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Workplace redesign for millennials

LiveMint logoLiveMint 10-04-2017 Varadha Raju

Technology innovation at workplaces has always been guided by culture. This is even more pronounced in the case of collaboration technologies, because it closely mirrors the way we have learnt to communicate. Today’s technology changes are largely influenced by the millennial generation—a generation that has a completely different mindset from Gen Xers or the baby boomers.

As opposed to the earlier generations that modelled their way of working as per the tools and technologies that were available to them, this generation actually demands technology that can enable them to work the way they want. This generation was the key force behind the growth of consumerization of IT and bring your own device trends.

Given that India will become the youngest country by 2021, with 64% of its population in the age group of 20-35, according to the Economic Survey 2013-14, Indian businesses need to shape their strategies to remain relevant to this section. It is fair to say that it is mandatory to morph our workplaces to accommodate the millennial generation. If we do not, we will not be able to acquire and retain top talent, which will stunt our ability to innovate.

In my view, organizations should keep the following factors in mind while redesigning workplaces for millennials:

Deploying relevant infrastructure: The millennial workforce understands the importance of teamwork and knowledge-sharing with their global counterparts and collaboration with their customers. They will either break rules or leave workplaces that do not satisfy their needs. According to Digital, Disparate, and Disengaged, a June 2016 study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Prysm, 71% of the information workers who responded to the survey have said they are more likely to remain at their company if investments were made in a modern, digital collaboration solution. Further, according to 83% of information workers, the right technology tools can help them be productive regardless of location. Similarly, three-quarters or more of IT and facilities respondents reported that a modern, digital workspace could help their organizations make strides in product development, grow revenue and speed time-to-market.

Supporting innovation: The way we act as a team is changing—from traditional, “passive” meetings to meetings where we innovate in groups. A case in point is the R&D departments in multinational companies. There are several companies whose R&D teams have been pooling resources globally to drive innovations for different markets. Consider the example of one of the IT leaders, IBM India—its scientists work in close association across the company’s world-renowned research labs. IBM Research India has also emerged as a premier research lab in the region and is working to solve unique challenges in emerging markets. Tech solutions that are deployed should be conducive for employees to be able to work together and innovate.

Sharing highly visual information in real time: The advent of mobile technology has enabled our workforce to be geographically distributed. This has also created a need for technology that allows us to share highly visual information in real time among disparate team members.

Enabling multidimensional experiences: The optimal goal is to choose tools/solutions that allow for multidimensional experiences that mirror the way we naturally think and interact. And this is not just limited to the way we talk, but also the way we work.

Building a culture of collaboration: Tools are only as effective as the culture we build in our organizations. Enterprises should start with this as their goal, to build a culture of collaboration that is most relevant for them and result in the highest productivity for their employees. They should then envisage ways to drive adoption and train their employees for maximum impact.

Workplaces of the future are going to be transformed into visual workplaces, which will bring together content, data, live applications, video conferencing, live sources and the Web into a touch-interactive visual workspace where teams can simultaneously create, edit, share and store content to maximize productivity, regardless of device or geographical location. To attract and retain millennials, businesses should look at embracing tools that make this possible.

Varadha Raju is country head (India) and vice-president of sales and operations at Prysm Inc.

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