Will social networking and instant messages replace the standard business phone call, the client lunch and the handshake? The Acrobat.com team recently completed a survey with Directions Research, Inc. that points toward an evolution in office workplace culture, including the changing ways white-collar workers are interacting and coordinating their tasks, and how business will be conducted in the social media-rich environment of the 21st century.
The survey identified four key categories of knowledge workers:
Leaders – Young professionals who use a variety of emerging technologies both at work and in their personal lives
Actives – Largely over-35 year old professionals who have adapted to emerging technologies to meet the changing demands of the workplace
Followers – The less technically-inclined who rely on e-mail at the exclusion of other technologies
Resistors – Generally older workers who are reluctant to adjust to shifts in the workplace and office technologies
The research suggests several trends that we found interesting and that strongly support the vision we have for Acrobat.com:
* The leap in new technology options and the shifting demographics of the workforce mean that the old, traditional way of doing business is rapidly being enhanced by new ways of working. More business will be conducted using emerging communications technologies and social networking platforms.
* Technologies that people prefer to use in their private lives will become the technologies people want to use at work…what we call the consumerization of collaboration.
* The younger generation prefers to use multiple channels of communication, often choosing social networks, text messaging or instant messaging instead of e-mail and in-person meetings.
I believe this shift will lead to increased workplace support for technologies that offer these capabilities; I remember how painful it was to leave MIT as an email-savvy young go-getter in the early 90s and enter the Air Force where most people didn’t even have access to desktop computers (yes, green-screen Wangs were the order of the day). I agitated heavily for more networked computer power, and got it by hook and by crook, at least for my immediate group…and by the time I left the Air Force in the late 90s, I was emailing my girlfriend from the Kuwaiti desert every day, as was just about everyone else. Now our military forces, and even Obama and Hilary, use Connect Pro to collaborate in real time with people around the world as a matter of course.
Other notable findings from the survey:
* While email is still the leading technology tool of choice, usage of text messaging, instant messaging, social networking and online productivity tools are on the rise with white-collar workers under 35, with nearly one in three reporting they use these technologies at work daily.
* 50 percent of technology “leaders” would choose text messaging or instant messaging if they could have only one technology for a month for personal use.
* In the next five years, white-collar workers plan to increase their time working remotely by 50 percent, resulting in average white-collar workers spending 30 percent of their time working out of the office.
Take a look at the results and see if there is anything else that strikes a nerve for you:
You can click the expander arrow on the top right to view the presentation at full screen, or ‘Menu’ to download the document. The survey was conducted by Directions Research via Internet in late February 2009. Roughly 90 percent of the respondents were white-collar-workers. College students account for 10 percent of the survey. Survey responses were divided equally between men and women.
As I was quoted in the press release, more or less: “E-mail was a major disruptor to the way people worked a generation ago, moving communication and collaboration into the digital realm. With new technologies providing an even more fluid and immediate means for communicating and creating information, we are poised to enter into the new era of work, where getting knowledge work done faster will be essential to the success of business.”
Or as Randy Brooks, president and founder of Directions Research, said: “…businesses that support these new technologies and workflows will likely gain competitive advantage as they enable a new level of productivity among their workers.” By the way, click through on Randy’s name to check out the Directions Research website…what a great way to use the rich media on the web to sell a high-end service; have your employees talk about their work through candid and open video interviews.
Working together better and using the web to its fullest means better business results. Making that possible is what Acrobat.com is all about.
For past and future updates you can follow me on Twitter @erikdlarson.