Video conferencing and the generational divide
Throughout the 2010s, one of the biggest trends in economic, cultural, and technological analysis was a focus on what separated the millennial generation from its predecessors.
Millennials, who were born between the years 1981 and 1996, are one of the largest age groups in U.S. history. According to Pew Research, there were 71 million of them as of July 1, 2016, compared to 74.1 million baby boomers, i.e., people born from 1946 to 1964. Pew also expected millennials to be the largest living generation by 2019, a few years after they had already become the biggest segment of the labor force.
Millennial attitudes toward technology in particular have received a lot of attention. A Nielsen survey found that 74% of millennials felt that technology made their lives easier at work, compared to only 31% of Generation X-ers (1965 – 1980) and a mere 18% of boomers.
Millennials, workplace technology, and the generational divide
That gap is somewhat explainable by the fact that millennials came of age during the formative years of the consumer internet.
For instance, many were entering middle school when Microsoft Internet Explorer and Windows 95 were introducing straightforward web browsing to a mainstream audience. By the time they began their careers, email, the web, and video conferencing were also firmly established in the workplace. They never really knew a pre-digital reality in the workplace.
Always-on team chat applications such as Webex Teams show how certain technologies can be perceived and used differently across generations, since they’re relatively recent inventions and deliver a distinct experience from other, older forms of collaboration. A co-founder of Butterfly called these apps “the embodiment of the millennial generation’s view on work culture.” They have the potential to affect users differently by generation because they:
- Are more immediate than email, since it’s generally safe to assume that someone sending a message is online and ready to talk at that exact moment.
- Can warp the sense of work/life balance – a growing concern among many workers – since they’re available on any internet-connected device.
- May make previously important and thoroughly honed skills (e.g., drafting emails or working within other collaboration apps) less relevant.
On the bright side, useful and accessible tools can bring workers together regardless of their generations. A 2018 Pew survey found that although millennials exhibited the highest rates of adoption for tech such as smartphones and social media, boomers and Gen X-ers weren’t far behind, showing how it’s possible to get everyone on the same page. Similarly broad uptake of workplace collaboration technology isn’t out of the question, assuming that the solutions combine high usability and rich functionality.
Can video conferencing in the workplace close the generation gap?
For SMBs with multi-generational workforces, video conferencing offers an especially promising way to unite millennials, Gen X-ers, boomers, and the post-millennial zoomers/Gen Z-ers around one easy-to-use platform. Video conferencing stands apart from other forms of collaboration for several reasons:
It updates a familiar experience
Video calling lets people meet face to face from anywhere. In other words, it’s a new spin on an old form of collaboration that’s common in most workplaces. Participants can see facial expressions and body language as if they were all in the same room.
It provides extra convenience
When technologies create barriers between workers, it’s often because they seem too complicated to use well or don’t deliver a clear advantage over what came before. With video conferencing, the value proposition is clear: It’s much easier to meet with someone over a video link than it would be to coordinate all the travel necessary for an in-person meet-up.
It supports in-depth yet intuitive collaboration
At the same time, these interactions via video conference don’t sacrifice anything in terms of quality. High-definition video keeps the meeting focused. Plus, features like screen sharing support real-time collaboration that makes it easy for everyone to follow along.
It’s usable from almost any device
Workers across all generations have moved toward multi-device workflows. With Webex, they can unlock the benefits of workplace video calling whether they’re on a PC, phone, tablet, standards-based conferencing system, or in a web browser. Webex is also well-integrated with popular calendaring software and other business software so that it always feels connected to what’s happening across an organization.
Cisco Webex is the perfect place to start with collaborative technology that can bring everyone in the workplace together. Start for free today!
May 13, 2021 — Espen Loberg
May 11, 2021 — Vanessa Philogène
May 11, 2021 — Aruna Ravichandran