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The Digital Generation: Millennials and Social Networking

Millennials have always had what we consider modern technology today as a part of their lives. They have grown up with tech and they consider it to be an extension of themselves. I’m sure this doesn’t surprise anyone that has ever watched a teenager talk, text, tweet, Instagram, and Snapchat all while listening to Pandora or Spotify while typing into their old school laptop or new tablet devices.

Millennials are also called Gen Y and are considered to be anyone born after 1980 and until around the year 2000.

The Digital Generation: Millennials and Social Networking image Millennials Article Photo Image Credit Michael Coghlan

Image Credit: Michael Coghlan

Digital Natives

Five years ago when others might have been making fun of people on Twitter for tweeting what they had for lunch or wondering what this Facebook thing was all about, the Millennials were pioneering their way into the newly discovered lands of social networking. They are the digital natives, while the older generations are the digital immigrants.

They are prepared, or at least well-adapted, for the rapid pace of change that comes with social networking. Some of the adaptations and a few stereotypes have been written about and talked about for the last few years—“they don’t have a hard work ethic” or “they won’t put in the hours to get ahead” or “they don’t respect authority.”  Some, or all, of these stereotypes might be true. However, the same can be said about any generation.

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There are a few things that Millennials know and react to on a daily basis that potential hiring managers probably already know. These four points define them to some extent. Social networking plays a significant role in the first three and probably plays a bit part in the fourth point:

Characteristics of Millennials

1. Mobile – It’s a mobile world. The world is shifting … very quickly … to a mobile environment.

  • BOX: In the last 2 years mobile internet usage has increased by 60.3% to 818.4 million. Source: GlobalWebIndex
  • Social Networking TIP: Employers should be aware of the fact that Mobile is going to happen. Make sure content is optimized for a mobile experience. Let Them Work!
  • Social Networking TIP: Vendors should help by creating solutions that cater to the mobile users. For employees, customers and partners.

2. BYOD – It’s a fact. People WILL bring their own devices.

  • Millennials may think this is a birthright and the smart IT departments are adapting.
    • Harsh Reality: If access is blocked, they will use their mobile devices under their desks or outside on breaks.
    • Social Networking TIP: Employers should create policies and procedures to handle the influx of devices. Not necessarily bend over backwards to accommodate everything, but to be realistic and support commonly used devices.

3. Social Change & Social Action – Millennials may not have the hippie mentality of the 60’s (they can’t afford to), but they do expect their efforts will make a difference. They are willing to use social networking to its full extent to effect change.

  • Social Networking TIP: Employers should make it easy for employees to get involved and to give back. Doing so will foster a stronger tie to the business.
  • Social Networking TIP: Vendors should help create options to help in these efforts. Either in sanctioned scenarios or completely separate from work. Let them support causes!

4. Transitory Jobs — which are not necessarily McJobs.

  • These are jobs that can be fleeting yet very worthwhile.
  • The risk Millennials (and every other generation) faces is that corporations make cuts to serve their bottom line and it just so happens Millennials are at the leading edge of those cuts.
  • Social Networking TIP: The use of social networking can and will be used to help them land their next jobs. This is a fact!
  • Social Networking TIP: Employers do not need to fear this, by using some of the points listed below in the “Social Networking Saves the Day” section.

Train ‘em … AND … Lose ‘em

Jobs are transitory. Nobody expects to be in a job for life anymore. Even for me, born at the end of the Baby Boom generation I, too, am also finding jobs to be more transitory.

  • In my case, five years was my ‘norm’ before I transitioned.
  • In the last few years this has halved.
  • It has even changed into smaller one-year stints (effectively these should be treated as consulting gigs).

When I was growing up everyone went to work for the factory, or the white-collar equivalent of them, and you were kind of expected to work there for life.

That’s NOT the world we live in anymore. Social networking has an impact here.

Smart companies are realizing that employees will come and go. They will go faster if they feel their talents are not being utilized. Yes, in the case of Millennials some of the stereotypes for a sense of entitlement, overt praise and rapid promotions can be

The fact is … this can be an asset. Smart managers realize that they cannot accede to every whim of a Millennial (or from their helicopter parents), but they can work with them to develop their careers while growing the business. Will some balk and leave? Sure. But that will happen with anyone from any generation.

Millennial Impact

Will Millennials transform every business? Every culture? Every country? Everything?

The answer is a pure and simple … YES! And I think for the betterment of all.

Reality Check
Millennials are going to be forced to deal with a lot of the issues that their parents and grandparents have foisted upon them. This post is not about generational economics, but the harsh reality is that Millennials will have to deal with ever increasing debt, pollution, and population growth. By the time the first of the Millennials reach 50 years of age dealing with 8 billion people on the planet.

I submit that social networking will be a significant part of this management effort. Even today we are seeing more use and involvement of social computing and social networking to capture events as they happen.

I submit that social computing will continue to expand so that we will see more Sensors Everywhere, more Social Reporting & Journalism, and the use of Advanced Technology to capture, process, analyze and make decisions.

This may sound very much like the movie Minority Report, but some of the advanced scenarios envisioned in that 2002 movie are becoming common place – Heads Up 3-D Displays, Large Touchscreens, Haptic Gloves and other wearable technologies.

Social Networking Saves the Day

Spinning this back to TODAY. How will the social networking tools we have today help businesses and governments work (aka deal) with Millennials today. Here are a few tips.

  • Get them involved.
  • Ask for their feedback.
  • Let them try new things (they have oodles of creativity).
  • Incorporate their feedback.
  • Repeat.

For example, not every Millennial will embrace Facebook. In fact, studies show that the 13- to 19-year-olds category is moving away from Facebook. However, as the Facebook trend to involve more than one-sixth of the planet, it is indicative that the fastest growing segment is in the 45-54 age bracket on Facebook and Google+. This seems to be an indication that Millennials are already looking for the next social networking tool, app and trend. The wise employers buying social networking solutions and the smart vendors creating these solutions need to keep innovating and adapting, too.

This post was written as both a current and future future look at Millennials. The reality is that every generation is going to need to adapt to changes in technology and to learn new skills. That’s part of life.

Some people from “other” generations will exhibit Millennial-like behavior and that’s OK, because some Millennials will also act like Baby Boomers or Gen X’ers.

Millennials will, for now, just be a little ahead of the curve, because they grew up with technology at their fingertips. Keeping them engaged, challenged and part of the team should be one of the top-level goals for management. Millennials are the current and future workforce. Helping them today will pay dividends in the future.

The wise Enterprise Social Networking solution providers will adapt to the needs of the Millennials. The hiring managers will too. The vendors will create solutions that cater to their needs and to the needs of the business. The hiring managers and internal teams will create situations that engage Millennials in the business. This is not to say that it will be business as usual. The business will need to adapt in order to “deal” with Millennials.

Social networking is only going to grow and expand into every segment of the business. There are Millennials in the executive ranks today and those numbers are going to continue to grow.

there is much more to dealing with Millennials and social networking than a few platitudes and a few minor changes. The software to support them, the business processes and decision cycles, the culture and perhaps even the nature of business itself will need to adapt. Not just to the term and the concept of Millennials, but to the times that are changed by the introduction of social networking.

In the end, the Millennials will do just fine, and we’ll all be better for it. Just give ‘em some time and breathing room.

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