Businesses ill-equipped for next-gen workers, says report

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“Pan-European research shows that businesses are ill-equipped for the next generation of workers,” says a new report from enterprise communications provider, Fuze.

More than half of all workers today (51 per cent) describe the technology their employer supplies as “inadequate” for getting the job done, adds the company. As a result, “Technology at work must catch up with what we’re using in our personal lives”.

Fuze claims that 22 million workers in the UK – 72 per cent of the workforce – support these findings, a figure that the company has extrapolated from its survey base of 5,000 workers and 2,500 teenagers across the UK, Western Europe, and the Nordic countries, who were all asked about their attitudes to, and expectations of, workplace technology.

Whether or not the precise figures are correct, the overall trends are certainly true and have been supported by numerous independent research findings.

Millennial angst

The report, ‘The app generation: how employees of the future are shaping the way we work,’ focuses in particular on the future business impact of today’s generation of 15 to 18-year-olds: the so-called ‘millennials’ or ‘digital natives’ who have never known a world without the internet. But as most commentators now agree, we’re all millennials now.

The underlying point is that in the late Nineties after the first wave of ebusiness, employees travelled to work to use on-premise enterprise tech that was superior to the technologies available in their homes. Since then, the explosion of consumer apps, smartphones, tablets, and social platforms has left many organisations unable to compete, or left with expensive legacy millstones.

(It’s also fair to say that many ‘big iron’ enterprise IT providers, such as SAP and Oracle, have struggled to come to terms with the new generation of cloud platform providers, and have only recently presented comparable solutions – in many cases by buying the startups who redefined the market.)

More, the more flexible and productive workflows that are enabled by mobile, cloud-based, collaborative tools are leading many employees to regard the workplace as an attitude and a shared set of values more than a destination in itself. Informal work practices are spreading, which poses a challenge to more traditional, hierarchical organisations – not to mention to their data security.

According to Fuze, 89 per cent of office workers see the benefits of being able to work remotely, and 65 per cent believe they could work more effectively from home, if they had access to the right technology.

Generation App

There is a strong generational element to the survey findings, says Fuze: only two per cent of Europe’s teenagers use a landline – they prefer social, text, or video conversations – and yet the desk phone remains dominant in most business settings.

The survey found that 59 per cent of workers believe video will eventually replace voice. This is certainly true on mobile platforms, given the huge rise in mobile video traffic in recent years, which is forecast to rise further in the run-up to 2020.

There are long-term strategic dimensions to the Fuze research too: nearly three-quarters of all teens (73 per cent) see up-to-date technology as an important factor in choosing where to work. So the gauntlet is down for all organisations to consider how their current technology strategies may have an unexpected long-term impact on their ability to hire and retain new talent.

But the research also highlights dissatisfaction among existing workers, which has led to the rise of ‘shadow IT’ – the use of personal technology choices that are unsupported by the IT department. Thirty-nine per cent of employees use their own mobile phones for work and many work with software outside of IT’s control, including messaging apps (32 per cent) and video calling (25 per cent).

Again, these broad trends are supported by numerous other independent surveys.

About Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton is a widely respected business and technology journalist, author, and magazine editor. In recent years he has been Editor of Computing (where he remains Consulting Editor); co-founder and Managing Editor of Professional Outsourcing – a magazine he developed from scratch and grew to be the leading magazine in its field; Editor of CBR in its most successful year; and co-founder and launch Editor of Sourcingfocus.com. Today, he is co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, and founder, designer, and Editor in Chief of Strategist magazine (UK), the boardroom magazine that provides strategic insight for business leaders, and of its mobile-first digital edition at www.iamtheStrategist.com. He is also co-founding Editor of Child Internet Safety magazine, and a contributing Editor of Diginomica.com. Over the years Chris has also written for, among many others, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and Computer Weekly. He is the author of several successful books on digital media, and a commissioning editor of more than 50 books.