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There have been a lot of changes in the way people communicate, but none more then with this current generation of "Millennials" or "Generation Y". This generation is in their 10's and 20's and have grown up with the Internet, laptops and mobile phones. This is a group of individuals that have probably never used a corded phone (and certainly not a rotary dial), counted connection speeds in terms of baud (and being grateful for 9600), nor had to drop-off/pick-up film for processing. They're used to a connected world and freedom of choice when using technologies in communicating with others. They've entered and will continue entering the workforce for some time to come, but unlike the veteran workforce that accepts and works with the technologies deemed as "standard" or "supported" by IT- the Millennials are leading the adoption of technology ahead of IT and expecting to use new and different forms of communication in the workplace.
What strikes me about the Millennials is the rapid change of adoption they exhibit to match the rapid change in technology. Consider SMS on the mobile phone. A co-worker was telling me the other day that if he calls his kid on the mobile it rings and goes to voicemail. However, if he sends him an SMS text message, even immediately after trying to call, he receives a response in a matter of seconds. This generation had moved away from voice communications over the phone and instead prefer to text using the phone. I've heard stories from several people about seeing mobile phone statements with thousands and even greater then ten-thousand text messages in a single month. And it's not just SMS text, but many times MMS text messages that include a photo or video.
I can liken the shift from voice to SMS/MMS as the same in the office moving from in person organizational meetings to memos that are posted in the office. What's really interesting is while SMS/MMS is still widespread, it's now passe. This generation is using cameras that are built into their laptops and mobile phones in conjunction with applications to see and talk to each other real time. This capability is available on computers, mobile devices, and web-based applications a simple search quickly reveals a list of the top 5 video chat applications. So while the Millennials don't want to simply talk on the phone, they do want to talk with video and they want to talk with video over SMS/MMS texting. In a short time the pendulum has swung from talking on the phone to texting and back to talking with video.
Another shift is in the vehicles that Millennials employ and how they employ them to communicate. Instead of having to engage in a conversation (whether in person, over e-mail, phone, etc.) to ask questions and learn, Millennials are proactively publishing what they're doing and in many instances are using mobile and social applications to do so real time. The information that is being published is as diverse and widespread as the generation themselves. They will publish what song they're listening too, what restaurant they just entered, workout schedules, even stories they've read online- all in an automated fashion. If you care to know what your friend, family member, or colleague is doing, simply subscribe to their feed. In other words, Millennials are now nodes in a typical publish/subscribe model, but are expecting to use any application and device to broker the messages.
This presents interesting challenges for those tasked with optimizing business processes through collaboration. They need to enable the Millennials to use any application from any location as a message broker, but it needs to be done securely and with a culture of consideration that prevents Loose Lips Might Sink Ships- The Conundrum of Social Communication. There's a new workforce coming to market that's technically advanced in the tools and media formats they use, they're used to multi-tasking and are proactive in sharing information. It's up to you to harness this new generation and maximize the value they can bring to the business and to do so without alienating the veteran workforce. How are you embracing the extreme swings of the technology pendulum and those riding it?