The headline in Austin Carr's recent article for Fast Company reads: Half of Young Professionals Value Facebook Access, Smartphone Options over Salary: Report. I have to admit, although I appreciate that money isn't everything, this blew my mind.
"For a whole new generation of tech-savvy young professionals, having access to social media or the right smartphone in the workplace is at times more important than earning a higher salary. For business, that means adapting to this change in priorities rather than resisting it—if the Man Men-era job force expected noon whiskeys and female secretaries, then our modern-day equivalent demands Facebook and iPhones," writes Carr.
At first glance, it might be easy to say, "Geesh, these guys just want to goof off on Facebook all day." I don't think that's the case. In fact, their desire to stay connected to their network could be a very good thing for project teams—provided we can expand their network to include their colleagues at work, can make the work they do something interesting enough to collaborate about and create tools that leverage what we've learned from watching this generation communicate and collaborate via social media.
These findings come from Cisco's second annual Connected to World Technology Report, released recently. "Cisco's findings are telling of a generation that's been glued to LCD screens and wired to social networks from an early age. According to the report, 40% of college students and 45% of young professionals would accept lower-paying jobs if they had more access to social media, more choice in the devices they could use at work, and more flexibility in working remotely," says Carr. "More than half of the college students surveyed indicated that if an employer banned access to networks like Facebook at work, 'they would either not accept a job offer from them or would join and find a way to circumvent.'"
Although many business leaders are going to read this report with some consternation because of the potential for abuse, Cisco is trying to figure out ways to take advantage of the findings.
I don't think it's a secret that our personal lives and professional lives are becoming less clearly defined. My company provides me with an iPhone that I am allowed to use for personal purposes. In fact, every full-time employee in the company has one. Of course, having the phone gives them access to us 24/7—but there are very few employees who are ever required to take an after hours phone call or answer an email. For most of the company its simply a nice perk. However there are times when it's easier for me to answer an email in the evening or take a phone call on Saturday afternoon than it is to put things off until Monday. My professional life and my private life are less compartmentalized than they were 30 years ago—it's just my life.
We've talked before about how the Millennial Generation has been collaborating and working on teams since elementary school. The same is true for their use of technology that facilitates collaboration via social media. I don't think this trend is going to change any time soon. And although it might be pandering to the younger members of the workforce, they aren't the only folks "plugged in" to Facebook. Many of my contemporaries are updating their pages just as often—in not more frequently.
Just how do we leverage this information into something relevant that we can incorporate within the project environment?
- Make the project environment a little more flexible: Give the team some input into how they do their job, when they do their job and who they do it with. I have younger colleagues who are online sending emails, writing code or otherwise getting stuff done in the wee hours of the morning—long after I've gone to bed. Yeah, they might not show up as early as I do the next day, but if they are able to get their work done, does it really matter?
- Provide tools that leverage the social media metaphor to make collaboration easier and more intuitive for them: I know this is going to be considered coddling to the younger generation by some, but if a more social media-like approach works, why is that a bad thing? It's easy to understand and the medium has become so ubiquitous that even the gray-hairs I pal around with are totally connected. Why not save ourselves some brain damage and create the environment that seems to work?
- Recognize accomplishments and provide feedback—regularly and frequently: This generation has become accustomed to an almost consent stream of feedback regarding what they're doing. It's been a part of their experience in school and social media has made it a part of their life. Is it any wonder they want to stay "connected" at work? I think the effort it might take to do that in the workplace will be well worth it.
Would I choose Facebook over a bump in salary? Nope. But I communicate, collaborate and otherwise productively get work done every day by using social media and social media-inspired work management tools.
What do you think?