Bridging the Gap: Unified Communications for the Multigenerational Workforce
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Bridging the Gap: Unified Communications for the Multigenerational Workforce

Rich Shaw, Vice President, Voice & Collaboration Product Management, AT&T
Rich Shaw, Vice President, Voice & Collaboration Product Management, AT&T

Rich Shaw, Vice President, Voice & Collaboration Product Management, AT&T

The landscape of our workforce is rapidly changing. As millions of baby boomers enter retirement, a new generation has arrived: millennials. This tech-savvy generation (aged 18-30) is expected to comprise half of the global workforce by 2020. Combined with Generation X, we have a diverse workforce – each with its work styles and communications preferences.

Equally as relevant is the rate at which technology continues to evolve. At AT&T, we’ve seen network traffic grow by 150,000% in the past 8 years due largely to video. Those of us in networking know there’s no slowdown in sight.

How do we marry this tech evolution with today’s multigenerational workforce to create a seamless experience? The answer lies in Unified Communications (UC) and the ability for companies of all sizes to provide employees a way to communicate using the technology of their choice.

Millennials and UC – Tech Integration at its Finest

We’re in the midst of a technological revolution that is changing how people live, the ways they work, and the ways in which they interact and communicate with the world around them.  It’s more important than ever for companies to ensure their employees are able to work cohesively and effectively.

We all have different work styles, and prefer to communicate in different ways. That’s why the concept of UC – or the integration of email, IM, presence, voice and video conferencing, voice calling and voicemail – is so effective in serving a diverse workforce. Think of it as connectivity in overdrive.

Perhaps Amy and her team prefer to collaborate via group IM while Bill believes there’s nothing better than picking up the phone and calling his boss to discuss a project in real-time. If they can do it in a video conference, even better.  This is UC at its most basic level, and there’s something for everyone.

It’s notable that millennials are entering the workforce at the same time as these UC tools and technologies are becoming commonplace in the workplace. Millennials appear unique in  the ways they use UC technologies:

• Making connections via social media and networking – both personal and professional – are important to this generation.

• Smartphones keep them constantly connected, and they’re more likely than any other generation to check email on their mobile devices after hours.

• The same technology they use for social networking is also used to interact at the office or with coworkers.

• They use multiple platforms and applications simultaneously in the same conversation. (Think about Amy on a video conference with Bill while feeding Bill’s ideas to her team on IM while texting her peer to get an answer to a question Bill has asked.)

There are exceptions to every rule, and every generation brings a unique set of characteristics to the workforce. Without a unified system, these exceptions would have to have isolated conversations on separate platforms, or be forced to use a technology that they’re not comfortable with. Arming employees with a unified tool to collaborate and connect helps get the most out of teams with diverse work styles.

Mobilize the Workforce

UC brings another highly sought-after element to today’s workforce: flexibility. UC is, by its very nature, mobile, making it ideal for a workforce that increasingly demands the ability to connect virtually anytime from anywhere.

Companies continue to lean into a mobile workplace, and many employees use remote offices or work out of their homes. This structure is becoming increasingly commonplace, making UC vital to the competitive business environment in order to keep a competitive advantage. No doubt a business will experience setbacks if employees cannot connect and collaborate cohesively across miles and platforms.

Global companies know the value of tapping into the mobility that accompanies UC. Utilizing UC platforms can impact cost savings, business objectives and productivity solutions – all of which are key to success. Why pay for travel and lose days of productivity, for example, when video conferencing connects colleagues, customers and clients across time zones?

Make Investments that Bridge the Gaps

The latest UC technologies offer an all-in-one solution that will allow businesses to reap the benefits of a workforce that is both collaborative and forward thinking. But to reap the most benefit from UC, it needs to be deployed with the right support.

• Bandwidth – Does your network support your UC capabilities, such as video conferencing, which requires large amounts of data to cross a network? For real-time communication to be trusted for important business situations, it must be able to support quality connections and fast speeds.

• Traffic – When thinking about traffic and separation, the real-time experience, or collaboration element, should not be interrupted by non-real-time activities such as printer traffic and file transfers or downloads.

• Integration–SDN is more than a mere buzzword. Companies are becoming increasingly more agile, and network providers are becoming more software based. At AT&T, we expect to virtualize 75% of our network by 2020. UC technologies will benefit from a software-centric network to operate at their full potential.

• Security – Your employees are constantly sharing information across the network. Is it secure? Recent data breaches highlight the importance of a highly secure network that is vigilant in both thwarting attacks and detecting potential breaches of security and privacy before damage is done.

UC plays a huge role in today’s workplace. We’re staying connected in ways never thought possible, but it’s up to IT departments to ensure employees have the tools they need to do their best work. Whether in an office, on the road, in the air or in a remote office, UC keeps us connected– but it does more than that. It keeps the doors to collaboration wide open and enhances our ability to meet our goals, to do what we do best.



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