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HR in the age of social media: A generation gap

Confusion and fear are the names of the game when it comes to Generation Y. What do “Millennials” like? How do they behave? What’s the best way to ensure that they relate happily and productivily with their supervisors and colleagues?

The latest generation to enter the workforce is often differentiated from its predecessors by its comfort with and dependence on technology.

In the past, businesses were at the forefront of technological adoption and innovation. Until a few years ago, people were more likely to use a computer at work than they were to use it at home. This is no longer the case.

While it’s never wise to typecast people by their age, understanding the norms and experiences of a generation can help inform your interactions with its individual members. For many companies, attracting and retaining young employees is a primary challenge and major recruitment goal.

Old technologies can complicate HR

Generation Y grew up with computers—many millennials are too young to remember life before their family had internet access. If your prospective employee went to college or university, it’s almost guaranteed that they own a laptop, and there’s a good chance it’s more powerful than any computer your business could offer for their use.

book of face social media recruiting

Face… book? Flickr/laikolosse

This can cause frustration. Young employees may find outdated software or paper-based work to be wasteful and time-consuming. They might not like being given a “company blackberry” when the phone in their pocket can do more.

Applicant tracking systems that don’t integrate seamlessly with job candidates’ online experiences can be a turn-off as well. If you only accept resumés in person or via snail mail (gasp!), you should expect the vast majority of millennials to ignore you.

Social media makes everything still more convoluted.

New technologies can simplify HR, but they can make it more complicated, too!

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are here to stay. Every generation is buying in. The difference is in their underlying motivations.

For generation Y, social networking registrations came long before any consideration for the professional opportunities (or roadblocks) that could result. Entertainment and personal connections ruled the day. 

Schools are moving to teach students about privacy controls, but struggle to keep pace with the constant innovation and changes to policies and user interfaces. In the meantime, for many young people, Friday’s drunken photoshoot is destroying job opportunities.

While senior generations are quickly jumping onto Facebook to connect with their colleagues, or blogging to build an online brand, Generation Y has been doing this for years. The connections and brands they convey, though, can get them into trouble. 

Does your company check out job candidates on Facebook? Do you do it in a non-discriminatory way? Can you differentiate between candidates who “like” Designer Drugs (the Musician/Band: 102,000 fans and counting) and Hardcore Drugs (not legal: 79 fans and counting)?

Social media is a double-edged sword. It can engage your customers and workforce, but it can also embarrass them. As individuals, we all need to do a better job controlling what we share. Members of Generation Y may need to try extra hard.

Sources: Lower, Judith (2008). “Brace yourself here comes generation Y.” Critical Care Nurse 28. 80–85.; http://www.arbitragemagazine.com/topics/student-resources/young-dogs-can’t-learn-tricks-student-unemployment-social-media/


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Confusion and fear are the names of the game when it comes to Generation Y. What do “Millennials” like? How do they behave? What’s the best way to ensure that they relate happily and productivily with their supervisors and colleagues?

The latest generation to enter the workforce is often differentiated from its predecessors by its comfort with and dependence on technology.

In the past, businesses were at the forefront of technological adoption and innovation. Until a few years ago, people were more likely to use a computer at work than they were to use it at home. This is no longer the case.

While it’s never wise to typecast people by their age, understanding the norms and experiences of a generation can help inform your interactions with its individual members. For many companies, attracting and retaining young employees is a primary challenge and major recruitment goal.

Old technologies can complicate HR

Generation Y grew up with computers—many millennials are too young to remember life before their family had internet access. If your prospective employee went to college or university, it’s almost guaranteed that they own a laptop, and there’s a good chance it’s more powerful than any computer your business could offer for their use.

book of face social media recruiting

Face… book? Flickr/laikolosse

This can cause frustration. Young employees may find outdated software or paper-based work to be wasteful and time-consuming. They might not like being given a “company blackberry” when the phone in their pocket can do more.

Applicant tracking systems that don’t integrate seamlessly with job candidates’ online experiences can be a turn-off as well. If you only accept resumés in person or via snail mail (gasp!), you should expect the vast majority of millennials to ignore you.

Social media makes everything still more convoluted.

New technologies can simplify HR, but they can make it more complicated, too!

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are here to stay. Every generation is buying in. The difference is in their underlying motivations.

For generation Y, social networking registrations came long before any consideration for the professional opportunities (or roadblocks) that could result. Entertainment and personal connections ruled the day. 

Schools are moving to teach students about privacy controls, but struggle to keep pace with the constant innovation and changes to policies and user interfaces. In the meantime, for many young people, Friday’s drunken photoshoot is destroying job opportunities.

While senior generations are quickly jumping onto Facebook to connect with their colleagues, or blogging to build an online brand, Generation Y has been doing this for years. The connections and brands they convey, though, can get them into trouble. 

Does your company check out job candidates on Facebook? Do you do it in a non-discriminatory way? Can you differentiate between candidates who “like” Designer Drugs (the Musician/Band: 102,000 fans and counting) and Hardcore Drugs (not legal: 79 fans and counting)?

Social media is a double-edged sword. It can engage your customers and workforce, but it can also embarrass them. As individuals, we all need to do a better job controlling what we share. Members of Generation Y may need to try extra hard.

Sources: Lower, Judith (2008). “Brace yourself here comes generation Y.” Critical Care Nurse 28. 80–85.; http://www.arbitragemagazine.com/topics/student-resources/young-dogs-can’t-learn-tricks-student-unemployment-social-media/


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