If Everyone is Tweeting, Blogging and LInkingIn, Who is Doing the Work?
A colleague once remarked that blogging changed her working life. All of a sudden, she had a reputation as an expert on her issue of the day with a keen following commenting on her blogs. My immediate thoughts were:
a) who would read her blogs,
b) why would they,
c), while blogging, who was getting the work done?
Today, however, I appreciate her comment: blogging is a way of exploring ideas with others who share the same excitement for a particular topic. The exchanges add diversity of thought and approach and if you are lucky, even a morsel of innovative and creative thinking. If you are exploring best practices, or looking for practical applications of a tool or methodology, blogging gives you a chance to test the waters. The point is blogging, tweeting and LinkingIn play a significant role in our current culture. But to what extent does it add value to our professional lives?
I needed to know:
- How much time do today’s professionals invest in blogs and other discussion groups for professional guidance?
- To what extent do they rely on these for “professional development”?
- Do GenXers out perform Boomers in using social media to complete their work?
As a starting point for my research, I invited Boomers and GenXers from amongst the private and public sectors across the country to participate in a survey on the importance of using social media in the workplace. I polled 63 professionals from highly-participative team environments: 50% responded and of those, 84% completed the survey, 67% were boomers and the remainder GenXers. The respondents shared the same clustering of years, responsibilities and types of employers: 5 – 10 years with non-for-profit or professional services, as supervisors at various levels, or as specialist/professionals.
What surprised me most about the results was the extent to which Boomers actively use social media for research, even if 90% still would be able to perform well in their jobs were it no longer available. In addition, only 10% admitted that work performance and job satisfaction is directly related to access to social media. In other words, Boomers use social media because it is available and convenient and they appreciate its value, but their productivity and quality of work does not depend upon it. It is desirable but not a requirement.
GenXers, on the other hand, rely most heavily on social media for research on best practices, but also to keep in touch with colleagues. In contrast to Boomers, more than 57% rely on social media to do their work well, and if access was denied them at work, about 72% claim their performance and job satisfaction would suffer to some extent. Conclusion: Do not take away GenX access to social media if you want a quality output!
First of all, professional Boomers generally are tech-savvy. Not only has technology created a whole new world for learning and connecting, it has become their new way of work life, one to which they easily have become accustomed.
Secondly, both Boomers and GenXers recognize the value of social media for research into best practices. And, there is little difference between the Boomers’ and GenXers preference for social media to connect with colleagues. In fact, a growing reliance and comfort level with video-conferencing, webinars and SKYPE meetings is seen as a reliable and valid alternative to face-to-face meetings as it saves the travel time and money. Whether these media, however, are equally effective in building necessary relationships for good business is still unknown.
We fear breaching of security, loss of human contact and lower productivity as outcomes of use of social networks in the workplace. Instead of this “black hat thinking” (ref: Edward deBono Thinking Systems), let’s consider the business case cited by Fast Company ( “The $1.3 Trillion Price Of Not Tweeting At Work” 2012) http://www.fastcompany.com .
CEO Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite posits that:
“ C-suite executives have been slow to embrace and encourage the use of social networks—and by doing so, they're leaving billions, possibly trillions, on table.”
In fact, Wall Street claims:
‘ “ In the last year, the world’s largest enterprise software companies--Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Adobe, and even Ellison’s own Oracle--have spent upward of $2.5 billion snatching up social media tools to add to their enterprise suites.” Twitter-phobic CEOs may have a hard time ignoring that business case.’
From a recruiting and job hunting perspective, social media is indispensable. According to Jobvite, surveys conducted in 2011 vs 2010 (“Social Job Seeker Survey”), highlighted that the use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter by recruiters increased the quantity of candidates by 49% and quality by 43%. And, an increasing number of proactive job seekers (those using social media) and especially GenXers found 30% of their referrals and hence jobs through social media.
Facebook surpasses LinkedIn for those job seekers actively mining networks and Twitter is quickly catching up to LinkedIn as the source for acquiring a job referral from a contact. On the other hand, over 50% confessed that any indication of a prospective candidate’s immoral or illegal behaviours as seen on their profiles would lead to negative biases on the employer’s part.
In an article entitled “Networking, not Surfing lands most jobs” (HR Reporter August 9, 2012), Monika Morrow of Right Management outplacement services, observes that:
“Younger people sometimes expect to solve the whole thing (job hunt) online, and this sometimes works, but real people reaching out to real people always proves to be the best way”.
According to the same study, however, online job boards significantly out perform newspaper want ads, agency/recruiters, and the direct approach . In another article from HR Reporter (August 14, 2012), “Are Candidates with no Social Media Footprint Hiding Something”:
“ psychologist Richard E. Belanger and his colleagues from Germany (suggest that), young people who hold back their social online activities are more likely to be significantly depressed compared to those that have a social footprint. “
A radical viewpoint, but on the other hand:
“If you are hiring for a sales, marketing, consultant or any external facing position, the lack of a social identity when the vast majority of the applicants have one would cause a yellow flag. “
In particular, the New Millenia generation uses technology to find what they need, including the ideal employer. They do and will seek job satisfaction in workplaces that mirror their enthusiasm for innovation, creativity and positive energy. They know their way around a website, a search engine, the back room of a program, all types of presentation and editing features, and how to download and upload between tools and hardware. Smart organizations will recognize the importance these skills bring to employee and customer satisfaction, competitive standing and ultimately the bottom line and will not hesitate to harness that power.
Indeed, we have evidence that employers and potential employees use social media for recruiting and job hunting. We also know that professionals go to social media sites for research into best practices and for professional development opportunities, as well as to join in business meetings with colleagues who are located abroad.
The baby elephant, however, is whether encouraging social media in our workplaces discourages human contact. I believe that Millenias understand sincerity and intimacy of relationships a lot better than do Boomers. They are not afraid to connect with each other and to share thoughts and feelings. They have a deep awareness of the need to stay connected in order to maintain ongoing strong relationships. Facebooking or tweeting or skyping provides them an opportunity to build and nurture relationships when they are not face-to-face. Something Boomers could not do easily.
But we as professional Boomers appreciate how technology simplifies the ability to update personal information and conduct banking with security, trip planning and shopping for the best deals, and staying connected with friends and families worldwide.
We boomers do understand the cost of turnover and the challenge of recruiting and retaining excellent talent and how different are the needs and expectations of this next generation of worker. Did technology and social media reduce our work day and week as promised? Not at all! Did it instead speed up the need to innovate in the workplace? Absolutely. Has competition for new knowledge become fiercer? No kidding! So, going forward, can an organization succeed in this world without relying on the skills of those who can leverage the power of social media to gain that competitive edge. Not likely.
Consider this. Next time you are wondering why your employees are spending so much time tweeting, blogging and Linking-In at work, it’s not because they are cheating or taking advantage, it’s because they are working. For you. Welcome to the future.