Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2013 – The Social Media Generation Joins the Workforce

Connection Obsession
Oh, oh – our workforce is changing, again.

The last decade has been characterized by record low employee disengagement.  In general, employees just don’t care about creating shareholder value.  According to the research they draw paychecks and try to balance the demands of work with the demands of their life style.

Disengaged, yes; but also diligent.  Most of our current workforce comes to work, even virtually, trying to get a job done.  Our workers may have been entitled by their parents but there was an understanding, even if resented, that there was a hierarchy that needed to be appeased.

Social Media Generation
I think this is changing.  I think we’re seeing the beginnings of the “social media generation” hitting the workforce.  What I’ve seen recently is an emerging trend - even though it’s blurry.

The most intimate relationship is with their smartphone  

We’ve spent a lot of time recently in business understanding the technological impact of social media. We can now hit your i-phone with a special drink promotion as you walk past Starbucks.  We’re constantly alone together.  For many this is a “wow” phenomenon; for “kids”, it’s just life.

But what of the human (shall we say “social”) side of social media at work – that is, beyond our obsession with surfing, tweeting, and Facebooking on the job.

Those entering the workforce in 2013 simply don’t think the same as the rest of us. They have a need, and expectation to be connected.  It may be a form of narcissism, but they want to be connected, and known to be connected.

… kids have grown up inside an adult bubble

Many have grown up inside an "adult bubble" where they have been encouraged to connect by saying what they think - to their parent's and adult friends.

What they don't realize is that they were never judged inside the "adult bubble" - but they will be when they enter the workforce.  This "connecting without judgement” often means publishing without a filter or discretion.  Why else do we see endless lewd partying pictures or a frivolous obsession with kittens?

Quo Vadis?
Social media is the great leveler; however, organization life is, well, “organized.”  So, what impact will this new generation have on organization life?   
  • Will the new workforce really understand "confidentiality" and the need to protect "business intelligence?”
  • Will “whistleblower" laws be the least of a corporations confidentiality concern as we see stuff in the media that we never dreamed of? 
  • Will we be working in “open landscape” offices so our recruits can feel connected even when they’re not on the phone?
  • Will communications with the boss be only through curt text messages?
  • Will employees only commit to a one year horizon as they check their phone for more interesting opportunities in the ether?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that managers and Human Resource departments aren’t ready.

This is going to be fun!

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