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The 2012 Demographic Shift – An Increasingly Social Workforce
Article by Dr. Karie Willyerd, chief learning officer (CLO), SuccessFactors
Social collaboration platforms are a preferred medium for communicating and sharing content on a personal and professional level. My prediction for 2012 is that social at the workplace will really hit its stride-from sharing content and updates on a social platform to furthering social learning across the company. Even Gartner recently ranked contextual and social user experience as a top 10 strategic technology for 2012.
To put this demographic shift into perspective, last year, the older you were, the more likely you were to be sending email. The younger you were, the less likely you were to read it, according to comscore. The communication gap between generations, always challenged by life experiences, now intensifies
as the medium in which we choose to share the most important aspects of our lives becomes increasingly divergent.
This divergence will intensify in 2012 as 10,000 Baby Boomers a day turn 65, the age at which about 80 percent of working adults choose to retire. The leading edge of Baby Boomers turned 65 in 2011; between now and 2030 when the last of the Boomers turn 65, 70 million Boomers will have potentially exited the workforce. Gen X, sitting right behind them, is only 50 million strong. Inevitably, unless there are massive job losses, some of those Boomer jobs will skip a generation and go to Millennials, who may make up 47 percent of the workforce in just two years.
Millennials, also called Gen Y, have markedly different technology consumption patterns than Boomers, especially outside the workplace. If you have a Millennial in your life, outside work, you know the least likely way to get them to respond to a request is email, followed closely by a phone call. Texting, instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter are natural modes of communication for what some have dubbed the digital natives. When I ask audiences of Boomer managers and executives if they think they are average in watching about 186 online videos a month, it's the rare hand that gets raised. Of the 2 billion YouTube videos watched daily, it's pretty safe to conclude the digital natives are those doing the bulk of the viewing.
When this pattern exists outside work, what does it mean for inside work? With any resurgence in job creation, the likeliest candidates to fill those new jobs are the Millennials. Boomers lost their jobs more than any other generation in the recession, and as companies create jobs, they are more likely to hire at the lower end of the pay scale and with the freshest skill sets. Some companies, especially in the creative firms, financial and consulting services, are already past the 50 percent point in Millennial make-up. Those firms provide a sneak preview for other companies where the shift might be delayed by a few years, and all you have to do is check out their Facebook pages and their Twitter stream to see the difference. It's not just that they use these channels effectively - it's that they've adopted a tone and philosophy that is appealing to Millennials. Rather than using heavily scripted, corporate language, they use an authentic and casual, egalitarian tone, with an emphasis on personal development and growth.
A survey we conducted for the book, The 2020 Workplace, found that the top priorities for how Millennials would choose their next job largely focused on how well an organization and their manager would develop them. Seeing themselves almost as free agents at work, they realize the closest guarantee they have to remain employed is to have solid skills in areas attractive to the marketplace. In 2012, we should see more pressure on organizations to respond to the Millennials' need for development, while also ensuring a knowledge continuity plan to cover those exiting the workplace.
For example, these programs are already happening in social recruiting and innovative new hire orientation. Companies are finding passive candidates through social media. For example, one Zappo recruiter told me she watches tweets mentioning Zappo, and when someone says, "I love Zappo!" she reaches out to them to see if they'd consider working at Zappos.
To accelerate the ramp time for new employees, companies are using social networks to connect new employees, and designing game-based learning to turn what can be dry content into engaging, motivational content. To ensure continued productivity, the companies that set clear goals, typically aided by technology to ensure alignment, will gain not only employee satisfaction but also increased business results.
It's easy to see how social is influencing how employees share content at work, learn at work and even how it influences how companies are hiring.
In order to retain the next generation of employees, it's necessary to speak in their language, which is increasingly digital. Setting clear expectations, letting employees know how they're performing, accelerating development through social learning, and providing familiar collaboration spaces are all necessary in working with the next generation employee. We will begin to see more of these as the handover of generations continues.
To implement these kinds of programs, typically managed by Human Resources, will require continued flexibility of both the skills in HR as well as the tools used to drive changing initiatives. Fortunately SaaS and cloud computing offer that flexibility at a time when HR is increasingly comfortable with the security and capabilities SaaS offers, at a price that allows easy transition. For example, social and learning platforms, like SuccessFactors Jam and its LMS (Learning Management Solution), are already helping companies get on the social bandwagon.
2012 should be an interesting year as businesses look to keep pace with the digital workforce with social tools that ultimately help employees communicate, learn and do good work, in a user interface they like using.
About the Author
Dr. Karie Willyerd is the chief learning officer (CLO) at SuccessFactors. Willyerd first joined SuccessFactors in March 2011 through the company's acquisition of Jambok. Willyerd oversees the company's Learning Services group, which provides formal and informal learning solutions for customers, partners and employees. Willyerd is an industry veteran and the former CLO for Sun Microsystems, where she led a team that won more than 30 awards from 2008 through 2010, including the ASTD No. 1 training department in the world. She is also the co-author of The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow's Employees Today. Willyerd has a doctorate degree from Case Western Reserve, a master's degree from Boise State and a bachelor's degree from Texas Christian. She splits her time between San Francisco and Fort Collins, Colorado.