I recently wrote an article talking about how Boomers are retiring en masse – and taking their knowledge with them. I was stunned by its positive reception. Were the readers Boomers, smugly patting themselves on the back that they would be missed? Were they Gen Xers in a panic trying to figure out the void? Or was it Millennials… waving bye-bye?
The reality is the complexion of the workplace will have changed dramatically in five years. The Boomers, currently representing one-third of the workforce, will be a memory. Taking not only organizational knowledge, but some of the resistance to new technologies.
The digital natives – those born after 1996 who were fully nurtured in digital media – will be nearing 30 years-old. Bigger than the Boomer generation, they will be a large part of the workforce in 2025.
So, what does this mean? Three things.
Tech adaptive, tech aficionados
This burgeoning workforce is computer savvy and technology unafraid. They have grown up with smartphones, tablets, wearables and social media, and adapt to new technologies easily. This also means that they crush technologies that they believe are useless.
This is a gamechanger in the workplace. For years, technology standards have been set from the top down. We have struggled through horrid and confusing interfaces, lousy search and dumpster-diving to find data we’re looking for. Digital natives will not suffer any of it.
They will demand interfaces that are more akin to the best shopping sites. Mobile-friendly, anticipate their needs, and respond to natural language.
They also want (and demand) a work-life balance. According to Deloitte, nearly 75% of Millennials believe a “work from home” or “work remotely” policy all or some of the time is important. The massive corporate campus will be reduced, and hoteling will be the norm. That work-life balance means mobile will be relied on and applications that are not adaptive will not be relied on for long.
Working from home definitely has its upsides, but it is not easy. As one who has done it for 20 years, there is a disconnect when you don’t gather ‘around the water cooler’. It becomes tedious and lonely. But Millennials have grown up with multi-person gaming devices, FaceTime and other remote technologies, so companies need to mirror this in the workplace.
Physical meetings, which were a staple of the Boomer generation, will disappear into quick stand-ups. This will allow people to work independently and convene when necessary.
Actually helping customers, naturally
For all their rebellious natures, Boomers, for the most part, were pretty obedient when it came to following orders. The new workforce wants to be empowered to solve problems, be it for internal or external customers. Finding solutions means being able to access knowledge quickly, regardless of which silos it comes from. This means asking for that information using natural language.
By 2025, the workforce will be fully trained by the Alexas, Siris, Echos and all the mobile devices of the world to use natural language in lien of key term queries. That means your systems need to be able to parse content, whether it is data or text, associate it semantically and assemble only the relevant information to users.
Bottom line is that workers will become as finicky as customers when it comes to being able to find and navigate to what they want. Organizations will need to invest in providing user experience satisfaction with the same gusto as their commerce brethren – or risk losing employees that won’t suffer anything less.
Diane Burley is Vice President of Content for Lucidworks, and AI-powered search company. A former digital media executive, she is an author and speaker about the impact of technology on consumers and employees.