by Taher Behbehani | 4/28/16

Millennials make up 34 percent of today’s workforce and, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, will comprise nearly half the workforce by 2020. While business decision makers may be hesitant to upend existing technologies and processes around this shift, the fact is that this generation works differently than its predecessors, and understanding these differences is key to equipping millennials with the right tools to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Help them prioritize communications

Millennials are very comfortable toggling between numerous applications on their mobile devices, whether they are employer-sanctioned or BYOD. Indeed, many employees are “going rogue” when it comes to the apps and services they use for business communications and collaboration.

But all of these applications threaten to increase worker distractions and decrease productivity. Indeed, only 2 percent of the populationis capable of effectively multitasking, which is why there is a 40 percent productivity loss due to multitasking and disjointed processes. This inability to prioritize cuts across personal and business communications: comScore’s 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report finds that while we spend massive amounts of time in smartphone apps, the average American spends 50 percent of their app time in their most-used app, and almost 80 percent in their top three apps.

Application and communications overload suggests that business leaders should not always seek out the latest and greatest app for their workforce, but instead look for tools that simplify the user experience and empower workers to single-task. Contextual unified communications and collaboration, for example, presents each worker with a single interface pane to manage and interact with the conversations, files, images and other resources most relevant to the task at hand. By doing so, millennials are able to continue using the apps and services they are most comfortable with, while reducing the distractions and loss of productivity that can result from failed attempts to multitask.    

Limit their meetings

300,000 hours a year: that’s how much manpower consultants from Bain & Company estimated one large firm was losing as a result of just one weekly executive meeting. While people have been questioning the usefulness of meetings for decades, the problem has only gotten worse. In a Harvard Business Review article, Michael Mankins, a partner in Bain's San Francisco office, writes, “15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings—a percentage that has increased every year since 2008.”

For too long businesses focused on adopting technology that attempted to improve the meeting planning process or attendee experience – an approach that often led to more meetings and wasted time. Business leaders are better served by online collaboration tools that deliver the contextual and actionable information needed to cut down on meetings, in turn enhancing productivity.

Enable seamless mobility

Over 85 percent of millennials have an iPhone or Android smartphone, and it is often their primary device. Enabling employees to access key applications from any location and on any device is only half the battle: today’s millennial expects seamless communications as they move from one device to another.

As our recent global business survey confirmed, unified communications and mobility are becoming synonymous in order to meet the communications and collaboration needs of the mobile-first, geographically dispersed and millennial workforce. The ability for an individual to, for example, start an IM Chat from their mobile device, escalate it to a call with a single click, then seamlessly move to a videophone or Chromebook and expand the session to a multiparty video conference is the type of seamless mobility millennials demand.

Business leaders must be mindful of deploying new tools that eliminate one pain point but create another. Messaging applications offer a great example, as businesses have turned to these apps as a way to reduce reliance on email. But if the end result is a deluge of messages instead of emails, the benefits from this approach are questionable. Focus instead on gaining a better understanding of how millennials work, and then deploy solutions that enable maximum productivity.

Taher Behbehani is CMO at BroadSoft, a global unified communications software as a service (UCaaS) provider.