect with their phones or chat via desktop or video will give teams a seamless experience.

Switching from tool to tool just to communicate with your co-workers only serves to waste time. Rather, unified collaboration solutions, which can easily integrate within the workflow, allow workers to actually benefit from the tech. By having all of the desired capabilities under one solution, every generation of workers can feel empowered to work in the way that suits them, regardless of age.

 

Sion Lewis is VP of EMEA at LogMeIn.