There’s a trend sneaking up on corporate culture: Consumer grade communication. Its growth has been silent enough that you might not realize just how widespread it is.
In the U.S., it arrived largely due to apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, but it’s no less pervasive in other countries: Kik is very popular in Canada (among other countries), China has WeChat, and India has Nimbuzz. All told, the number of users is well into the billions.
But what do social networks, apps, and messaging have to do with recruiting top talent and engaging current employees? As it turns out, quite a bit.
A recent survey by Alfresco Software found that many employees use consumer-grade tools to collaborate and communicate instead of enterprise solutions. This is sometimes referred to as “shadow IT,” and the practice is especially prevalent among Millennials.
A full 71 percent of Millennials say they aren’t happy with the collaboration tools they’re given to work with. A little more than half say they instead use their own, consumer-grade tools, like personal email or public document sharing—and many do so without much thought for security considerations. In fact, most do so without the IT department even knowing.
Consumer messaging apps are just starting to have an impact on internal business communication; Slack, for example, quickly became one of the most popular apps in Silicon Valley this year. And here’s where the twist happens with regard to employee attraction and retention—making room for the tools people rely on outside the office can be a significant trump card when it comes to attracting top candidates, as well as keeping your existing team happy.
More established benefits like gym memberships, free lunches, and childcare for company events still have value, but Millennials want better work-life integration, and they put a high value on a collaborative culture—which means they’re looking for the tools that will enable that to happen.
How to make that happen? Well, here are a few consumer grade communication considerations you should keep in mind when evaluating new enterprise solutions.
Great Talent Expects Great Design
One thing people aren’t any longer is patient. Slow loading sites or poorly designed apps that impede efficient workflow will quickly become yesterday’s tech. Some things to consider when thinking about UX are:
- How many clicks does it take to share a file for multiple people to work on?
- How long does it take to find the last bug fixes?
- Is a service reliable, or are the first 10 minutes of every call or videoconference spent fumbling with technology?
These are the usability issues that consumer-grade communication tools have sought to fix, and is what puts them front and center as a potential employee perk. Millennials, in particular, are used to a solid user experience as a foundation of their messaging apps and other consumer-grade software, and they expect that ease-of-use to be a priority for employers, potential and otherwise, as well.
Prioritize Efficient Communication Above All Else
We’ve all been in that meeting. Several people stuck waiting while someone else shows up late, only to find out their video is fine but their audio isn’t connecting, thereby wasting everyone’s time trying to figure out what’s wrong. Or the person leading the meeting starts with a completely different agenda than the rest of the room, because—ooops!—the updated version never did get emailed out to the group.
The ugly truth about meetings is that there are too many of them. They cost billions of dollars, and by some estimates they waste as much as 15 percent of an entire organization’s time each year.
Improved digital communication can change this, but a team can’t collaborate effectively on a document by emailing it back and forth–it simply isn’t an option. That kind of inefficiency is becoming so outdated that it’s as likely to turn off your current employees as it would anyone looking into your company to determine if you are a good fit for them.
Provide Continuous Feedback (and Analytics)
Millennials have been criticized for needing instant gratification. There may be some truth to that generalization, but the criticism misses the point: That necessary and continuous feedback drives their need for continued learning and development.
Some feedback can be delivered through one-on-one meetings and mentorship from a manager, but there’s also a need for intelligent analytics. Companies are chasing data to increase overall productivity, but how many arm their employees with data to help them increase their own efficiency?
With consumer-grade communication already being used in the workplace—often without the knowledge of the IT department—many companies are seeing the need to embrace change, and embrace popular consumer apps and platforms. Some of these services, like LinkedIn Work and Facebook for Work, are also on a path to adding enterprise-level security to their already-familiar messaging platforms.
Finding ways to help Millennials perform in a culture they can thrive in is a critical factor in bringing the very best new employees on-board, and in keeping current employees not only happy, but learning, developing, and contributing to the company’s bottom line. What about you? What trends in collaboration are you seeing your top talent care most about?