I refer to my conversation with Roger D’Aprix, where he predicted a conflict is emerging from the clash of two dramatically different organizational cultures.
He alluded to the concept of Generation F (for Facebook) and the particular expectations these professionals have for their workplace—namely that connectivity and networks mirror what people are accustomed to in their personal lives.
Intrigued, I did a little searching and found that it isn’t hard to collect evidence of this looming battle. Up for debate is whether and to what degree organizations should accommodate the new demands of the emerging workforce. It’s a good question—one that no one seems to be able to answer definitively just yet.
Gary Hamel wrote on this subject for his Management 2.0 blog for the Wall Street Journal, and I found his to be among the more interesting explorations of the topic.
In his post, Hamel presented the viewpoint that a company hoping “to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F” will “need to understand these Internet-derived expectations, and then reinvent its management practices accordingly.”
He proceeded to outline 12 characteristics on which companies will be evaluated by this new breed of workers. A few are pillars on which every organization should strive to operate, with or without the Internet: Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it; Intrinsic rewards matter most; All ideas compete on an equal footing.
But others on the list seem to threaten the very ability of an organization’s management team to do its job and reach strategic goals: Resources get attracted, not allocated; Users can veto most policy decisions; Tasks are chosen, not assigned. While the old-fashioned hierarchical approach to management may need a 21st century facelift, I don’t think turning over complete control to employees is exactly what the doctor ordered.
In light of all this discussion about responding to employees’ social media needs, I found it ironic to read just this week that Robert Half Technology released the results of a study of more than 1,400 CIOs. The verdict? Only one in five companies (19%) allows social networking for work-related reasons. The big news is that more than half (54%) of businesses block employees’ access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter while on the job (a mere 16% allow limited personal social networking).
Apparently companies aren’t too concerned with being perceived by Generation F as “with it” (a term Hamel uses in his post). And given the current economic crisis, it’s unlikely that their ability to attract younger employees will suffer from a strict social media policy. But Hamel warns that, once it’s no longer a “buyer’s market for talent”, a company unable to recruit and retain “a vital core of Gen F employees will soon find itself stuck in the mud”.
When it’s all said and done, I hope companies choose to adopt social media for the value it can and will add to a well-planned internal communications strategy, rather than in response to increasing demands from the next generation of connected employees.