Diversity in the workplace is ever more, ever changing. It waxes and wanes with global trends in migration and mobility, capital flows and urban development. Diversity is a competitive advantage when operating and innovating for global markets, yet it is a double-edged sword. While it brings opportunities for forward-looking companies, it also brings risk for businesses that fail to respond adequately.
With the growing breadth of diverse perspectives in the workplace, enabling teams to work together, to collaborate, becomes very important. Collaboration across the organization, across demographics is vital to tapping the full potential of all employees and achieving competitive advantage for the organization.
Three major workforce trends are impacting the workplace and collaboration technology is well-placed to mitigate gaps that could arise amongst teams, due to diversity.
Within the next 10 years, the global population will rise by 1 billion to reach 8 billion people. Millennials will enter the workforce, Gen Y workers will grow into middle-management and a very large segment; the baby-boomers; will exit the economy. The multi-generational workforce is a much discussed topic and managing the changes that come with ‘generational diversity’, is a top priority for businesses.
If you characterize Gen X as ‘work-horses’ that relish the long hours and hard slog, Gen Yers can be summed up as focusing on working smart instead of hard, while Millennials are nomads who crave creativity and change. Engaging all three generations within a team or in collaboration on a project would require rigor to satisfy Gen X, efficiency to appease Gen Y and dynamism for the Millennial. Enter video collaboration solutions – this real-time, live video medium delivers the face time that Gen X requires when collaborating in the workplace. Because video collaboration supports mobility and flexibility, the Gen Y worker can multi-task or time-shift easily to maximize their day. They could jump on a meeting right after a lunch-time workout at the gym – fulfilling both their personal and work commitments. And finally, Millennials take to video collaboration like a duck to water. As digital natives, they embrace any technology that allows them to express and broadcast themselves easily and are naturals at the adoption of advanced features of video collaboration, such as content sharing, annotation, recording, streaming and sharing.
Global mobility of workers is on the rise. The number of people being assigned by their employers to roles outside their home country has increased by 25% over the past decade – and is projected to rise further to 50% by 20201. There are also a growing number of full-time remote workers whose talent and skills match requirements from the organization but cannot relocate to be near a branch office, and hence, work from an international location. These workers are distributed across the globe and also contribute to ethnic diversity.
When collaborating with international team-members and co-workers in distributed locations, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction and communication. Reasons ranging from cultural differences in communication style, brevity, pleasantries, to accents, to relationship building - all build a compelling case for in-person collaboration. Travel rapidly evolves from a luxury to a chore when it is frequent, mandatory and affects employee work-life balance. With video collaboration, effective teaming and maintaining personal connections with co-workers can occur in real-time, at an instant. The face-to-face medium builds trust which is the true currency within organizations that innovate and create ahead of competitors.
Over the last decade, companies have changed how they tap into the extended workforce2. The extended workforce refers to a network of freelancers, consultants, outsourcing partners, vendors and even retirees, that can be relied on to perform specialist, short-term or project-oriented roles within companies. This labour pool has been growing steadily as companies increasingly make them a key component of corporate strategy; enabling companies to respond quickly and competently to changing market conditions.
Video collaboration is vital to harnessing the best of your extended workforce. Because their time with the company is finite, managers often find that they need a robust plan and a comprehensive list of deliverables to start with and conduct frequent status discussions to achieve goals successfully, before the clock runs out. Things start to breakdown when the extended team member is traveling, located elsewhere, or situated in a customer, vendor or partner site. Video collaboration eliminates the need to compromise on communication. Managers or team leads can continue to have regular check-in meetings, face-to-face, without adding the inefficiencies of travel or commuting to the project lead time. As always, the in-person discussions build trust, rapport and resolve issues quickly because visual aids, content and even products can be viewed over video collaboration. This accelerates problem resolution and contributes to better working relationships with contract-based co-workers.
There is growing evidence that workplace diversity is linked to improved performance by businesses and economies. In order to harness its full spectrum of benefits, companies have to curate it well and ensure that it complements collaboration instead of impedes it.
This blog is part of a series of 25 blogs that take a look at how Polycom has transformed industries and business functions.
These blogs are a variety of retrospective, current and visionary perspectives with the common thread of unleashing the power of human collaboration. Follow the hashtag #Polycom25 on Twitter for tweets about this significant anniversary in our history.