The Contemporary Workplace: Generation Z research


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Computacenter commissioned independent research to understand how businesses are responding to workplace change and where their challenges reside. The emphasis
of the research was to compare perspectives from the next generation of end users and those of IT professionals devising workplace strategy for organisations today. The findings in the report provide interesting results that should help inform next steps for businesses in enabling a contemporary workplace.

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The Contemporary Workplace: Generation Z research

  1. 1. The Contemporary WorkplaceGeneration Z Research © Computacenter 2012
  2. 2. The Journey to a Contemporary Workplace As a business, we’re constantly seeking to improve the services and technology solutions we provide to customers. For the UK’s largest organisations, IT is increasingly influenced by end user trends and changes to the working environment. These can result in a range of considerations for the IT decision maker, from how to respond to the proliferation of devices used formally and casually over the network, to how to engineer working practices in order to improve end user productivity. Computacenter commissioned independent research to understand how businesses are responding to workplace change and where their challenges reside. The emphasis of the research was to compare perspectives from the next generation of end users and those of IT professionals devising workplace strategy for organisations today. The findings in the report provide interesting results that should help inform next steps for businesses in enabling a contemporary workplace. At Computacenter, we see three factors impacting workplace transformation for IT: the need for cost management, a shift towards flexible IT sourcing and the desire to innovate with technology. Moreover, workplace change is increasingly becoming a driver for broader infrastructure change. Issues such as the consumerisation of IT are forcing companies to understand the workplace environment and, subsequently, how larger systems should support it. This ‘workplace in’, rather than ‘infrastructure out’ approach gives way to new thinking on how IT solutions are devised and delivered into the business. It is, of course, important that any IT change be grounded in reality. Success and failure in a business is not defined by smartphones and tablet PCs alone, just as mobile access and virtual desktops are not a panacea for productivity challenges. However, the managed deployment of these solutions, aligned with a clear view of their impact on end user productivity and the bottom line can be transformative for businesses. The research helps us to understand that a contemporary workplace is not an off-the-shelf template, but an understanding of how these factors combine for our customers and the market overall. Enjoy the report! Pierre Hall, Solutions Director, Computacenter2
  3. 3. Executive Summary Several industry ‘buzz’ curves are influencing IT decision making in 2012. The ‘consumerisation of IT’ is one such term that suggests a significant shift in IT thinking, driven by the sophistication and proliferation of consumer devices in the contemporary workplace. The ‘Corporatisation of Generation Z’ research challenges some of the assumptions surrounding this trend and also provides insights for IT strategists on how to balance the often competing needs of commercial, end user and infrastructure demands on IT. This research study was commissioned by Computacenter and carried out by an independent research company, Loudhouse. The research surveys 200 IT decision makers in large organisations, as well as 1,000 Generation Z end users in the UK. Generation Z is the most recent age group to arrive in the workplace (aged between 16-24 years). This research approach addresses two audiences that, ostensibly, occupy the polar extremes of workplace demography – the young, vital talent that represents tomorrow’s business leaders and the conservative stewards of today’s rapidly changing IT environment. Whilst tension between these two groups is understandable and evident to some degree, Loudhouse analysed the key findings from the data and has suggested a far more complex dynamic between end user and IT strategy, summarised as follows: The corporatisation of Gen Z • ounger employees express clear desires to work within defined and controlled working Y environments where policy shows the way - 22% of younger employees admit to using mobiles to access personal applications at work, outside their employer’s knowledge. However, younger employees are mostly in alignment with IT pros thinking on the importance of security, information control and policy compliance Workplace permissions and user power • ompanies with a greater presence of workers under 24 year olds have different IT C attributes and strategies than those where the average age employee is older - Businesses with more than 25% Generation Z employees are more likely than other businesses to operate a version of a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy (63% against 46%, respectively). Such businesses are also more likely to have policies in place to manage personal device use (73% against 50%, respectively). Home tech ahead of the workplace • evice technology used in the contemporary workplace lags behind the sophistication of D personal devices or home-ware for Generation Z workers - 70% of young employees have laptops at home, whilst only 26% use laptops at work. 38% have iPhones for personal use, with only 18% using iPhones for work Research Methodology The research combines two respondent groups. The first group is IT Decision Makers (those responsible for IT budgets and purchasing decisions) in organisation of 500 employees or more. 53% of this sample was of business with over 1,000 employees. The second group is workers between the ages of 16-24 years in full time or part time employment. 48% of the sample have degree qualifications, a further 28% have professional qualifications and 17% have vocational qualifications. The research for both groups was conducted online against a series of closed, multi-code questions during Q1 2012, by Loudhouse Research, an independent consultancy based in the UK.3
