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Communication and Culture: How to Win the Next Generation at Work

By Bill Baumel, Managing Director, Ohio Innovation Fund

Bill Baumel, Managing Director, Ohio Innovation Fund

As a venture capitalist, I’m exposed to startups in a variety of industries, including SaaS, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, med tech, pharma, and more. One of my firm’s most successful companies, Aware, provides a security and compliance solution to enterprise social networks (ESNs) and workstream collaboration tools, which many companies are quickly adopting to attract and unleash the potential of the new generation entering the workforce. 

The new way to communicate at work

ESNs, while a loosely-defined term, refer to any service that is thread-based and designed to enable communication across large segments of an organization. Workplace collaboration tools are typically faster, more conversational, and comprised of smaller groups. Examples of ESNs include Microsoft Yammer and Workplace by Facebook, while workstream collaboration tools include Teams and Slack (full disclosure: Facebook and Microsoft are both partners with Aware). 

These collaboration platforms are changing the game of internal communications, and if recent trends are any indication, they will only continue to gain popularity in the coming years. They have the ability to replace email almost entirely, allow employees to work remotely or with team members in a different time zone, and foster collaboration, open communication and relationships between employees in different regions and departments--that’s just the start of how ESNs and workstream collaboration tools can improve the employee experience in the workplace. 

"The organizations that make the shift and adapt to accommodate the younger workforce are the ones that will attract and retain young, fresh talent"

Some corporations are hesitant to make the jump to enterprise collaboration platforms because of issues with compliance, data governance and human behavior risks, but that’s where Aware comes into play. Aware’s security and compliance solution addresses all of the potential issues that could arise with enterprise communications, including potential confidentiality breaches, sexual harassment cases, legal issues and more. Aware helps business leaders remove organizational red tape, making these tools even more enticing and easy to implement. 

Why so sudden? 

All of this change in workplace communication isn’t coincidental--millennials and Gen Z now make up more than a third (38 percent) of the workforce, and that number is expected to rise to 58 percent in the next decade. This workforce expects a different kind of work experience than the generations that came before them. They thrive on collaboration and working in teams, which makes exchanging information quickly and easily all the more important. Internal communications teams should remember that this young workforce grew up with texting and instant messaging, so this type of rapid, informal communication is second nature.

Companies—including large, traditional conglomerates that may be hesitant to try something new—should be cognizant of the shift toward workplace collaboration platforms as a whole. The organizations that make the shift and adapt to accommodate the younger workforce are the ones that will attract and retain young, fresh talent. And those who don’t offer these next-gen communication tools? Well, they may find a web of shadow IT lurking throughout the organization.

What else? 

With quick and easy enterprise collaboration platforms comes an opportunity for companies and their leaders to be more transparent and communicative with their employees. Employees want and need to understand and identify with the company’s mission, brand and messaging. Many corporations have done an excellent job of connecting their leadership with their frontline employees through these platforms, which creates an engaged and dedicated workforce and a company culture that makes individuals excited to go to work. Get your employees behind you, and you have a well-oiled machine. 

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