What will the next gen workforce look like?
The IT industry likes to try and humanize itself and talk about the rise of ‘digital natives’ and how these new always-on individuals will now change the nature of work.
The digital natives that form the next-generation workforce are the Generation Z post-millennial humans born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.
In reality, many of us into our thirties, forties, and fifties exhibit most of the same tech-related behaviors as the young Gen Zs, but as far as social cohort stereotypes go, we definitely see more of the new digital workforce trends played out among the younger members of the population.
So what are they, what signs should we look out for to spot them and how will the habits of the new age workforce impact the rest of us?
Digital worker behavior
The next-generation workforce is unencumbered by offices and archaic work systems.
Digital workers are capable of working from multiple locations and build their workflows around connected systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) to drive predictive analytics and make some of the worker’s decisions for them automatically.
Next-gen workers get impatient with legacy infrastructures, which they think holds them back. But, inevitably, not all non-cloud era elements of corporate infrastructure are going to disappear by the end of next week. If your department has to force some of the newbies to ‘do things the old way’, be prepared for them not to enjoy it. Bracing for tension is a better way of experiencing the clash of opposing forces.
Building new digital workflows into the operational structure of any organization requires exhaustive provisioning for governance, compliance and organizational risk intelligence. When these factors are flaky, it is harder to build the digital workflows that will support the creativity requirements of the next-gen workforce. When these factors are flaky, work still happens, but it happens at a lower level of potential productivity and efficiency that it had the potential to.
Next-gen workers use email, but only because they have to. Email has been called an imperfect solution that has never been bettered.
Next-gen workers are embracing the new breed of collaboration tools that have layers of worker and team productivity (such as document sharing, cross-company multi-discipline virtual team grouping, and gamification, for want of three specific examples) engineered into them.
Older workers who balk at using these connected tools risk disenfranchising themselves from single tasks, wider projects, higher level departmental initiatives and, ultimately, from the organization itself.
The chatbots and social platforms of the next-gen worker era need to be dovetailed in gradually and integrated intelligently with existing systems. Technology industry analysts point to the rise of virtual concierges that will now host and facilitate our meetings, these are the things we need to get ready for today.
Machines today are watching and listening to us. Where we have allowed them to, AI is busy tracking and codifying our actions at every point of every work task inside every digital workflow system. That codification of human activities is then used to build the intelligence to separate us away from the tasks that the machines know they can complete in their entirety without us.
Next-gen workers will know and accept this ‘handoff’ to machines intuitively and instinctively. Older workers who find the notion of being partly automated disturbing need to get with the program. Nobody wants workers doing machine work, every company will want workers focused on higher value-add tasks.
User Experience matters
In terms of other factors, building the virtual workspace for the next-generation worker will require control, visibility, and governance from the start. Integration is also key, that is – new platforms must be compatible with partners, customers and even competitors in adjacent markets.
But there is one final consideration for next-gen happiness. The IT department must not just focus on its technology platform infrastructure and user operations at the app level. Instead, IT must now also extend to focus on user experience (UX) design of everything in the next-gen worker’s universe.
We’re all quite used to technology by now, so next-gen workers don’t just want tech, and they don’t just want tech that works… they want tech that is great to use and gives them a great experience.
Next-generation workers look a lot like you and me, but they spend less time in traditional management meetings, they spend more time in coffee shops because they work everywhere, they smile more (because of all those great UX plus points)… and they drink more organic kale and almond milk smoothies.
The kale smoothie factor isn’t a result of new cloud platforms as such, it’s more a symptom of the generation. Pass the quinoa burgers, please.
2 December 2022