As UC continues to evolve under the UCStrategies definition, "Communications integrated to optimize business processes," I can't help but think where UC will ultimately end up and what it will look like. Tools such as IM/chat, presence, Adhoc audio conferencing, collaboration, videoconferencing, Unified Messaging, UC mobility, and corporate directory all offer multiple ways of communicating real-time - we can all be connected real-time no matter what the media. I believe we've seen just "the tip of the iceberg" of what UC will eventually become.
As UC continues to gain adoption, there are hints as to why it will proliferate at outstanding growth rates. According to PWC.com, "Millennials matter because they are not only different from those that have gone before, they are also more numerous than any since the soon-to-retire Baby Boomer generation - millennials already form 25% of the workforce in the US and account for over half of the population in India. By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce."
So within the next five years, Millennials will account for nearly 50% of the workforce. That's a HUGE statement as to the ultimate outcome of how UC will be embraced, and what it is going to look like. My son, a millennial, happens to be one of our consultant staff members. His insights can be significant, as he knows the way his generation works, and a great resource for helping map out where UC will be in the coming years.
Millennials can be, in fact, your greatest advocate for deploying UC in your own organization. Millennials help identify to the ultimate UC tagline: "Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device."
Here are some of the traits I see in how UC can fit invariably well with Millennials:
A Craving for Knowledge - Millennials have an incredible appetite for knowledge, data, and information. Next-gen UC tools can provide access to such knowledge bases with access to historical and current real-time internal databases for staff - this provides an advantage in tracing the history of a topic, or of an issue.
Embrace Today's Technology - While Baby Boomers have grown up in an age of TV, millennials have grown up in an age of the Internet, PCs/laptops, Wi-Fi, 3G (and now 4G), and social media. These tools have already been a part of their lives growing up.
Mobility - Millennials now fully embrace a mobile world, working anywhere via mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. These tools are now a part of everyday life, as a means of being connected full time, well beyond the traditional 9-5 work day and 40-hour work week. Mobile UC clients now supply the tools necessary to embrace a full UC suite experience at the smartphone and tablet device level.
Immediacy - Millennials not only want access to information, they want it immediately. Tools such as presence and IM/chat help provide that, and now next-gen UC tools such device awareness, geo-location presence, and powerful search tools as a part of the "conversation" help continue to satisfy that need. Additionally, click-to-call and conferencing can ensure that millennials will have seamless access to any kind, any type of communication, anywhere, anytime.
Millennials Are Technologically "Social" and Collaborate - Millennials embrace social media tools in the consumer world, and are ready to collaborate, share screens and conference, and create virtual teams in a real-time gamer's world, as one example. UC tools will allow millennials the ability to collaborate full time, in real time, sharing information quickly and ultimately effortlessly. Millennials want to share information and collaborate quickly, providing solutions to issues much faster than organizations experience in a non-UC environment.
Millennials Can Work From Anywhere - Millennials are familiar with working and communicating from anywhere without a major adoption curve. Ideally millennials like to work from home some days during the week, or for that matter work from anywhere (e.g. Starbucks, hotel, etc.). And from contact center staffing polls, most workers at large (millennials, GenX, Baby Boomers) would prefer a flex work environment to improve the quality of their lives. Creating a "virtual branch office" (working from anywhere) can offer any staff member or partner the ability to work with a team from literally anywhere, from any device (e.g. desktop telephony, laptop, PC desktop, smartphone, tablet, room-based video conference).
Recent Staples Poll
According to a recent Staples 2014 poll, telecommuting and remote working have clear advantages for the workforce at large, and in my opinion, especially when it comes to millennials. From the poll:
10% of respondents stated they would take a salary reduction to keep the telecommuting benefit
74% would like to achieve a better work/life balance (the number one reason employees like telecommuting), then transportation savings (second at 69%), and then green benefits (third at 47%) cited as top reasons for remote working
69% of employees cited reduced stress as a major telecommuting benefit (up significantly, more than 3X from 21% an earlier 2013 poll).
88% of employees believe telecommuting is a win-win for both them and their company
65% of employers who allow their workers to telecommute report that they have happier, more satisfied employees
33% of employers report less absenteeism in the workforce when telecommuting (and virtual working) is allowed
By implementing UC as part of an organization's strategic plan, millennials (and all staff for that matter) will have the freedom to work using any device anytime, anywhere, creating a domestic and even worldwide "virtual organization" environment. In my opinion, this kind of flexibility heightens the chances that an organization can attract more millennials and retain them longer. By empowering millennials with UC tools, real-time communication expands exponentially across any device, and further drives innovation in the marketplace.
My UCStrategies colleague Jon Arnold, also has a great post on millennials (Five Things We Can Learn From Millennials About Collaboration).
If you are looking for the "perfect" long-term UC strategy, start with the traits of the millennials, who, in my opinion, will be the single biggest driver towards UC adoption going forward. The traits and behaviors of millennials should be adopted by your own organization, keeping in mind that it will take time to "shift" a culture from a "brick and mortar" mindset to a "virtual organization" mindset.
And in my opinion, those that adapt earliest will win the game of UC in their respective vertical markets, leading their competitors by as much as 12-24 months by adopting UC as a strategic component of their business communication, which will further drive their timely, expedient delivery of their respective products and services. Make no mistake, UC is not only transformational for any organization, but existential to any organization long term.
This article was originally published on BCStrategies.