HR Tech Number of the Day: work communication tools

There are big differences in the tech used by younger employees and business leaders.

By Jen Colletta for Human Resource Executive

60: Percentage points separating “born digital” employees and business leaders who rely on instant messaging apps in a work setting

The role of technology in workplace communication has never been more clear than in the last year, as employees turned to tech tools to keep them informed, engaged and productive in newly remote settings. However, according to a new study, the type of tools that employees rely on could vary vastly based on employee age—setting up a unique challenge for HR leaders.

The Born Digital Effect from software company Citrix, parent company of Wrike, explored the future of work through the lens of “born digital” employees—Millennials and Gen Z workers primed to take on leadership roles in the coming decades. The report found some distinct differences between how born-digital employees and current business leaders work, including in the technology they utilize.

For instance, 81% of born-digital respondents rely on instant messaging apps for work purposes compared to just 21% of business leaders. Other large gaps existed in their use of technology they individually own for work (78% for born-digital and 21% for business leaders) and real-time document collaboration tools (used by 86% of leaders and 50% of born-digital employees).

What it means to HR leaders

The variations in work tech usage highlight a number of realities that HR leaders need to confront, says Andrew Filev, senior vice president and Wrike general manager at Citrix.

First, the pandemic, in many workplaces, has increased the reliance on synchronous communication tools favored by so many born-digital employees—but that constant connectivity can inhibit productivity and engagement and put workers at risk of burnout, Filev says. At the same time, business leaders need to be open to new tools, especially those which future leaders are inclined toward.

“Just as born-digital workers shouldn’t spend all day in Slack, business leaders shouldn’t avoid the instant messaging platform altogether,” he says.

Achieving that balance comes down to leadership from HR. HR leaders need to educate all employees, as well as executives, Filev says, about the benefits, drawbacks and appropriate use of both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools.

“Synchronous tools are meant for quick, real-time collaboration, but a majority of the work must be done via asynchronous platforms with fewer distractions, allowing for deep work,” he says. “HR needs to step in and provide the appropriate training and education to ensure that all employees—top to bottom—are using solutions for their intended purpose.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at

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