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    The Net Generation in Class

    Been spending some time this week reading the fantastic, 'grown up digitial' by Don Tapscott.

    It really is a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in understanding how Generation Y, or the Millennials, or the Net Generation, or whatever you would like to call the group born between 1979 and 1997 will forever change education delivery, workforce management, social networking, and collaboration.

    To me the key points I have taken from the book center around the ways that Gen Y students generally prefer to be 'taught'.  The classic mode of delivery with the teacher in front of the class expounding his or her words of wisdom which the students dutifully transcribe and hopefully successfully regurgiate later on for the exam. This method is tired, old, and frankly boring for everyone.

    Gen Y students want to to give their opinions, insights, and help to co-design the curriculum and content.  They are much more comfortable in a collaborative environment, and will gladly assist and help each other in their efforts.  They have the tools to explore and inject concepts and content from everywhere.

    A key takeaway for me as the insructor is to stop talking so much, start listening and start asking more questions. 

    In class I introduce a number of technologies like Performance Management, Succession Planning, wikis, blogs, and microblogs.  But rather on 'telling' the students what they are used for, perhaps I need to spend more time having the students tell me what these tools can be used for.

    I think, then we will both learn more, and be better for the experience.



    Links for the Week - November 21, 2008

    Some assorted links for a cold, snowy Friday in the Northeast USA.

    1. Boston College to stop handing out e-mail addresses to new students - from Read Write Web
    2. The company as Wiki - an interview with Brad Anderson of Best Buy
    3. From Mashable, how to keep track of 500 blogs in 10 minutes
    4. Some amusing examples of corporate misadventures in new tech from Fast Company
    5. From Citizen Marketer - how Yammer helps new employees
    6. Working the 'stache into your employment brand - from Fistful of Talent
    7. From Bersin - could a wiki be your next Talent Management system
    8. Create short URL aliases and track the impact using Cligs
    9. More businesses turn to microblogging for internal collaboration and communication - from the New York Times

    More to follow as I stumble upon interesting stuff......




    Bring something to the table

    We have all read ad nauseam about how HR needs to 'get a seat at the table', where organizational strategy and plans are discussed and developed. Well, if you want a seat at the table, be sure you bring something to the table.

    Flickr - katesheets

    Something innovative, groundbreaking, difference-making.

    Something they may not have heard or seen before.

    A plan to exploit 'Web 2.0' for improved recruiting or employee collaboration.

    A strategy to assess the current skills and competencies of the current organization, so as to be poised to act when the economy rebounds (and you know it will).

    An effective plan to keep valued staff engaged, even if you are forced to let some of them go. 

    Don't just expect to turn up and be included because of your relative position on the org chart.  No one in that room will get excited if all you have to offer is compliance reporting and maybe a new employee discount at the local dry cleaner.

    Times are tough - be willing to take a chance, make a difference, and earn the seat at the adult table.





    Social networking and HR

    Virgin Atlantic sacks 13 staff members for inappropriate Facebook comments - link.

    Things are just going to keep getting trickier for HR. 

    The Virgin Atlantic staff were probably out of bounds with their activity on Facebook; if there were truly safety and health concerns they should have taken them up with their management.  But the danger in this story getting so much play is the actions that some firms may take in response; bans of Facebook use, increased monitoring of employee internet use, and in general more suspicion of employees and less openness and trust.

    Flickr - Torley - 'I'm going to tell you a secret'

    I would argue that is the very last thing companies should do. Companies should be thinking about the issues in these terms:

    1. Where are my employees congregating and conversing online?  Facebook, Twitter, somewhere else? And what kinds of things are they saying and who else is listening?

    2. Should the company attempt to join or monitor the conversations on these external sites, or create and support an internal social network or collaboration environment? 

    3. When comments or conversations take place among employees that are not exactly flattering to the company, what should the appropriate company reaction be?

    These are difficult question for sure, especially for many HR organizations that may not be that well-versed in these technologies to begin with. For now, I would offer these simple recommendations:

    1. Trust your employees to do the right thiing

    2. Create an environment of openness where employees feel like there are meaningful internal mechanisms for complaints and honest feedback

    3. Make sure that employees understand that you are not trying to control or monitor their private lives

    So much of corporate communications and processes be it marketing, product development, customer support, etc. are gradually and inexorably moving to more 'open' platforms.  It is also inevitable and necessary that communications among employees and between employees and the company will become more 'open' as well.

    The smart company will recognize, understand, and capitalize on this shift.



    The right tools

    Flickr - m kasahara

    Today, in two separate meetings I participated in, it was clear the frustration that results from staff not having the right tools and applications that can make their jobs easier and themselves more productive. Whether it is a simple employee directory with all the necessary information to contact, locate, and identify staff; or a robust information sharing and knowledge managment system to improve productivity and access to information, the absence of the right tools is incredibly frustrating.  It is particularly troubling for new staff, who will immediately compare your tools and applications to the ones at their former employer.  On three separate occasions today, someone commented to me that the resources and tools they had at their last place of employment were far superior to what they have now.

    So how do organizations (particularly internal support organizations like IT and HR) get into this predicament? One reason is a complete 'customer' focus.  How can a total customer focus be bad?  When support staff is required to spend 100% of their time and effort only on those projects and tasks that are directly linked to end customer objectives, then no time is spent identifying and deploying those internal tools and applications that the support organizations can leverage to improve their productivity. 

    What to do if you find your organization in this unenviable position?

    I would argue that these organizations should attempt to devote 10% of their time (at least initially) looking inward, and developing solutions to improve their own jobs and processes. Managers should take some time to gain a better understanding of the real workflow and the processes by which tasks are getting accomplished and get some insight as to what kinds of solutions are needed.

    And spend more time talking to these new employees who claim to have had better tools in their last workplace.  They likely have much to offer as to specific technologies and solutions that they have first hand experience with, and that can potentially be deployed in your organization.

    Easy access to information, resources, expertise - these are all critical components for employee success.  Ask yourself, are you making it easy for staff to find the needed information, resources and expertise?

    Or do your staff spend way too much time and energy searching?