Diane Salvatora Vice President, Global Circuit Sales at Unify, threw the audience a little curveball near the start of her keynote presentation, “Millennials, BYOD, and the Rise of the Anywhere Worker: Turning Challenges Into Opportunities for Today’s Dynamic Workplace” on Thursday morning at ITEXPO
“I am going to get back to the human element of communications,” Salvatora said. “Not even about technology.”
Although that might sound like an odd way to begin a keynote speech at a business technology event, as Salvatora continued her presentation, the message made perfect sense. As she explained it, the influx of millennials—who have grown up with the expectation of instant connectivity and access from anywhere—into the workforce is causing a seismic shift in the way business is now conducted. These employees are bringing their own devices, applications and storage to work wherever they are, using whatever technology allows them to do their jobs most effectively: whether it was provided by the company or not.
In an effort to understand the way younger business professionals are working, Unify spent time studying how people work individually, in teams, and the external forces driving their performance. What they found was that engagement was “the secret sauce,” as Salvatora put it. Engagement, she said, creates higher levels of trust, commitment and performance among colleagues.
Unfortunately, Salvatora noted that Unify’s research found that engagement is a major problem for virtual work teams using some of the most common collaboration tools available today.
“We found that only 13 percent of those working in virtual teams are fully engaged,” she said. “Even more startling was the fact that 50 percent of employees say they are disengaged. So, a new, better way of working involves harnessing the power of virtual teams.”
After passionately laying out the obstacles that stand in the way of engagement and productivity, Salvatora discussed some of the actions she believes organizations will need to take to get their millennial workers feeling connected to their co-workers again. One of the suggestions she gave was to shed any technology that is causing employee frustration and creating impediments to success. She acknowledged that for those who have had a hand in developing those tools, discarding them would not be easy—but it is necessary.
Salvatora also suggested that organizations strive to put more informal networks in place inside their teams to help encourage creative thinking. Great ideas, she explained, don’t usually appear on a calendar.
“Get real in your organizations,” she said. “You can’t do breakthrough thinking, or crowd source a great idea if it’s scheduled for next Thursday at 2 p.m. in a conference room.”
Throughout her talk, Salvatora continuously drove home the point that millennials have distinctly different expectations and preferences for business communications than many baby boomers do. Workers in their 20s and 30s, for example, overwhelming prefer real-time communication to email and voicemail. And they want to be able to manage all of their communications from a single application or pane of glass as well.