I recently semi-jokingly asked my colleague, “What did people do before the invention of smartphones?” We quickly concluded that they probably actually talked to each other. Smartphones are one of a number of technology phenomena that have changed our lives drastically in the past decade such as group messaging, navigation maps, Wi-fi and a whole host of mobile apps.

However, the adoption of new technology in many businesses remains slow and this resistance to change will likely lead to the downfall of less pioneering businesses. Today’s tech savvy Generation ‘Y’ doesn’t want to wear different hats for their work, home, family and social lives; they want the same technology experience regardless of where they are and what they are doing.

Make it worth our while to work for you.... Image: iStock.TommL
Make it worth our while to work for you.... Image: iStock.TommL

Work and play; they’re here to stay

Gartner forecasts that, three-quarters of the organisational workforce will be pooled from Gen ‘Y’ in the next decade. Someone, who lives in a world of choice in the palm of their hand. They shop both online and in-store; sometimes both simultaneously lobbying for the best deal on their smartphone. This choice has acted like trigger in the relationship between consumers and retailers.

The day is not far when relationships comprising of limited choice will be wiped out. Take the classic example of players like OLA, Uber and Airbnb who have taken the hotel and taxi businesses by a storm through their unique and competitive offerings. In the coming years, we’ll see many more situations where technology will end existing monopolies.

Gen ‘Y’ has already started applying the same expectation to their professional lives. They are attracted, recruited and retained by businesses that offer the same choice that they enjoy outside of work, and the best workplace experience...

A decision is required for the moment where organisations should shred their conservative mindset and open accesses to technologies that fuels employee efficiency. This will require a serious rethinking for many IT departments. For example, whilst it’s rare for people to communicate by email at home - they’re much more likely to be chatting on Facebook or Skype – however email still dominates the workplace. This disconnect is a recipe for disaster in the long run; the workplace has to change.

Get set for tomorrow’s World

The first and most vital stage ushering the ‘Workplace of the future’ is the ability to understand what makes different types of worker tick. Some organisations have started to build user profiles helping them to match the workplace experience with their needs, but in many cases they have failed to put themselves in the employees’ shoes.

Common stereotypes can only aid in providing an understanding of how employees like to work and what they will respond most favorably to. A far more granular and scientific way of creating user profiles is needed for the process to be successful. The most effective method is to use real-time data analytics to understand the intricate differences that exist in work styles and employees’ varying expectations of the workplace experience.

For example, one type of employee that can emerge from this profiling exercise is the knowledge worker, who thrives on IT and needs access to corporate applications, data and services anywhere, at any time and from any device; with a consistent experience across all. Their experience with the devices is also leading these employees to demand self-service enablement so they can resolve their own issues, rather than calling on IT teams.

Ultimately, this makes them more productive than less technologically-engaged employees. So organisations should encourage rather than dissuade such an approach. By contrast, task workers, such as bank-tellers or call center operatives, tend to have less intensive needs for IT flexibility and will be more reliant on IT support.

An ideal workplace for the future

There are many challenges faced by today’s organisations in delivering the user experience desired by Gen ‘Y’. It isn’t enough to simply bolt-on BYOD, social media, mobility enablement, desktop delivery, collaboration and new support services.

They must be fully integrated with the right usage model and existing processes to create an innovative, collaborative and optimised workplace. There are five simple but important steps that must be implemented to make it successful:

  1. Business above IT – The workplace of the future will shift its focus from IT platforms to business operations platforms. This will have a standardised pattern of deployment architecture. Whilst developers will have the ability to decide the programming language for building their applications, the deployment platform and patterns will be dictated by the needs of the business and niche demands of end-users.
  2. A dependable experience – Employees will come to rely on the experience enabled by multiple mission-critical applications and databases as the workplace of the future evolves. It is imperative that organisations have highly reliable platforms to host these systems; ensuring the continued availability of the IT services that support employee productivity and business continuity.
  3. Next-generation networks – As the user experience of IT systems continues to evolve, the enterprise networks is also forced embark on this journey. The consumerisation of IT is forcing IT departments to shift their thinking from being technology-centric to user-centric. Next-generation networks will need to be aligned to support the flow of information and quality of service from server to end-user. However, they will still need to support the server-to-server interactions that underpin traditional infrastructure applications.
  4. New world of security – As the workplace of the future transcends traditional enterprise boundaries, the focus will move away from securing the perimeter to securing assets, employee interaction and workloads. For example, the growing use of services such as Dropbox that exist outside the firewall will give rise to the need for real-time and posture-based security. Endpoint security and management will also become essential as more points of entry continue to open up for cybercriminals to exploit.
  5. Everyone pulling together –The final step, which supports all other elements needed to create the enterprise of the future, is service management. This defines the operating model that the organisation is aiming to achieve and ensures that its teams are all aligned with a common vision on how they will deliver the workplace experience.

One thing is clear; enterprises should become accommodative to the expectations of their employees if they dare to be successful. If they maintain a workplace of 1990s, employees will prefer to move on to new pastures which businesses cannot afford.

IT departments will have to put on their gaming faces and meet employees on their own terms; but that’s not a bad thing. It just needs the right planning. Who knows, they might even have fun in the process

 Ashish Gupta is Executive Vice President & Head of EMEA, HCL Technologies