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The MySpace Generation and the workforce-adapt or lose

by Tris Hussey on June 21st, 2007

Ah graduation season, new, fresh faces ready to enter the work force.  I’d wager that 100% of them are computer savvy.  E-mail and IM are passe to these grads.  This is the MySpace Generation.  This post is a part of the Biz Channel’s theme day and I want to direct it to both employers and new grads.

Here’s a bit from Yahoo! News to get both groups thinking:

Younger employees — like that new batch of college grads hitting the market right now — are going to be pushing employers to use Web 2.0 technologies on the job. And if their companies don’t start adopting them, younger workers will most likely just start using them on the sly.

“The upcoming generation is going to have a major impact on business. She will expect to have access to her tools in the workplace,” said Marthin De Beer, a senior VP with Cisco Systems. “It would be like someone from my generation not having access to e-mail and instant messaging. If they don’t get this stuff, they probably won’t be there for a long time.” Source: Younger Workers Demanding Web 2.0 Tech On The Job - Yahoo! News

For employers, and the rest of us work force vets, we have to strike a balance.  Web 2.0 apps are cool, but also distracting.  However web-based collaboration tools, wikis, blogs, and RSS are tools that can make employees much more effective.  Maybe I could have saved a few trees if proposals and documents I wrote could have been done online, maybe if there had been company-wide WiFi and laptops as a standard tool I wouldn’t have recycled tons of agendas and balanced scorecards that I looked at once and then tossed.  The MySpace generation is so used to these new ways of doing things they might chafe under workplace rules about apps being installed or what even Internet access restrictions.  Now, how will we strike that balance?  Are new workers not willing to adapt to the rules of work worth it?  Probably depends on the person, but let’s turn the tables a bit now …

Okay first “real” job, eh?  You’re the fresh out of school kid who thinks he/she knows it all.  Is going to bring all kinds of awesome new technologies to your job and why shouldn’t you be able to update your Facebook profile at work.  Well let me give you a harsh dose of reality, it doesn’t work quite like that.  Granted, most workplaces allow relatively unfettered access to the Internet unlike when I started and it took V.P. approval to get that.  Yep, you’re going to have to deal with corporate proxies.  Yep your work machine is probably going to suck major rocks compared to the gaming box you have at home.  Heck your cell phone might be more powerful than the dinosaur you have on your desk.

My advice, take it really slowly.  Yep you have some good ideas, and you might be right, but companies have a lot of inertia behind the way they do things.  Oh how do I know?  I snuck Yahoo IM into the world’s largest pharma companies.  Oh I had special access, unfettered, to the Internet so I could FTP out.  I’ve pissed off enough people in IT to form a whole IT department.  Come to think of it, I’ve pissed off whole departments.  Now while sometimes, it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission, when you go that route you damn well better be right and you damn well better be able to have a good business reason (makes money or saves money).

The title of this post, is intentionally vague.  Who is adapting and losing?  Both sides need to adapt or both sides will lose.  The old guard has to loosen up a bit and maybe let the new kid invite everyone into Facebook, but the new kid has to remember if you blog that the boss is sleeping with her admin-don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

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