Blocking social media at work? Think again!

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According to a study by the University of Melbourne, employees that had access to social media got nine per cent more done than those who were blocked.

By KEN MACHARIA

To say the modern workplace has undergone a transformation in the last 10 years will be a gross understatement. Not only has a whole new generation joined the workforce, the tools of the trade and the work culture has gone through a revolution. Employees born between 1980 and 2000 commonly referred as Generation Y or millennials, now make-up to 50 per cent of the workforce in some sectors and are projected to hit 75 per cent by 2025.

The fuel behind this generational change at the workplace is how millennials view technology. According to a report by Hays – a recruiting agency – over a third of Generation Y workers say they feel employers should allow them to use social media at work, while another research by Column Five shows that over a half of millennials are unlikely to work for a company that blocked access to social media.

Access to social media is just one of the Generation Y demands. They also prefer fluid, open and flat organisations as opposed to strict and hierarchical structures.

These qualities – including the tendency to be restless in jobs that don’t offer growth opportunities – present new challenges for companies that are managed by their Baby Boomer parents. However, there are also new opportunities brought by this tech savvy, ambitious generation eager to learn and make their mark in the corporate world.

Competitive edge

The rush to hire talented, efficient and productive staff is at an all-time high. Deloitte East Africa released a report in 2014 that revealed most companies in Kenya are struggling to recruit and retain talent. The Deloitte report points out that lack of career development and work-life balance is pushing Generation Y employees to greener pastures. It is becoming increasingly evident that organisations that are traditional and rigid in terms of human resource policies are losing to more forward thinking and liberal organisations.

While Generation X still occupy a lion’s share of management and specialist positions, these positions are increasingly being filled by experienced and educated millennials who have a global outlook.

The strong incentive for a higher salary is no longer the silver bullet that companies wielded for Baby Boomers. For Generation Y, the pay cheque is important but they are willing to forfeit the perks for job satisfaction and opportunities for career growth. Attracting and retaining skilled workforce is key to the growth of organisations looking to expand regionally and grow their market share.

Creativity and innovation

Millennials are wired to experiment. Creativity is in their DNA. Old conventional business strategies will be challenged by Generation Ys’ and the technology they so much interact with on a daily basis. Organisations can reap the full benefits of its young creative workforce who will inject ideas and products that will propel their companies to new heights.

But this can only happen if the organisation allows the creative energy to flow across all the business units. Innovation also operates in an environment of constant feedback. Thanks to social media, this feedback is unfiltered, instantaneous and brutally honest. The millennial employees in your company are likely to come across this feedback and this can save you the loss of being too slow to respond to the market, grabbing an opportunity or retaining your customers.

Activity vs Results

The main argument against social media at the work-place is that productivity will be sacrificed at the altar of wedding photos on Facebook and cat videos on YouTube. According to a study by the University of Melbourne, employees that had access to social media got nine per cent more done than those who were blocked.

It is true millennials drift off to social media but so do baby boomers, who are now the fastest growing age group on Facebook according to a 2014 Pew Research. Off-line, Generation Yers view the traditional cubicles and office walls as restrictive. Open office is now the norm than the exception in most companies as the distance between the manager and an officer is drastically cut, improving communication and workflow.

With productivity and communication tools like Skype, Dropbox, Evernote, WhatsApp and Asana, the millennial employee does not equate physical offices to productivity. The mobile office has become pervasive, making it easier and faster to work on the go and on the road. No longer do we wait to get to the office to send that urgent report. We can send while stuck in traffic. The technology, and to a larger extent the millennial culture, presents an opportunity for organisations to change performance parameters from activity-based to result-based.

Email: macharia.ken@gmail.com

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One thought on “Blocking social media at work? Think again!

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