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UC Expo – Workforce of the future

UC EXPO at the ExCel in London is the largest unified communications and collaboration event in Europe. And among the stands and seminars there was some very smart thinking about the future of the workforce. One panel discussion that highlighted this featured four generations of workers, who all had strong opinions about how technology will completely change our working environment over the next few years.

Panellists:

Tannis – student

Dawn – graduate

Sharn – 15-year career

James – senior manager

 

The panel highlighted several key aspects of the workforce of the future:

 

Times are a-changing – fast

Panel chairman Michael Affronti of unified communications specialist Fuze, suggested that by 2025 we’ll have undergone the most dynamic shift in the composition of workforce since the industrial revolution. By that time, most people in the workforce will never have had reason to use a fax machine, or even a landline phone.

Student Tannis felt that there currently seem to be a lot of different apps for different uses, and that we use different apps to communicate with different types of people. He felt this was very disorganised and that it wouldn’t be long before it would come together to make communication simpler and easier.

Asset manager Sharn said that she’s seen a lot of change in 15 years of employment – from desktop and landline, her work culture now relies on video conferencing to such an extent that she rarely makes calls on her mobile phone these days.

 

Flexibility isn’t going away

But it is evolving. Flexible working will continue to evolve and adapt as employers and employees learn about the mix of home and office working that best suits their culture and expectations.

Michael suggested that there will be a move towards removing desks from the workplace. This is already happening in some universities which have discovered that students prefer to work in common areas with friends, mixing work and social activity.

Dawn and Tannis pointed out that younger people coming into the workforce expect flexible working to be part of their experience.

James pointed out that his organisation still talks about ‘allowing’ flexible working, as if it’s a privilege rather than a necessity. But the fact is that the culture is already changing, with staff generally trusted to deliver on goals and expectations rather than their time in the office.

 

End user experience is critical

Michael’s said that 76% of IT leaders believe that success depends on user satisfaction. The statistic drew surprise from the panel who’d all expected the figure to be much higher. James suggested that if 24% of IT leaders don’t worry about their users then they’re in the wrong job. He also pointed out that the user is king (and queen), and that if a piece of communications technology needs a thick booklet to use, then it will fail.

As a digital native, Tannis pointed out that the best apps are completely intuitive to use, with iconography and layout that make it easy to get started straight away. He has no expectation of going on courses to learn to use company equipment, he just expects to be able to get on with it.

 

Keep it simple

The panellists agreed that there is a plethora of different types of apps and communication technologies available to the modern workforce. While this variety helps to identify needs and develop new solutions, ultimately it will need to be made simpler and more unified, which will lead to greater efficiency. James in particular saw this as a legacy of old-school thinking – that we’ve always been used to mixing technologies, from phones to email, but that this simply isn’t sustainable in a connected world.

 

Overall we learned that the workforce of the near future will be more flexible than ever as work cultures evolve to find the best balance for each industry and workforce. Technology is going to be a key part of that evolution – and we’ve only just begun.

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