Five ways Gen Y will change the way you work

Author forecasts a "big conflict" in the office, sparked by the generation of 11- to 30-year-olds who are determined to reshape the workplace in their own image. Here's how to manage, or not manage them.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor
The Millennials are coming - armed with Facebook accounts and netbooks, the latest generation of young workers are entering the workplace ready to raze traditional touchstones of business to the ground.

Web 2.0 evangelist Don Tapscott - author of tech titles including Wikinomics and The Digital Economy - is forecasting a "big conflict" in the office, sparked by the generation of 11- to 30-year-olds who are determined to reshape the workplace in their own image.

Talking to silicon.com about his latest book Grown Up Digital, Tapscott laid out five "generational firewalls" that bosses need to tear down if they want to attract the brightest and best of Generation Y.

See also: Tech that Gen Y will sweep away

"We do the opposite of what we should be doing, which is learning from this culture," he told silicon.com.

"The whole paradigm that you train, you supervise, you compensate and you retain - all of those are wrong."

Here's Tapscott's top five ways to embrace the Millennials' working culture.

Don't supervise
Understand that in their age group there is a new culture of work: the social network is the new operating system for business.

The way that they work is by using networks like Facebook and Twitter to create a new nervous system.

If you have a great collaborative environment, that is going to be way more attractive to them than paying them lots of money and tightly controlling the way they work.

I'm talking about using wikis, blogs, social networks and collaborative filtering in the workplace.

For example, US electronics retailer Best Buy has a social network for employees called Blue Shirt Nation, with 70,000 people at the electronic water cooler every day who are coming up with great ideas that are being implemented.

You always see the same argument: 'Why should we embrace this new thing? The old ways have always worked.'

It results in better performance and better innovation in business - that is why we should adopt these practices, because it's good for us.

That also means giving employees freedom of work - having the ability to work at home and to set their own hours - and allowing employees to have custom job descriptions - as they do at Deloitte.

Don't train
Rather than spending so much on training people, why not invest in increasing the learning and collaborative components at work?

It's called knowledge work, where work and learning is the same activity. Why shouldn't work be fun?

The training department at my company nGenera is that everybody must blog on a regular basis.

Why isn't every job like that? Where working and learning are the same thing, you increase the learning component for day-to-day activities, so you get both better learning and better work.

Don't retain people
There are all kinds of new ways to harness human capital without it being inside your boundaries at all times.

The talent does not have to be inside: at Procter and Gamble half of its innovation team are outside the company.

There is a case in Grown Up Digital of Denis Hancock, who is running the Wikinomics blog - I will have hired him five times by the time he is 32.

I am creating an alumni network I can draw on, it's so good to have Denis but I don't try and retain him.

I communicate with Denis on a social network and occasionally he shows up at the office. I'll take him anyway I can get him.

It's about how you architect a corporation and about rethinking how you orchestrate capability.

Don't hide behind security fears
At their fingertips employees have these powerful tools of social networks and what do we do with them? We ban them, we ban Facebook.

There's no security issue that you can't handle - for Pete's sake, the CIA have a social networking wiki, called Intellipedia, the way you get better security is by opening up and sharing information.

I heard the same arguments 15 years ago from people who did not want the internet in their company because they were afraid there would be security violations and people would be wasting time.

These are called implementation challenges, they are not reasons to not do it but things that you need to take into account.

Don't recruit Instead, initiate relationships with your potential employees at an early age using social networks.

A corollary of that is don't spend money on advertising for recruitment - it's a waste of time, better to get a big pile of money and burn it.

This article was originally posted on silicon.com.

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