Saturday, 24 March 2007

'Great minds' thinking alike

During a very interesting discussion with Nick Chapman of Thrupeople this week, the topic of young graduate entrants to companies came up. Nick agreed with me that this group is significant when it comes to take-up of Enterprise 2.0. We found ourselves agreeing that the culture of many organisations is in all probability incompatible with the expectations of this group. We kicked around some ideas for addressing the issue with a social networking approach. Nick suggested I might do some research among a sample of graduates to see what those expectations and aspirations might actually be. I might well do so, especially since I missed this ITT.

After the meeting with Nick, having already formed the view that there were a number of minds, great or otherwise, thinking alike on this topic, I picked up the March 2007 issue of Information Age, and read this:

...a generation of IT-savvy graduates - all of whom have whiled away their university years in 'chat rooms' and on social networking sites - now entering the workforce. "This generation has different values from the baby-boomers...tending to be more transparent, willing to share information, used to getting things more immediately, and wanting to interact quickly."

Increasingly, employers have had to become receptive to to the expectations of what Forrester Research has dubbed the 'Millenials' - those born between 1980 and 2000 - making collaboration a key recruitment issue....For many of these people, going into a company which says, 'No, we do it this way', is going to seem really antiquated...

Do you get the impression, as I do, that we have a strong driver for social software take-up here, and possibly for organisational culture change? Could such changes be a prerequisite for attracting the younger generation into the workforce, and a real differentiator between successful and unsuccessful organisations?

Monday, 12 March 2007

My Generation

Well, not mine, actually. I'm in my late forties and certainly don't 'hope to die before I get old'. I'm talking about the recent graduates and other young people in their early twenties currently entering the workforce.

Personally I've been using 'social software' in the form of discussion forums (mainly for my hobby of motorcycling) for about six years. I'm old enough and ugly enough to have become a fairly hardened sceptic about the possibility of such apparently trivial activities taking hold in an enterprise. But the younger generation are not. It's reasonable to guess that many of them have presences online, in the form of MySpace sites and so on, and that they may expect similar facilities inside their employer's firewall. I'm not the only person to think this (not surprisingly). Euan Semple, for example, has made the point in his recent, minimalist post on the subject. But one or two recent discussions with people trying to 'do KM' inside organisations bear this out, and it makes me optimistic.

Why? Because, for the younger set, at least, you can sweep aside all the usual issues about how hard it will be to break habits, change the culture, etc. Just build and they will come. These young people also tend to be eager to show how knowledgeable they are, as they thrust their way up the hierarchy. At least that is what I was told by an information manager at one of the Big Four accountancy firms the other week. This, too, is helpful: it's a driver for content.

This all sounds very positive. Just set up the software, tell the twenty-somethings about it, and off you go. But is that the biting of nails I hear in HR and legal departments, as the prospect of MySpace-style material appearing all over the corporate intranet?