Get Used to the Role of Social Business in the Millennial Enterprise

4 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming! Oh wait -- they’re already here. And in the enterprise. And they are ruining everything -- or maybe they are setting new expectations for how work gets done and how people are treated.

[Full disclosure: While I am neither a bona fide Millennial nor a member of Gen X, I am a thirty-something in the mobile workforce.]

Millennials Becoming the Workforce: Get Used To It 

Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, Generation Next or the Net Generation is entering its thirties in 2012. Those born after 1981 (an approximate generation start date) have been integrating into the enterprise for a while, but it seems that their behaviors and demands are reaching critical mass. As a result, several studies have shown that they’re here and demanding greater work flexibility. Like most social elements of business these days, it’s futile to fight it, so we might as well get used to it.

Earlier this month, Cisco released the 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report. In it, college students and recently employed college graduates -- many working in their first full-time jobs --indicated that their "desire to use social media, mobile devices and the Internet more freely in the workplace is strong enough to influence their future job choice, sometimes more than salary."

What’s that you say -- the Millennial generation is feeling entitled? And rightly so, I might add. You can’t really expect an entire generation raised on social technologies and digital media to suddenly give it all up because a few Luddite Gen Xers and Baby Boomers told them to. Clearly you don’t know any Millennials.

Learning Opportunities

It's Not About the Paycheck: Millennials Want Access

The report also revealed that social networking is more than just Facebook -- it’s a mindset. For them, a mobile device is so much more than a phone -- it’s a tool that helps them stay connected and productive. In fact, half would rather lose their wallet or purse than their smartphone or mobile device. (For what it’s worth, I’ve lost my wallet way more times than I’ve lost my iPhone -- and I always find my phone before I locate my wallet!)

Generation Y doesn’t just expect that they’ll have access to social technologies while at work -- 56% said that if their job blocked access to social sites, they would not accept the offer or else join the company and look for ways to circumvent this policy. Additionally, 81% want to choose their own devices, even for corporate tasks.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

What might be difficult for Gen Y to understand is that the enterprise isn’t quite ready for them. Business continually struggle to embrace social elements, while IT departments still try to control access to software and social media sites. According to a recent Forrester survey of 4,985 US information workers, enterprise social software use is still in its infancy. The employees who are using the technology are early adopters of technology -- individuals with high incomes and positive attitudes about technology -- who are mostly testing the waters at this point. There is still quite a lot to understand about how social tools are currently being used before most companies will incorporate them into corporate work policies.

For those older, better-paid early enterprise adopters, Millennials will be their best allies in the coming years. However, they'd better use their time wisely, as they are not likely to patiently wait for the enterprise to figure it out. Generation Y is well known for their entrepreneurial spirit. If the ideal social business doesn’t already exist, they will build one and make it so.

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