The Future of Work

As my daughters were both in Jr. High, and now one in High School, I’ve been increasingly convinced the future of the workplace is happening before my eyes. This is a workplace very different from the one many of us experience today. It truly is hard to appreciate how different the world will look from a technology standpoint without seeing how kids today use the digital tools they have at their disposal.

My scenario showcases two different examples since I have one daughter in a High School that has embraced technology like few out there and built their educational curriculum around iPad. The other is in public school where all they have are Chromebooks and not much curriculum built around digital beyond using Google Classroom. What is remarkable is the efficiency of the process for the school that has embraced technology and deeply integrated iPad into learning and how inefficient the public school system is when it comes to tech. But what is more fascinating is how both of my daughter’s processes end up looking similar despite the different approaches to their school. Specifically, whether their school deeply integrated technology or not, both end up using all the technology at their disposal to work, collaborate, and learn. Here are a few observations:

FaceTime and Homework
I wrote a while ago about how video conferencing, and specifically FaceTime, is commonplace with this generation. Not only has it largely replaced the phone call, along with texting, but it is nearly universal now in my kid’s homework workflow. They use it for getting help, or to just have a companion while they work or study together. We used to all get-together and went to the library or just go over to each other’s houses, and while there is no substitute for in-person time, life often makes that difficult. So they take to video conferencing.

One thing I’ve noticed about the benefits of using video conferencing is how little it disrupts a work-flow. When you are deep in a project or assignment it can be disruptive to stop what you are doing pack your things up and head to another office building or meeting. Sometimes it is just easier to video conference to get what you need then get right back in the flow. I watch my girls do this from the comforts of their bedrooms as they bounce around from different subject material and use FaceTime to collaborate then get right back into the flow of working.

This signals to me that video conferencing will not just be commonplace in the workplace of the future, but it will be an essential part of the workflow for Gen Z.

Group Chat
Any groups who have embraced Slack may be able to relate to this point, but my girls don’t have a single collaborative project that does not include an iMessage group thread. I honestly can’t tell you how many simultaneous group chats they have going on at any given time, but I can tell you they message more to groups than they do individuals. Every time a new project is assigned they instantly create a new group chat for that project.

Sometimes this is because the group includes people that aren’t in their friend group, but it is also so they can keep a thread just about the project. All communication for the project takes place in the group chat, and often files like images and relevant media, are also shared in these group threads. I asked them why they don’t use Slack and showed them all the ways Slack offers similar functionality all in one place but they were quick to say they prefer their workflow and they can do all those things already. I’d argue Slack is more organized but who am I to interrupt their workflow.

Lastly, my kids workflows span every possible device you can imagine. They tend to focus on PC/Mac, iPad, and iPhone, but they seem amazingly adaptive to whatever device they have to be able to continue their workflow. We see this playing out today from studies we have done where large portions of millennials say they won’t take a job that does not embrace services or solutions that work across the range of devices they use.

This suggests that enterprises need to be quick to adopt cross-platform approaches as young people are already integrating a range of devices into their regular workflows. Adopting these solutions quickly becomes a key strategy in attracting young talent to their companies.

Given all the research we do on the current workforce, and watching how different my kids and their friends work and collaborate, I’m convinced the IT challenges will only get larger as Gen Z starts to enter the workforce in large numbers. Perhaps even modern day colleges will have problems keeping up with them technologically. I live in the forefront of technology adoption and I can hardly keep up with their workflows. All I can say to IT groups in enterprises and educational systems is good luck.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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