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Generation Y has been the subject of many workplace studies. Ys are criticised for being overly conscious of their value to the organisation and “too precious” about the myriad career choices open to them. On the other hand, they have also justly been credited with driving much of today’s technology-led innovation.
This is in large part due to their prodigious consumption of information — and equally prolific record of contributing to knowledge — both as innovators in their own right and in their preference for open, collaborative new ways of communicating, which tends to spur innovation.
Thus it would seem that a workforce of young turks who question and try out everything can be a very good thing. And indeed my research and experience of such work environments bears this out. In reality, however, a complex array of factors comes into play when young blood enters the system. Mirroring the good and bad of Gen Y-ers themselves, their impact tends to be both energising and stressful.
In this context, organisations can use social business software (SBS) very effectively to mitigate the impacts of generational renewal while managing a positively balanced outcome – characterised by open innovation on the one hand and a robust security posture on the other.
Tale of two (inverse) cycles
The impact of upping your Gen-Y staff component works in two opposite cycles:
Cycle 1 — restricting
As organisations increase their Gen Y staff component, a generation gap may open up. Different behaviours, communication approaches and viewpoints separate older generations and Generation Y-ers, with the latter group generally exposed to a vastly bigger array of media and educational opportunities, as well as a more global formative environment.
New hires often experience difficulty in dealing with older generations. With the latter group markedly less open to accepting others, trust levels in the organisation tend to drop.
The very presence of Y-ers in the enterprise can further be considered major change, as they bring with them a greater reliance on technology and open communication, and a quick but non-linear style of processing information. This invariably leads to a stricter information security stance, which in turn necessitates adaptation of enterprise risk management policy frameworks, to protect social systems from unauthorised, unanticipated or unintentional modification.
Ultimately, this puts a dampener on the zeal and dynamism of the Gen Y mind-set of an organisation and minimises their positive contribution.
Cycle 2 — balancing
But the new generation’s affinity for technology tends to work in the opposite direction too, allowing Gen Y-ers to come into their own and make a self-reinforcing contribution to their organisations. It starts in this way: as organisations increase their Gen Y component, they often experience an increase in the adoption of SBS. By way of elucidation, it must be noted that social media can be organised into four categories – communication, collaboration, multimedia and edutainment platforms. This means organisations will often in such cases see improved collaboration and communication, increased efficiencies, and project savings.
This generally leads to heightened levels of open innovation, allowing organisations to maximise their knowledge resources by extending collaboration to partners outside the confines of enterprise boundaries.
Ultimately, the use of both internal and external capabilities in solving problems or creating new products, assets or channels greatly improve organisations’ competitive standing and chances of survival.
Resolving the conflict
In effect, it is a virtuous cycle that ends (and begins) with an increase in the Gen-Y mindset in the organisation. The positive cycle succeeds in balancing out the negative one, but it is SBS that stands central to organisations’ ability to turn mutually destructive forces into positive, self-reinforcing change.
As companies try to cope with new markets, technologies, attitudes and behaviours, SBS is their best chance to embrace change and rally a new generation of millennials to ensure their continued success.