Facebook for the FORTUNE 500 Firm?

This week, I spoke and attended the CLO conference entitled “Orchestrating Change: Leading Organizations with Learning.” My presentation focused on Brave New Learners: Millennials and Beyond.

The presentation addressed such issues as:

  • What impact will all of this have on the four generations currently in the workforce?
  • Do Millennials really learn differently?
  • Will FORTUNE 500 companies ever create their own Facebook for internal use?

There is no doubt that online social networking is weaving itself into the fabric of all four generations in the work force, defined as:

Veterans born between 1925-1945
Baby Boomers born between 1946-1965
Gen X born between 1965-1977
Millennials (Gen Y) born on/about 1978 or later

It was the discussion about these topics that really got us into a lively and engaged session with lots of questions and frank dialogue:

The four generations of the workforce should really be defined attitudinally (i.e., what they are involved in at work and how they have embraced social networking, rather than by their chronological age). I, for example, am a Baby Boomer, but think, act and engage like a Millennial.

Despite the huge popularity and widespread adoption of social networking websites like LinkedIn and Facebook, the concept of social networking has had a difficult time finding traction in the business world where IT managers fret about security issues, and rightly so. Instead, the “early adopters” of social networking for learning and human resources are creating “Facebook-like” applications behind their firewalls. They are also thinking about what they expect from social networking and how it will benefit the organization. In addition, they are asking themselves “What do we want ‘increased connectivity’ to bring to our business? What does success look like for the recruiting, sales and learning departments?”

A new category is emerging in the social networking landscape called “socialprise,” a mash-up of social networking and enterprise computing applications. Look for more examples here from companies like Select Minds and InsideView.

Finally, and perhaps most compelling, the audience for the session at CLO was overwhelmingly comprised of Baby Boomers. One Chief Learning Officer from a Fortune 100 firm came up with the most honest assessment of why FORTUNE 500 firms will continue to be slow to adopt to social networking:

“I know I continue to feel guilty when I am on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. I feel that I am not working, not producing those power point presentations or answering those emails that I have stacked up on my in-box.”

But then another member of the audience shot back:

“That would never be an issue for Millennials. They have social networking in their DNA and know connecting to colleagues and using the latest technology to stay on top of industry trends is part of working in the 21st Century.”

But let’s remember as we explore how to incorporate social networking into the enterprise that it’s not about the technology. This is still relatively new to Fortune 500 firms – the larger issue is to have a clear vision for what you want to accomplish and build both online and offline solutions that allow increased connectivity for your employees, customers and business partners.

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About Jeanne Meister

Jeanne C. Meister is a best selling author of three books, internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker. Jeanne is Partner of Future Workplace, a consulting firm dedicated to assisting organizations in re-thinking, re-imagining and re-inventing the workplace. Jeanne was recently voted by her peers as one of the 20 top influential training professionals in the United States. Jeanne’s name is synonymous with the establishment and institutionalization of global corporate universities. Jeanne is the author of three books, Corporate Quality Universities and Corporate Universities. Jeanne’s latest book is, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Collins, 2010) is in its 10th printing.No information is provided by the author.

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