Tuesday December 23, 2008
By Jo Harley, Director
We were talking in the office yesterday about being students and the things we used to get up to, when a colleague mentioned she spent a lot of time on MSN and texting people. Her face was a picture when I mentioned that when I was at university we didn't have mobile phones, and she practically went in to shock when I said that I handwrote my assignments and had to visit a library to do any research. Now, I don't think I am that old at 34, however I am still not on Facebook (I read somewhere that you can still be cool and not be on it if you are over 30). In fact I am not on any social networking site, and until I came to learnpurple in 2002, hadn't ever used a computer at work.
Oh no! I'm not young as I thought, and even though I am now immersed in a technology product, I was a late adopter in terms of technology. There are many of us out there, and it is going to have an impact in terms of how we work in the future and of course how we manage those that work for and with us. It's challenging enough managing through the different generations we're now familiar with, the baby boomers and their loyalty, their strong work ethic and their respect for reputation and experience; we know how to handle the generation X people (of which I am one) who look for a sense of achievement and expect work life balance. We are slowly, though surely getting used to the Y generation, those with the high expectations from their workplace, who are informal and are looking for the short term reward - now.
But now we have a new challenge. We are going to be infiltrated very soon by the iGeneration, those who were born after 1992, the generation of technology, of the Internet and I'm sure somewhere along the line, a sponsorship from Apple, those who would rather text than talk. They have never known a world without the web, they may soon have an educational system far beyond anything we ever had; paperless homework; e books and sophisticated on line research tools. Their world is made up of gadgets and gizmos placing the world and information at our fingertips
In 2007, 61% of UK homes had access to the internet, an increase of 25% in the last five years and increasing every day. Today in the US, 90% of schools use the Internet to learn. Soon we will all have the internet at our disposal 24/7 - anytime, anyplace.
This generation is going to start doing work experience in two years, will be in the workplace in five. They will interact through social networking, they will expect to be able to work when and where they want to, and they are going to be big fans of fragmented working, doing their own thing, perhaps specialising in a certain area and outsourcing themselves to organisations for one or two days a week. They will be able to see and follow their peers career paths as we never have which may well produce a highly competitive workforce, always looking for the next big thing. Are we ready for this?
At learnpurple we have an example of an iGener before his time. He started working for us when he was still at university, is very entrepreneurial, and we have helped him start his new business straight after graduation by employing him for two days a week for his first year and now work with him and his first (bright graduate) employee on a retainer basis, a success story in the making. It's very exciting and fun to be around. Here at learnpurple we believe that, in the words of author, entrepreneur and agent of change Seth Godin, 'small is the new big'. We have always planned to stay small and outsource everything we can to those that can do it better.
I believe this is going to continue to be the way ahead as we enter a new phase of flexible working and working from home with no time restrictions beyond 'getting the job done'.
It is going to be more important than ever, over the coming years to keep the iGens engaged and motivated, they will expect state of the art equipment and will be able to see exactly what other organisations could be giving them. Businesses are, more than ever, going to have to adopt robust and leading edge means of ensuring that this technologically savvy, possibly geographically diverse group with their high expectations are managed and retained successfully.
How? By giving them what they are used to, encouraging them use social networking to increase your business; LinkedIn; 4networking; BNI and this blog page - to name but a few. Facebook (I am informed) has many groups, why not start one relating to your business? I'd recommend getting a Y or iGen person to do this for you!
As a company we invest a lot of time and money attending networking lunches or dinners, and while the older generations are not going to stop doing this, think how wonderful it would be to have a person in your office for an hour or two a week interacting with potential clients and spreading the word about your organisation on a networking site, possibly far more productive than two hours over lunch with one such client.
Online tools and engagement
Start a blog on your website and encourage people to contribute, most people like talking about themselves and their ideas and it's a great way to start discussion about the things in your business you are passionate about and open debate with your clients.
Use online tools where possible, for example online inductions; employee engagement questionnaires; online appraisal and review and exit interviews. (we provide all of the above to many leading organisations - www.talenttoolbox.com). One of our clients has just commissioned an online graduate programme to allow their grads to managed and drive their own progress. Many larger corporates are investing in spaces/sites/islands on alternative life communities, this will no doubt become more prevalent as the web increases its already far reaching grip on our lives.
As for me, I am not going to join Facebook today, but as the 4th most popular website in the UK in May 2008 (source: Hitwise) I might have to consider it at sometime. I am going to make sure though that we are as up to the minute as we can be regarding how we manage, review and conduct our business to encompass all generations and ensure that we are managing our people how they need to be managed, using the resources that they have grown up with and appreciating that one job in one environment is just not enough for some people, flexibility, or freedom (a value of ours) I believe, is the key to the future.
What are you doing about this challenge?