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Beyond X & Y

Beyond X & Y

Generational Use of Social Media at Work

Related Topics: Strategy and Management

Social media is changing the way we learn, work and communicate. This change is being driven by the pervasiveness of social media and mobile devices in millennials’ lives, as well as by the proliferation of social networking by the marketing and communications functions within organizations.

But just because the use of social media on mobile devices is nearly an extension of millennials’ hands and brains doesn’t mean they are the only ones actively using these tools.

More than 50 percent of all adults use social networking sites, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

Social networking sites are most popular with adults younger than 30 and women. Among baby boomers aged 50 to 64, daily use of social networking sites grew 60 percent -- from 20 percent a year ago to 32 percent.

Nielsen’s “State of the Media: The Social Media Report” shared similar findings. Internet users 55 and older are driving the growth of social networking through the mobile Internet. More than twice as many people 55 and older visited social networking sites on their mobile phone than last year.

One-third of mobile LinkedIn app users are 45 or older, while Facebook’s largest group of mobile users is 25- to 34-year-olds.

While these trends point to an opportunity to engage employees in new and evolving ways, beware of the pushback you may receive from your IT and legal departments. While we, as talent management professionals, can see the benefits of living in an open, social and collaborative workplace, senior managers worry about security, passing along the wrong information and having  employees spend too much time online.

Here are three things to consider as your organization becomes more open, social and collaborative:

  • Accept the fact that openness is NOT going away: This is not another corporate fad. Regardless of generation, we are all using social networks to communicate and collaborate with friends, family and colleagues.
  • Put policies in place so every employee knows what is acceptable and respectable to share in social media and networking sties. Most companies have policies for governing social media practices. You can visit to view this open-source database of more than 170 policies and practices segmented by type of industry.
  • Consider mandatory social media training and annual refresher courses. Companies as diverse as Dell, Intel, PepsiCo and Unisys are offering formal training in social media. This can include either short, online courses or face-to-face programs, as is the case for Dell’s Social Media University.

We predict social media literacy training to be as common as ethics training and diversity training as we approach the 2020 workplace.

Share your comments here. Are you getting pushback from your managers as you forge an open, social and collaborative workplace? What barriers are you experiencing? Are you a millennial or Generation Xer who is frustrated about wanting to access and use more social media in your work, but cannot? Are you a boomer who is frustrated by a seeming overemphasis on social media at work? Do you have success stories where you have overcome differences of opinion about social media at work and found a solution together? Let’s have a dialogue here.

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