Gen Y (comprising people in their twenties) is the fastest growing segment of the workforce globally. This is a generation whose behaviour and worldview is dominated by technology. This is the Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Second Life Generation. This is the generation whose childhoods were so activity based that they need to be constantly stimulated and the biggest source of that stimulation is the social media.

This fact puts to rest any debate about whether “social media should be allowed in the workplace?”. Workplaces of today and of the future will need the social media as one of the key elements of their culture and the way work gets done.

In fact as much as the other significant population of the workforce, the Gen X (comprising people in the age of 30s and early 40s) may resist social media they do see the use (and hence frequent) Facebook and other social media to connect with family and friends, share photos and also try and keep up with their Gen Y team members and Gen Y children.

Then Gen Y thrives on the social media because they are always –on, always connected generation and consequently the line between private life and work has begun to blur. They believe in the power of social media. They demonstrate their belief in a number of ways by including social networks for most of their communication. Gen Y’s use instant messaging on Facebook or direct messaging on their smart phones constantly. They feel that email is archaic and would much rather send documents via MSN, Facebook or Skye.

A report published in the fall of 2010 by My Job Group (‘Social media in the workplace’) and based on a survey of 1,000 respondents aimed at painting a picture of the use of social networking sites in the UK and how it is affecting workplace productivity. The survey asked participants how they thought that social networking sites had affected their productivity at work. Over half (around 55 per cent) said that they were just as productive as before, and around 11 per cent said that they were less productive. The survey notes that the participants may simply be substituting their use of social media sites for the activities they were engaged in previously, such as emailing, phone calls and sending SMS messages from their mobile phones (texting).

So then the question really is “How can the Social Media be leveraged” in today’s workplace to enhance engagement, efficiency and productivity of the fastest growing segment in the workplace.

The applications of social media are many:

  • The oft used and the most popular one is to use social media for recruiting. The reach of it is immense and therefore multiplies the prospective talent pool organisations can select from.
  • Research is another application that lends itself naturally to social media. Imagine the universe you can reach out to!
  • Employee engagement can go up manifold by just allowing the workforce to use social media!
  • Internal communication about anything significant can be deployed most effectively and speedily through social media applications.

All of this and more is possible at a fraction of the investment that organisations would normally make to achieve these objectives! So are we still debating if social media should be allowed in the workplace?

Ishana Singh

Ishana is a 1st Year student at Fore School of Management. The views expressed are her own based upon the analysis and research she did on the topic from various books, reports and web articles.  She regularly writes for Corporate Monks and Success Monks as a research associate.