Welcome back for Part Two of this Four Part series that reveals findings from recent research conducted with the healthcare, higher education, and government (local and central) segments of the public sector. In case you missed it, Part One covered how the pandemic impacted digital transformations, the shared responsibility of delivering the customer experience, and some challenges organisations face with empowering staff to deliver those experiences. Now, we’re reviewing the findings related to a generational divide that is creating unique challenges and opportunities for public sector organisations.

“Meeting every customer’s requests is one of the many challenges in communicating with clients. Some simply prefer more comfortable methods of communication.” - research write-in comment

Let’s look at an example: the first-generation iPhone was introduced in 2007. Although launched 15 years after the first one (extra credit if you know it’s name), the iPhone’s impact is staggering. Take Gen Z – they don’t know life without a smartphone and Google. The way Gen Z uses social media and the level of personal data they are willing to share is very different from Gen X. To better understand the differences in the ways each generation uses communications in their interactions with public sector organisations, we asked how well current communication systems meet each generation’s expectations:

How the different age groups feel about the current communication system

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Email is the most frequently used communication channel by public sector professionals today, followed by the phone. Based on their experience, Public sector professionals estimate that email and calling are working well for Gen X and Boomers, while Gen Z would prefer more modern communication channels such as WhatsApp. Millennials also prefer WhatsApp along with the convenience of email. What are the preferred communications channels of each generation? Once again based on their experience, the public sector professionals provided insight on the communication channels each generation would prefer to use when interacting with their respective organisations. Chat Apps (the orange section) provides a good example of the generational divide: WhatsApp is the clear Gen Z preference while Boomers want nothing to do with chat apps and prefer the phone call.

Preferred communication channels by generation

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Organisations are challenged with supporting each generation’s preference simultaneously.

Unfortunately, these different communication preferences are magnified in peak events such as Clearing. Students will expect to use digital communication channels such as WhatsApp and SMS to stay informed and updated on available classes in addition to phone calls into the contact centre. Universities that support the variety of communication channels will provide a more convenient experience.

There are two additional challenges increasing the complexity of this generational divide: the speed of technological change and constant disruption.

Speed of technological change

In 2001, Ray Kurzweil wrote “So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). “ as part of his Law of Accelerating Returns.

Public sector organisations have a front row seat on this bullet train of change. Keeping up with all the continuous change is becoming increasingly difficult and risky. Continually having to upgrade technology and keep users trained on how to use it is not a sustainable approach. Additionally, there is more potential risk with everything turning digital and software replacing established industry structures. RAND Corporation sponsored a study that estimated the cost of cyber incidents are on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars.

The complexity of dealing with sustainability, climate change, security, social equality, adoption of new technologies, rapidly shifting structural changes in workforce skill set requirements, demographic changes, and a dynamic geo-political environment make dealing with the generational divide even more complex. Expectations of our public sector institutions have been and will continue to evolve at a rate much faster than the ability of those organisations to adjust.

To ensure their communications capabilities are able to support this complex, dynamic, and fast-paced environment, organisations should look to cloud communications platforms that are easy to deploy and use, agile enough to provide the right capabilities tailored for each role, simple to maintain, and extensible to meet new requirements as they arise. It’s not science fiction: 8x8 provides this platform today.

Constant Disruption

The pandemic has been a stark reminder of the importance of being prepared when disruption strikes. Many organisations were unready to deal with remote working. The reality is that we need to be good at managing disruption because it happens all the time. For example, there have been 7,348 natural disasters* over the 20 year period from 2000 - 2019 according to EM-DAT. Doing the math results in 367.4 disasters every year. That’s about one every day. These natural hazards accounted for 50% of all disasters,

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45% of all reported deaths and 74% of all reported economic losses. These sobering statistics point