The right collaboration tools can help bridge the divide between generations.

Today’s workforce comprises three generations — Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials, also known as Generation Y. The ability to lead and harmoniously integrate a diverse, multigenerational workforce and maximize the strengths of each group is critical to the success of any organization.

The biggest challenge to leading a multigenerational workforce involves developing an understanding of the widely different perspectives and priorities across generations. Different styles of communication in terms of both technology and formality of language can easily be misinterpreted as being disrespectful or condescending, causing conflict and dysfunction.

Generational differences are also reflected in how each group adopts and respond to technological change. Millennials grew up with ubiquitous connectivity and expect to be able to work when and where they want. Older workers, many of whom are in leadership positions, may be more resistant to new technologies and ways of doing business.

Rather than dwelling on differences and feeding stereotypes, successful leaders encourage employees of all generations to be flexible and willing to collaborate in order to solve problems. That’s why collaborative tools can aid in the management of the multigenerational workforce.

The Millennial Influence

Millennials may be the newcomers to the American workforce, but they’re now it’s largest generation, outpacing both Gen X and retiring Baby Boomers. That’s a remarkably rapid rise for Millennials, who were born between 1981 and 1997. They only began working in the late 1990s, but are expected to make up half of the workforce by 2020 and up to 75 percent by 2025.

There’s no question that Millennials are reshaping the workplace. Coming of age at a time of accelerating technological change, they are right at home with mobile applications and digital communication tools. In fact, they expect to have tools that give them anytime, anywhere access to applications, data and services that give them flexibility in terms of how, when and where they work.

Forward-thinking organizations are embracing the Millennial workstyle by implementing highly mobile with agile technologies that streamline organizational processes and boost productivity. They are also emphasizing collaboration tools that facilitate teamwork regardless of location and enable employees to communicate effectively with customers and business partners. However, some workers may not be ready for this transition, and could be left behind if organizations don’t implement new technologies thoughtfully and strategically.

Collaboration tools can be particularly problematic. Older workers tend to prefer the telephone and email, and may not feel as comfortable using instant messaging and video chat. If they try new tools and find them to be overly complicated, they are likely to abandon them quickly.

Getting Everyone on Board

The right collaboration platform can accommodate these varying workstyles by making electronic collaboration as simple as face-to-face communication. Workers should be able to transition from an instant message to a voice call to a video conference without dropping the connection or changing devices. This requires a fully integrated system, with one interface for all functionality. It should be accessible from a wide range of devices, including PCs, mobile devices and traditional desk phones.

The user experience must drive the selection of the collaboration platform. The success of the implementation, and the ROI from the investment, are largely dependent upon user acceptance and adoption of the collaboration tools at their disposal. Adoption will only occur if the collaboration solution provides users with an experience that is simple, easily accessible and capable of helping them do their jobs better.

The workplace of tomorrow will be dominated by tech-savvy workers who feel comfortable using digital collaboration tools. However, today’s workforce is composed of three different generations, each with different views on information sharing and collaboration.

Organizations need to support this blend of employees by providing advanced technologies for those who are ready to use them while maintaining more traditional communication channels for older workers. The right collaboration platform can help bridge the generational divide, and enhance productivity, decision-making and customer service across the organization.