  4. 4. Keeping social off the agenda • ounger employees are less likely to see social media as a relevant workplace tool than IT Y professionals, although a blend of social and professional worlds is desired - 66% of young employees state a preference for communicating with friends via social media, whilst only 17% state a preference for interacting with colleagues using social channels - nly 16% of young employees consider that social networks should be fully permitted O at work, whilst 34% of IT professionals report social networks as ‘fully permitted’ in the workplace End user influence • he majority of IT professionals state that end user influence on IT strategy is increasing, T with network access and device use expectations difficult to manage - 71% of IT professionals state that end users are very influential in shaping IT strategy for an organisation. In businesses where under 24 years old form a larger percentage of the workforce, this increases to 82%. Summary The workforce and the workplace are fundamentally changing the way that IT shapes the organisation. It is no longer a ‘top down’ approach where users are simple nodes on a network. Nor is it a landscape of device ‘rebellion’ where employees fail to grasp the importance of governance and guidelines. However, the influence of end user needs on IT investment combined with the potential for pragmatic IT planning to unlock user productivity create new opportunities to align employee wants, technology change and business goals under a cohesive IT strategy. Businesses able to manage this balance cost effectively, avoiding disruption whilst accommodating change, stand to gain considerably from a ‘consumerisation’ of technology and constructive ‘corporatisation’ of the next generation of business professionals. S1: Model of relationship between younger end users and IT decision makers4
  5. 5. Home Tech and the Workplace It is clear that the younger workforce is accustomed to working with technology in the workplace that is more of a utility status than ‘state of the art.’ Figure 1 shows that this age group are far more likely to have personal mobile devices, or more sophisticated personal IT than that made available to them in the workplace. Most notable is the presence of laptops against PCs (desktops). 70% of respondents have a laptop as a personal device, whilst only 32% have laptops allocated within the workplace. Similarly, smartphone devices are far more likely owned by their users, rather than technology provisioned by their employers. Figure 1 is a simple portrait of what is commonly referred to as the consumerisation of IT. The ‘power’ in terms of functionality and mobility resides in the hands of the end user, with the workplace playing catch-up. On the basis that the two worlds never meet, there is no issue with the status quo. However, the challenge and subsequent risk for IT management occurs when a sophisticated array of personal devices become entry points for the corporate network. This forces IT strategy to either clampdown via IT policy, or liberate via sophisticated virtualised user environments to ensure that network performance and security remain in the control of the IT function. If Figure 1 describes the present, Figure 2 provides a glimpse into the near future. The percentages show the status for mobile deployment and network access in instances where at least half the workforce has either a smart device or some level of remote network access. Whilst current levels of significant mobile deployment are relatively low when taking into account the entire workforce, the expected increase in mobility to the point where over 50% of the workforce is mobile is considerable. Remote email use, remote access to business applications and smartphone management software deployments are all set to increase significantly (in most cases double) over the next 12 to 24 months. Fig 1: Device use at work and at home Q: From the following devices, what do you use for work and/or personal use? (Base 1,000) Fig 2: Mobile/remote deployment for the workforce5 Q: To what degree are the following technologies and devices deployed within your organisation? (Base: 200)
  6. 6. Keeping Social off the Agenda Looking at the nature of how younger employees communicate at work, beyond the device that is used provides some insights into to versatility of today’s workplace communications channels. Most encouraging is the recognition that face-to-face contact with colleagues is the most preferred form of communication (85%). Email (65%) is of greater preference than telephone (45%), with social channels, instant messaging and video all seemingly less relevant for generation Z employees as colleague-to-colleague communications tools. The picture changes when looking at how this group state preferences for communicating with non-work friends in the workplace. Social media (37%) is on par with phone (38%) and email (44%). Whilst it may seem unprofessional to be excessively in touch with ‘friends’ whilst at work, regardless of the channel used, it is notable to see that the percentage of respondents using social media outside of work increases to 66% (Figure 3). This suggests that respondents either recognise the implications of ‘chatting’ on work time, or are working within policies or network environments where social media isn’t available. An indication that this social ‘abstention’ is voluntary, rather than mandated, is provided by Figure 4 where the majority of respondents believe that social networking shouldn’t be present in the workplace at all, regulated or otherwise. Only 23% consider that it should be regulated, 16% that it should be permitted without regulation, whilst 57% feel it should not be permitted at all. There is a greater level of enthusiasm for professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, where only 21% believe its use should not be part of the workplace. This, again, suggests that Generation Z draw clear differences between social for social channels and social for work – perhaps to a greater extent than their ‘Generation X’, colleagues. It is worth noting that new joiners to the workplace have grown up with social media and are very mature users. Their older colleagues (25-35yrs) have seen social media disrupt the working environment ‘as it happened’. This is perhaps why, when looking at the workforce as a whole, 34% of IT professionals in the survey advocated a regulated use of social channels, considerably higher than Generation Z. Fig 3: Preferred communications channels at work Q: From the following, please choose your preferred methods of communicating with each group (Base 1,000) Fig 4: Communications channels policies Q: For each of the following, please select the level of regulation you think is appropriate in the workplace Base: (1,000)6
