If large family gatherings have taught us anything, it’s that blending disparate groups of people, ages, beliefs and perspectives can prove incredibly challenging. Now imagine trying to design a highly-functional and productive workplace with this same multi-generational and diverse group of people. Elisabeth Moreno, Managing Director of HP Inc. Africa, welcomes you to the modern workplace.

Today, for the first time in history five separate generations – from “traditionalists” and baby boomers to Gen X (Millennials), Gen Y, and Gen Z are working alongside each other. We’ve never had such a rich mix of wisdom, experience and fresh curiosity before. And together, these employees are reinventing the workplace and defining the future of work.

This transformation represents massive social, economic, and cultural change – and provides an incredible opportunity for business and organizations to transform their workspace, their workforce and their work-culture to ensure they’re digitally prepared for the future. After all, the future of work will deliver a powerful competitive advantage for organizations that harness its potential to enhance their customer, partner and employee experiences – and this is exactly where technology can help unify generational gaps.

Different strokes for different folks 

It all starts with a question: How do employees do their best work? Increasingly, the answer is, wherever and whenever it suits them. We live in a modern, mobile-first world and workspaces need to reflect this reality. Understanding generational employee preferences – and shaping the workspace to meet them, can be a crucial differentiator and an important way to attract and retain talent.

The workspaces of the future won’t necessarily be defined by physical offices, but rather by the experience they provide, and how these spaces enable multi-generational collaboration and productivity. Workspaces are increasingly a mix of physical and virtual spaces that comprise flexible configurations, modern designs, and naturally interactive technologies to meet the needs of the all generations – while ensuring security and compliance.

The challenge is that different generations work, collaborate and communicate in different ways. For example, in one study of Gen Z and Millennials, in-person communication was their weakest communication style, while video and text messaging were the easiest. In contrast, older generations typically prefer more traditional face to face communication styles.

Today’s work style is evolving with the multitude of technology and collaboration platforms available – from group messaging, video conferencing, real-time sharing and collaboration on live documents, to in-person meetings, phone calls and emails.

Regardless of a generation’s preferred mode or communication channel might be, technology encourages more communication and provides opportunity for people of all ages to connect and work together. The tighter the collaboration and the abundance of opportunities generations to learn from each other, the more organizations benefit.

The digital future is even more borderless, collaborative, and innovation focused, with culture as the defining character that enable enterprises to compete and differentiate themselves in the digital era.

And all of this needs to be done securely. As the universe of connected devices grows exponentially, so does the sophistication and volume of cyber attacks and data breaches. The most targeted devices are endpoints – including PCs, printers, mobile phones and Internet of Things devices. For workers and organizations, protecting yourself is a business imperative that cannot be ignored, regardless of generation.

The timeless value of a growth mindset

Driving unity across a multi-generational workforce cannot happen without a commitment to professional development. One study by Wainhouse Research and D2L concluded workers of all ages want to stay abreast of the latest tools and technology related to their profession. Similarly, older staff have concerns about being automated out of a job, while younger staff have concerns about being given the training they need to keep up with the pace of change. Employers should leverage this opportunity to offer tailored learning and career development programs that will be embraced every generation across the workforce.

Particularly for staff that are worried about this technology, getting hands on with it demonstrates that its purpose is to augment rather than replace their skills. In fact, a recent study by Goldsmiths and the University of London showed that automation technology is actually making work more ‘human’ by freeing people from administrative processes and moving towards higher value work.

The workforce of the future will increasingly be distributed with intelligent machines and humans working together. Emerging technologies will augment human capabilities delivering automation, and new products and services that can only be imagined today.

Learning how to succeed in the digital world will take different amounts of time for different generations. Through training, employees will have more time to focus on more rewarding, higher value work.

Diversity drives improved business performance

Finally, diversity is key. It’s proven that a diverse workforce leads to more innovative solutions and greater revenue streams. In a world that is growing and evolving every day, innovation springs from a team of individuals, each collaborating and contributing their own perspectives, knowledge, and experience to advance the way the world works and lives.

Successful companies will realise their multi-generational workforce is a huge strength if they can unlock the full potential of their people at any stage of their career. The right technology, training and focus on multi-generational communication will go a long way towards helping firms embrace a digital future and leveraging the power of their diverse workforce.

When we come together, bound by technology, we can become more human in our interactions, communicate more clearly with those unlike ourselves, and reinvent mindsets about the possibilities for the future of work.

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