Is the intrusion of social media into the workplace inevitable?

originally posted on Concept Hub

This past week I had the opportunity to present a 2-hour workshop and keynote dinner presentation to the Human Resource Association of Broward County.

In both presentations, I referred to the post of a couple of weeks ago where I highlighted how Social Media became a speeding bullet.

But social media is rapidly becoming more dominant in our lives for more reasons than ease of use, low barrier to entry and grassroots marketing efforts. From a Human Resource perspective, social media is rapidly intruding their workplace because of the rapid shift in demographics at the workplace.

The Echo Boom generation is an expansive term for children born between roughly 1980 and 1995.

In 1989 the number of live births exceeded four million for the first time since 1964, and the Echo Boom peaked in 1990 (33 years after the peak of the Baby Boom) with 4.16 million live births, the greatest number since 1962.

Children of this generation are called Echo Boomers, a reference to the fact that the generation falls between about 30 and 36 years after the Baby Boomer generation, and thus many Echo Boomers are the children of Baby Boomers.
-Source Wikipedia and many other media sources are exploring the shifts that are happening in the workforce because of the baby boomers who will begin to retire by 2010.

Somewhere in the middle of the baby boomers and the echo boomers is my generation, Gen X. Although we did not grow up connected, we entered the workforce at the height of the Internet boom. We were and are the major contributors to the online shift.

The Echo Boomers is the generation that will be filling in the gaps in the workforce left by the retiring baby boomers. Who is the generation? They are the ones who grew up connected. They have been sharing their lives online most of their lives. They have not known time and geographic boundaries in the way generations past have felt the restrictions of such boundaries. Their ideas of Privacy is more of an interesting idea or a fuzzy concept for them compared to the privacy expected from past generations.

This generation is entering the workforce with different ideas of etiquette, social norms, and communication styles. They want to share their personal lives and they expect others to care about their personal lives.

However, this shift in who we are as a human race and how we interact with fellow humans all over the world is only accelerating.

Consider the acceleration of change of the past century;

Assembly Line 1901

Television 1930

Personal Computer 1981

Cell Phone 1983 (yeah – it was huge)

In the past year, Facebook grew from 10.8 million to 19.5 million. MySpace grew from 9.3 million to 58.8 million and LinkedIn grew from 3.2 million to 4.9 million!

More than that, it is important to look at our very young and see what they are growing up with. Not only are they going to be hyper-connected from birth with mom and dad blogging every moment and posting family photos on Flickr, they are also growing up with mixed reality/virtual environments such as WebKinz and Nicktropolis.

As much as Human Resource professionals have to keep up with already, the intrusion of social media has added even more challenges to their workday;

  • The company’s reputation is now in the hands of LinkedIn, Blogs, Forums and Social Networks.
  • Intellectual Property can be severely compromised with a click of a button.
  • Globalization and the Long Tail has created a new competitive landscape.
  • Multi-Cultural Sensitivities
  • Multi-Generational Sensitivities.

But at the same time social media has provided several opportunities:

  • The creation of a Visual Social Graph – Who does your Janitor Know?
  • Tapping Into the Hidden Talent in Your Organization – Retain Talent by ensuring that they are in the right roles!
  • Keep up with the marketplace – Know what your consumers know.
  • Provide exceptional customer service.
  • Increase your brand awareness.

Human Resource professionals are definitely in key positions to be able to lead organizations through these changes by;

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency!
Know What is Going on in the Market Place
How is it Affecting Your Organization?
How is it Affecting Your Competitors?

2. Get Leaders from Other Departments Involved!
Social Media Affects Every Department

3. Developing a Vision
Focus on the Opportunities
Don’t Lose Site of the Business Purposes

4. Creating a Community of Advocates
Who is already involved in online social networking?
Train the Trainers

5. Maintaining Constant and Open Communication Channels
Address Fears and Concerns Openly
Maintain Internal Resource and Knowledge Blogs and Wikis

6. Highlighting Short-Term Wins
Notify everyone when you identified good candidates or solved a problem online.

7. Don’t Lose Momentum
Create a futurist Committee

8. Most importantly – Lead the Cultural Change!

Just like all the other changes in history-social media is more than a new way of doing things, it is a new way of being!