  7. 7. Generation Z Expectations IT decisions makers perceive that under 25 year olds have higher expectations of technology in the workplace, are more likely to expect access to personal services, such as personal email, whilst at work and are more likely to expect to use personal devices in the workplace. This perception is somewhat borne out by experience. Figure 5 shows that IT professionals from organisations where the workforce employs a larger number of 16-24yrs old (25% or more) are more likely to consider these factors to be influential in the workplace in general, but not to such a degree when looking at device use or network access. 72% of businesses with more than 25% Generation Z workers believe that this group has generally higher expectations of IT performance, against 53% of respondents from businesses with fewer than 25% Generation Z workers. This position inverts when looking at personal device use in the workplace, 60% to 64% respectively. Therefore, whilst the IT professional sample believes that younger workers are more likely than others to have high expectations, there is some variability in exactly what those expectations are. Figure 6 shows the same groups responding to the level of challenges in managing end users overall. The top three challenges are all indicative of consumerisation of technology and a general thirst for workplace choice. Flexibility of access points for company resources, access to the network from new devices and access to the network from new locations are all cited as key areas of development for the business. Perhaps of greater interest is the fact that respondents with higher levels of younger workers seem to be experiencing these challenges more acutely than the other group. Only when looking at access ‘on the road’ does this trend, for understandable reasons relating to the age of a ‘road warrior’ workforce, move in the opposite direction. It appears that there is a clear relationship between IT demands and workplace demography. Fig 5: Managing younger workers Q: In what way, if any, do you think that younger recruits (under 25yrs) differ from the average user in the business? (Base: 200) Fig 6: Challenges in end user management Q: What are the most important challenges you face in managing the7 expectations of your end users? (Base 200)
  8. 8. End User Influence Looking at end user influence in general, it is clear that IT decision makers have to listen to them more intently. 71% of IT respondents state that the end user audience is very influential on IT strategy, actually more so than customers (66%) and almost to the same degree as the Board (76%). Again, Figure 7 shows that businesses employing a higher level of younger workers are more likely to consider that end users have a significant influence on IT strategy (81%). Figure 8 describes the same issue in terms of a trend over the past 12-24 months. Not only are end users influential, but 38% of respondents believe that influence has increased in the past 1-2 years, with only 4% believing that end user influence has decreased. Compared to the customer base and the Board, the increase of end user influence on IT strategy is considered to be higher. Only 26% of IT respondents believed that Board influence was increasing, whilst 37% felt that customer influence was increasing. Consistent with other findings, business with a higher level of Generation Z workers are more likely to state end user influence as increasing. It seems that the sophistication of devices, greater levels of mobility and IT literacy are all conspiring to empower the workforce in matter of technology. Whilst this may be interpreted as a redistribution of power from the central IT hub, to the employees themselves, it is more sensibly viewed as a transition that, not without challenges, will create notable productivity gains for the business as IT environments transition to more user-centric models. Fig 7: Level of end user influence Q: What is the level of influence that end users have over driving changes in IT strategy? (Base 200) Fig 8: Trend in end user influence Q: Over the past 24 months, how has the level of Influence of this group changed?8
  9. 9. The ‘Corporatisation’ of Gen Z The tables in Figures 9 and 10 use a set of polarised statements to understand how sentiment towards key areas of the IT/user relationship differ. Respondents from both the Generation Z group and the IT decision maker group provided answers on the following three issues: • User productivity (output) and time planning • Control of corporate data user device flexibility • Control of communications at work and user collaboration The first point of interest is shown in Figure 9. Whilst the degree to which either group considers user productivity to be more, less or equally important to time planning is notable, the key point is that the groups are basically in agreement. This is also the case for company control of information against device use. Generation Z respondents are as respectful of productivity and compliance needs as their IT professional counterparts. Rather than sacrificing productivity for autonomy, or device use for data governance, Generation Z is ‘corporatised’ to the needs of the organisation. Figure 10 shows a similar picture, but with a degree of tension between the two groups regarding control of communication and the ability for users to collaborate. Generation Z respondents are almost twice as likely to consider that communications control is less important than user collaboration (18% to 10% - IT professionals). This provides an indication of where user needs start to decouple of from technology control. It seems that end users assign greater value to working together (collaboration) than personal autonomy or personal technology use. Fig 9: Productivity and flexibility Q: For each of the following pairs of priorities, which statement do you agree with? (Base 1,000 200) Fig 10: Collaboration and control Q: For each of the following pairs of priorities, which statement do you agree with? (Base 1,000 200)9
