The largest segment of employees in the workplace is millennials. Within a year or so it is likely that millennials will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce and this will grow to 75% by 2030 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This is obviously driving a massive shift in the adoption of new technologies within organizations. It goes without saying that millennials have grown up with widespread access to technology in a way that previous generations didn’t have and this means that their willingness to adopt new technology is higher than previous generations.
Of course, they, in general, are quicker to understand new technology and can be quicker to dismiss it if it fails to deliver value.
Millennials have grown up having access to chat applications and are more comfortable with this mode of interaction than previous generations. They are less likely to want to pick up the phone to get information or do things. And it makes sense why.
Not only is using the phone hit or miss in terms of whether the other person is available, it can be a major interruption to the other person even if they are available. In addition, social norms dictate that extra time needs to be spent on pleasantries and framing the question, rather than just getting the answer, so it takes longer to get the answer. A similar problem, in terms of not getting to the point, exists with email communication.
Of course, there are times when phone calls are more efficient than chat, particularly when the questions are more complicated and need to be iterated, but this is often not the case.
The point about interruptions can’t be overstated enough. Research has shown that interruptions cause a massive decline in productivity and creativity.
The reasons above are why chat applications such as Whatsapp and Messenger have become so phenomenally popular with millennials. The friction involved in calling someone to make a minor point is prohibitive.
The chats remove almost all the friction involved in communicating simple ideas to individuals or groups.
What is the software user interface that is the most compatible with the chat communication paradigm? Smart assistants.
In the same way that chat allows us to bypass using voice calls, smart assistants allow us to bypass logging into the underlying computer system. Logging onto the underlying system is the software equivalent of making the phone call.
Millennials recognize that smart assistants are live in chat applications where they spend much of their time already, they also provide great productivity benefits.
Of course, the productivity benefits delivered are relative to the appropriateness of the design of the chatbot and the power of the underlying chatbot technology used. Millennials will not just accept a new technology unless it is proven to deliver real productivity gains.
Even with the current state of chatbot technology, chatbots can deliver real benefits in the workplace in terms of abstracting underlying systems and providing instant support for simple support questions.
It is also likely that voice will become more dominant as an alternative to typing overall (as speech to text technology improves) and that voice bots will become a big feature in the workplace. While millennials have not necessarily grown up with this technology, they are certainly technology savvy enough to adopt technologies en masse that deliver huge productivity gains.
As millennials become a greater force in the management of these organizations, expect to see much greater emphasis on technology solutions that leverage the way they already want to do things.
This trend will be reinforced by the fact that at the same time you can expect to see great innovations in chatbot technology such as the introduction of natural language queries and “small data” driven AI approaches replacing the current paradigm of intents that drive linear flow.
Millennials are fast becoming the dominant force in the workplace and this will lead to increasing adoption of their preferred technology paradigms. The smart assistant will increasingly become their UI of choice because it is consistent with and leverages off of their ubiquitous adoption of chat as their preferred means of communication.
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