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Thinking Outside the Cubicle: How Generations X, Y and Z Believe Technology Will Transform the Workplace

By Universum on 07/03/2017

The most successful businesses are the ones that can prepare for how technological shifts will change their processes and affect their bottom line, for good and for ill. For employer branding, it’s crucial to be seen as a company that can anticipate the impact of technology and get ready for it early. One of the best ways to prepare for your future workplace is to ask the people who will be working there where they see themselves in a few years.
Universum polled members of generations X, Y and Z to identify their views on some of the most important intersections between work and technology. The results, summarized below, were quite surprising.

Digital Capabilities of the Employer

This is one area in which all the generations polled agree: The digital capabilities of their employer is incredibly important. In the eyes of many employees polled, digital innovation is reserved for the customer’s interaction with the company, while outdated processes are retained or are poorly merged with ill-conceived applications of newer tech. According to Universum’s study, 72 percent of Gen X and Y professionals think that an employer’s digital capabilities are important. Only 40 percent of Gen X professionals and 44 percent of their Gen Y counterparts think that their employer’s technical competence is high.
It is crucial for your employer branding that you and your company are seen as technologically competent. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:
Improve back-office digital integration. Employees want the same sort of digital experience you provide your customers: intuitive, seamless, with minimal issues.
Work with HR to cultivate, attract and retain digital talent. It is difficult to act on your digital strategy without the right employees. Make finding them a priority.
See digital improvement as a process, not a goal. Technological improvement is continuous; if you set a finish line, you’ve lost.

Flexible Workforce

The proliferation of the cloud and Wi-Fi hotspots have made working from anywhere, anytime a reality. Given the common perception that younger workers prioritize flexible work scenarios, many companies are treating a flexible work schedule as inevitable.
Universum has found that perception to be true — to a degree. It is true the rise of the gig economy has led to flexibility in hours and location becoming more of a feature and less of a benefit in the American workplace. Also, Gen X and Gen Y professionals have a higher inclination for entrepreneurship and value flexibility, so a company embracing that trait might attract employees that would otherwise be prepared to go out on their own.
But Gen Z members do not prioritize work flexibility; they are more focused on career development. While they would certainly embrace work flexibility if it were offered to them, it is not a definitive characteristic.
What Universum revealed is that there is no universal answer to the work flexibility question. Your best tactic is to poll your workforce and evaluate their priorities when making decisions regarding workforce flexibility.

Training and Development

Many believe that generations X, Y and Z prefer online learning to in-person learning. Universum found this to be categorically false. While all generations would participate in online education if it were offered, each of the generations said they would prefer in-person instruction.
What this doesn’t mean is that you should shift back to in-person training for everything. Instead, you should find the options that best fit your budget and needs. Check in with your employees often to evaluate their preferences and take that into account when making decisions.