Many people under the age of 30 can’t fathom the thought of giving up their iPhones. In fact, a good number think the handset is at least as important as life itself.
At least that’s what a recent Cisco Systems Inc. global survey suggests. In a speech Tuesday to the Toronto Board of Trade, Cisco System Canada Inc. president Nitin Kawale presented some startling figures from the study about the young generation—in this case, a sample of 18 to 24-year-olds and another of 24 to 29-year-olds—and their infatuation with the Internet, social media and mobile devices.
“A third of them say the Internet is as important as all the other life essentials,” Kawale (pictured) said, sending a ripple of laughter through the crowd. In other words, the Internet was as vital to them as food and water.
Meanwhile, the majority—64 per cent—would rather have Internet access than a car, he added.
The study results were presented as part of remarks on the power of collaboration and how organizations can cope with technological change. The key to doing so, Kawale said, is in allowing employees more flexibility, especially the option to work remotely and on a variable schedule — or as Kawale put it, “bringing the work to the worker. “ The new generation, he said, is demanding it.
“We can’t bring the talent to one location anymore. It’s not about building the right kind of office; it’s about creating a distributed, collaborative platform to work smarter.”
Kawale said the so-called “work-life balance” may soon develop into what he called “work-life blending.” He cited the example of Facebook, an application originally intended for friendly socializing that is now used to communicate with bosses and co-workers.
Companies, he said, also need to overcome their fear of the new hardware and software their employees are increasingly using, especially mobile devices, which can offer major business advantages.
“Our workforces are increasingly dispersed. And our work is distributed and it’s mobile. We need to work where and when needed on the device that we have. And the access and the sharing of info are absolutely critical.”
According to predictions from Cisco [Nasdaq: CSCO], by 2015, workers will spend more than 80 per cent of their time working collaboratively, Kawale said.
The new, distributed workplace hasn’t been adopted by everyone just yet. Many Canadian companies, Kawale noted, have a tendency to be conservative. “It helped us in the downturn with the banks. In this situation, maybe it’s not helping us as much.”
Kawale says video conferencing is often the “wedge” used to win over the hard cases. ”Video is where we try to convince people to go first. Because video, everybody can understand.”
Convincing people to put down their phones—and start sending e-mails and texts instead—is actually a tougher sell, he says.
In the end, said Kawale, Canadian businesses simply won’t have a choice but to adapt. “In their hearts, in their minds, in their guts, they know they have to change.”
And while each new generation of businesses goes through a phase in which they adopt new technologies, he says, today the challenge lies in the grueling pace of change.
“Everything happens in a much more pressed cycle. And that’s what people struggle with.”