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This article was published 15/5/2009 (4075 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Growing up online should work in the favour of Gen F - Generation Facebook, the under-25 group for whom technology is second nature. In fact, a new survey of 16-to-18-year-olds commissioned by software company FileMaker reports that respondents are more confident in their IT skills (82 per cent) than they are in their interpersonal skills (64 per cent) as they prepare to join the workforce.
But is the workplace ready for this new brand of knowledge worker?
So far, it doesn't look like it. According to the same survey, university graduates are not being given opportunities to stretch their tech-savvy legs. While 85 per cent of respondents knew how to use PowerPoint, only 39 per cent reported using it on the job. Of all the grads surveyed, only 51 per cent said they had actively sought out ways to employ technology at work.
Failing to optimize this generation's creativity, energy and yes, its tech capability, is a serious mistake. If the expectations of the Facebook Generation are not met and its values go unrecognized, it will be increasingly difficult for organizations to attract fresh new talent to replace the baby boomers as they retire.
Companies are only fooling themselves if they believe having email and Internet access means that they are keeping in step with technology in today's fast-evolving digital economy. The legacy programs and practices found in most large companies just don't cut it anymore.
Businesses need to consider doing a skills audit of their new recruits and asking for their opinion of ways to grow more efficient and productive. Only then can companies understand what is needed before investing in new programs and extra training to adjust to meet Gen F's expectations.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a fascinating look at how the business world can better manage the Facebook Generation, which is expecting the work environment to reflect social values they are so familiar with in the virtual world.
Author Gary Hamel notes several work-relevant qualities of online life that future employees are not only counting on, but will use to measure and compare prospective employers. Among his observations:
"ö "All ideas compete on an equal footing." On the web's even playing field, every person has the same chance of gaining a following. It's a place where ideas grow and gather steam based on their perceived merits.
"ö "Contribution counts for more than credentials." Hamel points out that anyone can upload a video on YouTube without being a professional filmmaker or publish a blog without having a journalism degree. Titles and qualifications do not matter as much as the value of the contribution being made.
"ö "Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed." In an online forum, the leaders that emerge are individuals whose influence has been peer-appointed based on behaviour and the opinions and information they share with others. As Hamel says, on the web, authority trickles up, not down.
"ö "Intrinsic rewards matter most." Hamel challenges us to think about Wikipedia and the millions of articles contributed by volunteers. These people are not motivated by money; they do it for the chance to contribute and share information on matters they care about with others.
At the same time they will break the standard employee mould, Gen F will also break out of the cubicle culture -- and the workplace stands to learn a lot from these workers.
They will teach us how to better utilize social networking to contact, communicate and conduct business globally. They will also show us how to express ourselves online by demonstrating that the Internet is not about filling a void with empty words, but ideas that are engaging and can provide value to others.
If we allow them to work in a way that is most natural and comfortable, the Facebook Generation will be our business leaders for the digital age.
-- With reporting by Barbara Chabai
John McFerran, PhD, CMC, F. CHRP, is founder and president of People First HR Services Ltd. For more information, visit www.peoplefirsthr.com.
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