We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift. The first-ever generation of digital natives is entering the workforce, and as millennials start filling positions at companies, some significant cultural differences become apparent. Younger workers enter jobs with both different skill sets and different ideas on social and corporate culture, and companies that don’t adapt face new problems for which they may be unprepared.
New Generational Challenges
Younger workers enter the workforce with a different set of fundamental skills and competencies than the generations that preceded them. Mobile technology, the web, and social media, while ubiquitous today, didn’t exist 10 to 15 years ago. Many companies find it difficult to reconcile conventional business communication skills with changing generational ideals.
In a recent 2014 report from Deloitte on Global Human Capital Trends, retention and engagement, as well as leadership development, were identified as the biggest challenges facing companies as the workplace evolves into the 21st century, the ABA Banking Journal reported. By 2015, millennials are estimated to comprise 75 percent of the workplace. Thus, these issues are likely only to intensify unless companies evolve their corporate training and culture to address the growing concerns.
The question is, what can companies do to develop their learning and development programs in a way that is both engaging to the new crop of workers and faithful to existing company ideals?
A Social Solution
Some companies have begun to discover solutions by looking to the places where many of these young new employees spend much of their time: social media.
Social media has historically had a checkered relationship with many companies on a corporate level, being viewed at best as a black box companies couldn’t or wouldn’t venture to learn more about, and at worst as an outright security threat to company interests. But recently, the benefits of leveraging social media for businesses have started surfacing.
“It can be a place to vet and source future employees and gather information about people. Then there’s the brand building aspect of it; as well as the evolution of social media as a customer-support channel,” Ashish Bansal, a graduate of the Executive MBA program from the Schulich School of Business at Toronto’s York University told the Financial Times.
Companies that have identified and embraced the pervasiveness of social media early on have started pulling ahead and establishing trends in the changing landscape of the digitized workforce. In 2009, relatively early in the social media life cycle, MasterCard introduced Conversation Suite to track and display conversations about its brand across social networks, thus discovering a creative way to turn what was originally perceived as a challenge into an advantage.
Adapt To A Changing Landscape
The importance of the role social media will play in the future of business cannot be overstated. While previously viewed as the province of free time, with little perceived use or application in the workplace, the companies that will attract and retain the top talent in years to come will be the ones that effectively welcome the presence of social media into the fold and see it as a tool rather than a change to resist.
Efforts should be taken to both introduce and educate older employees to basic social media concepts and functionality, as well as to establish limits and guidelines for the already-initiated to ensure that brand integrity is maintained. Companies considering embracing social media should determine what they deem to be acceptable use, and how best to oversee what is already becoming a rapidly growing new medium. But those willing to take the time may just find themselves with an invaluable new tool that can help to both engage consumers as well as reach employees on new levels.