The “Google generation” is an increasingly popular phrase that refers to a group of young people born after 1993 who have grown up in a world dominated by the Internet with little or no recollection of life before the Web. A number of other titles have attached themselves to this generation, such as digital natives, the Net generation and millennials.
Whatever you call it, the assumption is that this group is qualitatively different in its expectations, attitudes and perceptions about school, work and career development. Consider the following scenario as described in an article in March/April 2006 issue of Educause Review:
“Most students entering our colleges and universities today are younger than the computer, are more comfortable working on a keyboard than writing in a spiral notebook and are happier reading from a computer screen than from paper in hand. Constant connectivity — being in touch with friends and family, at all times and from any place — is what is of the utmost importance to these students.”
This generation appears to be a discrete segment, and companies are grappling with how to best attract, develop and retain them as they prepare for their looming entry into the workforce. As companies debate this, one of the first issues they will deal with is setting a policy regarding allowing access to social networking sites at work. There is some evidence suggesting the Google generation will demand access to social networking sites in the office. In fact, Professor Clive Holtham of Cass Business School notes that in California, some firms already are finding they cannot attract or retain staff because their IT infrastructure fails to meet the standards of younger workers.
So while the learning department examines how to incorporate social networking into the delivery mix, they should take note of some of the benefits other departments in the organization have experienced in embracing these new technologies.
Deloitte has come up with the innovative idea of hosting an employee film festival where employees submit creative videos, titled “What’s Your Deloitte?”, as a way of encouraging new hires to make short films that express their vision of the firm’s culture and values. Then, the best of these short films are posted to YouTube.
Deloitte has engaged in social media in a variety of other ways, with a special focus on using social networking in new-hire on-boarding and orientation. In fact, Deloitte, along with KPMG, is using Facebook to create new networks for recent hires. Some are in public view while others are hidden for privacy purposes. But both are experimenting with social media so new hires can network with peers around the globe.
Some aspects of social networking already have found their way onto the CEO’s agenda. Consider the growth in the number of CEOs and other high-level executives of publicly traded companies who have their own blogs:
• Jonathan Schwartz, “Jonathan’s Blog” — CEO of Sun Microsystems
• Bill Marriott, “Marriott on the Move” — CEO of Marriott International
• Mike Critelli, “Open Mike” — executive chairman of Pitney Bowes
• Robert Lutz, “FastLane Blog” — GM vice chairman
• David Neeleman, “Flight Log” — chairman of JetBlue Airways
• Michael Hyatt, “From Where I Sit” — CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers
Additionally, an increasing number of marketing departments are using blogs, wikis and user-generated videos to build greater marketing awareness, create an online buzz and increase sales. Consider the experience of Chevrolet. They conceived of the “Livin’ Large in Aveo” campus challenge, a promotion on seven college campuses in which students lived inside a Chevy Aveo for an entire week. These students wrote blogs, created and posted YouTube videos and mobilized friends on MySpace and Facebook. The result was 217 million impressions on the Chevy Aveo Web site and a powerful connection to the brand.
As key departments within your firm experiment with social networking tools, the learning department should not be left behind the curve. The Google generation will demand to use the same tools on the job that they are accustomed to in their personal lives.
Jeanne C. Meister will be leading a Birds of a Feather session, titled “Brave New Learners: Millennials and
Beyond,” at CLO magazine’s Spring 2008 Symposium. For more information, visit www.clomedia.com/events.