Monday, April 20, 2015

In a Millennial Revolution: Engaging a Generation in the Digital Workplace

Ross Freedman, Co-founder and Board Member

Many organizations I work with have not yet recognized that even what most consider “modern” employee communication—email, webcasts, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc.—are not meeting the needs of Millennials in the modern workplace. And, like so many other communication conduits, the corporate intranet is also in the midst of a millennial revolution.

By next year, Millenials will account for the highest percentage of workers compared to Gen X and Boomers. Employers need to get serious about competing for them, and meeting their expectations in the workplace (2015 Study: Millenial Majority Workforce).

Organizations must recognize that catering to the millennial workforce is an absolute necessity in ensuring minimum turnover and maximum productivity. While Baby Boomers and Gen Xers want job security and structure, Millennials seek employability and flexibility (Gartner Research). Millennials want to continually add to their skills in meaningful ways. For them, work isn’t just about income. It’s about personal enrichment and fulfillment.

With this in mind, the traditional corporate intranet—a place to read news/announcements, leadership messages, view a company directory, or coordinate calendars—is no longer sufficient in reaching this critical part of your workforce. Instead, the intranet must become your organization’s digital hub or, how I like to refer to it, “digital workspace.”

What I am finding as I work with leading global companies is that Millennials view their digital work experience as extremely fragmented and inefficient:

▸ They come into work and open up their email (typically Outlook/Office 365). Many keep email open perpetually.
▸ They navigate to the company intranet to read corporate news, announcements and leadership messages. The news they consume is typically not personalized to them based upon their office location, department or business unit.
▸ Then they access a line of business application they need to do their job. For a salesperson this is Dynamics CRM or For folks in finance or operations, it’s typically an ERP, such as SAP.
▸ Then they need to access files, so they navigate to a document storage center. This can be as rudimentary as a shared network drive or as sophisticated as SharePoint.
▸ Some need to share their files externally, so they use unsupported file sharing programs like OneDrive and DropBox
▸ Search is typically a separate application and more than 90% of organizations I work with believe their enterprise search tool is ineffective.
▸ And lastly, they use a separate social application, such as Yammer or Chatter to communicate with their colleagues. While this is the form Millennials want to communicate, the social application is typically off in left field and not connected or integrated into the rest of their daily tools or experiences.


At Rightpoint, we call this “Swivel chair technology” because employees sit at their desk and need to “swivel” from one system or one function to another to another to get their job done. Addressing the Swivel Chair mentality requires a digital workspace that tackles three key areas: Content, Collaboration and Knowledge.

Today’s digital workspace is all about employee engagement and productivity. This means combining disparate department and HR portals, integrating line-of-business applications, enterprise search and social collaboration.


The key to maximizing productivity can be stated in two words: “instant access.” Quick, easy access to tools, interfaces, corporate department portals and any other important content can make the difference between a worker who spends hours searching for the right information to do his/her job and the worker who spends hours actually doing his/her job.

Employees don’t want to spend time sifting through all of an organization’s information to find what they need. In this area, a robust “newsfeed” feature can target information that is sourced from across the enterprise and is relevant to the current worker based on key attributes (e.g. location, business unit, functional area, etc.). A tabbed interface will allows workers to quickly and easily discover information in a relevant context. For example, I am in the US (location), in the Company X BU (business unit) and in R&D (functional area).

A personalized toolset can also provide workers with the ability to customize their digital workspace. Line-of-business apps such as the company’s CRM system for a sales rep or the SAP system for someone in finance allows workers to drill down into the specific tools or areas that impact them most.

The addition of a Publishing Center to any corporate intranet can enable corporate communicators across the organization to target specific news, announcements and leadership messages to defined audiences from one centralized interface.


When we think of enterprise communication, traditional forms such as meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. often come to mind. All of these are important conduits for good team and organizational communication. However, disjointed communication tools can lead to disjointed communication.

In larger, multi-division or multi-location organizations, connecting with colleagues goes well beyond an online address book. A corporate intranet enabled with a people finder not only provides instant messaging capabilities and other means to connect with colleagues they know, but also can help connect them to the “expertise” they are seeking.

Fostering a culture of collaboration can also be achieved with advanced social capabilities such as Microsoft Yammer. Communities and team sites allow individuals to follow groups and colleagues across businesses and locations to learn about what’s happening around the company including recent activity and @mentions.


In the connected company, the communication hub or intranet is no longer simply a place to access information, it’s a place to get work done. Supported by an advanced search function, the internal knowledge hub allows workers to easily publish, vet and approved corporate documents, as well as thought leadership content.

This digital workspace provides a place to save and store an individual’s working documents while also providing the space in which they share, collaborate and manipulate the information to perform essential daily work or projects.

When it comes to all three of these areas, personalization is power. The digital workspace will aggregate information for each colleague by targeting communications and content that is relevant to their business unit and geography while also providing real time updates on activity from their colleague network.

In today’s millennial driven enterprise, the capabilities of a digital workspace must empower individuals to perform at the highest level, share their stories and build their communities.


Benefits of a Connected Company

While there are many benefits to millennials, I don’t want to overlook the significant benefits to stakeholders if an organization gets this right.