Age Does Matter: How Workplace Collaboration Varies Between Generations

With the first group of Gen Z’ers entering the workforce last year, and Baby Boomers continuing to work later into their lives, businesses now have as many as four different generations working together and collaborating more closely than ever. Each generation, however, has been shaped by drastically different cultures, technologies, communication styles, and  the list goes on.

This has led to dramatic discrepancies in how the different generations work and communicate in the workplace – so organizations need to ensure they’re creating a work environment that accommodates all of their employees.

To help better understand these generational differences, GoTo conducted a survey examining the daily workplace behaviors, communication styles and tools used by 2,000 office employees in the U.S. and around the world. In our first blog post on the survey, we focused on the results around distractions and tools in the workplace as a whole. Now, let’s dive into what the results reveal about how workplace collaboration trends and preferences vary between the generations.

 

Younger employees collaborate more actively and use more tools

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 reacted by deploying individual solutions that cater to each of these needs. For instance, roughly 60 percent of employees in the younger age ranges (18-44) have embraced at least three different collaboration tools for daily use, as opposed to only 42% of employees 45-55 and 28% of employees 55+. That’s a lot of tools!

 

Younger generations are concerned with lack of consolidation among collaboration apps

While the capabilities of various solutions no doubt ease everyone’s life at work, the increased use of disparate collaboration tools among younger generations has also caused them to feel more time is wasted switching between these apps.

  • 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

 

Older generations value individual work vs. team collaboration

Given the younger generations’ increased use of collaboration tools, it’s no surprise that the survey also revealed they expect more communication than older generations, and are more likely to appreciate working on teams. Employees 55+ are also more likely than employees 25-34 to prefer working on their own (41% vs. 33%), while younger employees are more likely to see communication among their coworkers lacking (56% of those 18-44 agree vs. only 35% of those 45+) – meaning organizations should facilitate/encourage more communication among younger team members.

To nobody’s shock, businesses are busy. And, while advancements in collaboration technologies have played an integral role in helping workers keep up with increasing demands and improving the efficiency of operations, both older and younger generations of workers have a message for IT leaders: the buffet of solutions 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.

The key to successful collaboration in the workplace is to find policies and technology that work for all generations. It doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all solution, but instead find a vendor that offers a one-stop-shop for UCC solutions so that those that want to connect via phone instead of chat or video conferencing instead of text can do so in the same seamless experience.

Providing workers with the right unified collaboration technologies that are an all-in-one solution or solutions that easily integrate within the user’s work flow will allow for less time spent dealing with the actual tech, and more time to enjoy all the benefits it offers. A single provider that offer a full suite of products to meet multiple collaboration needs means that all generations of workers can feel more feel engaged and empowered regardless of where and how they want prefer to work.

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