  10. 10. Workplace Permissions User Power Figure 11 asks IT professionals to consider if unmanaged use of consumer devices holds back IT strategy. Respondents are most likely to think that the impact of such behaviour would result in general compliance issues, security and ID challenges and the expectations set on IT from the business (by increased device sophistications and flexibility). Respondents from businesses with more than 25% of workers under 25yrs old are more likely to state general compliance as an issue (62% to 48%) and high expectations on IT delivery (43% to 30%). Respondents from businesses with a more mature workforce, those with under 25% of workers between 16-24 years old, are more concerned by security issues (61% to 55%) and costs relating to systems upgrades (40% to 35%) than the other group. Turning to the benefits of consumerisation, Figure 12 shows the favourable aspects of personal device use as seen by IT professionals and Generations Z users. Whilst the IT professional group are somewhat more enthusiastic about benefits that the ‘Gen Z’ users, the priority order is very similar. Productivity gains (69% and 49%) and flexibility (50% and 35%) are the two driving factors for tolerating, or planning for increased personal device use in the workplace. Intriguingly, the attraction of younger workers (48% and 35%) is believed by both groups as a more significant reason for personal device use that senior management preference (43% and 25%) – suggesting that ‘top down’ device sophistication is less of a driver behind workplace change than perhaps expected. It is understandable that IT decision makers are more attuned the possible benefits that device flexibility brings, even if this sentiment is balanced by a range of concerns. On the basis of other findings in the survey, the key decision for IT over the next 12-24 months is ‘how’ change should be managed, rather than ‘if’ it should be considered at all. Clearly, productivity benefits are a recognised outcome of network and device flexibility. However, understanding workforce demography and end users needs appears to be as important as more traditional IT territory, such as cost management and systems compatibility; useful insights to creating a sustainable view of IT change over the next two years. Fig 11: Unmanaged device use challenges Q: Do you think that unmanaged use of consumer devices in the workplace is holding back IT strategy in any of the following ways? (Base 200) Fig 12: Drivers for allowing personal device use Q: Which of the following would you say are good reasons for allowing personal technologies in the workplace?10 (Base 1,000 200)
  11. 11. Summary Looking exclusively at the 16-24yrs age group as a proxy for broader workplace issues related to IT is a useful exercise. The research manages to dispel some perceived myths about the disruptive nature of managing younger workers on a wave of IT consumerisation. Whilst the stereotype may be of an ‘always on’ socially mobile, corporately naïve and technologically demanding ‘force’, the reality is different. Generation Z certainly has higher expectations of technology, but the most likely outcome from such as position, with the acknowledgement that end users are becoming more influential on IT strategy, is a net improvement in workplace IT, the basis of a sound contemporary workplace evolution. The more practical reality for Generation Z, known as the ‘protected generation’ is that they are keen to succeed, they are mindful of acceptable corporate parameters and respectful of the need for organisation IT governance – in fact they seek guidance on all such matters. Whilst IT professionals grapple with the consumerisation of IT, a device-led transition to more sophisticated user environments, they must also understand the impact of the ‘corporatisation’ of Generation Z. This could be defined as the need to assimilate the younger workforce into a corporate environment in order to maximise user productivity. Most importantly, this change doesn’t necessarily involve a device fashion parade or tablet purchasing frenzy. In most cases, it means clear guidance on IT use, flexible network access and sensitivity to the importance of a collaborative user environment – approaches that evidently benefit the user base as a whole. Most importantly, the survey shows that, consciously or not, businesses with a younger workforce have different IT strategies. There is a relationship between workforce demography and IT users that proves the assumptions of IT professionals regarding age groups and the overall impact of end user power on IT strategy. If this represents a tension between the IT function and the workforce then the future offers only disruption and productivity issues as the consumer market dictating corporate IT adoption. However, if this circumstance is being harnessed and exploited to improve the contemporary workplace, it will no doubt offer tangible benefits to the organisation as a whole. It seems that offering user flexibility in the context of a controlled environment and understanding the benefits of personal choice and collaboration to end user productivity are the key points to ensuring that these benefits prevail. For Further information, please contact: Computacenter Hatfield Avenue Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL10 9TW, United Kingdom Telephone: 01707 631000 email: workplace@computacenter.com11