You see them in the coffee shop, texting from their phones. They go out to dinner and take photos of their plates for Instagram. They walk in groups, but type to the people in their phone, rather than each other. Anti-social? Possibly quite the opposite.
Randy Emelo, President and CEO of River Software, notes that because the Millennial generation grew up with social network technologies, such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, during their formative years, they are accustomed to them in ways that other generations are not. “ They have effectively been posting, uploading, sharing, following, friending, networking, connecting, publishing and tagging their entire lives. Unlike members of previous generations who may have to put thought into how they might engage with others via social channels, Millennials are innately social,” he says.
In the workplace, older generations must consciously consider how to utilize social media whereas for Millennials, it is simply second nature, according to Emelo. “They not only know how to use [technology], they also know how to harness it to solve immediate needs, both in personal and professional capacities,” he states.
The collaborative functions of social media has helped the Millennial generation to learn in a group setting with a self-directed ability to meld various viewpoints into a single, workable solution. Emelo believes that this group of workers will naturally be drawn towards technologies that enable them to access this type of development. He states, “They demand learning systems where they can easily find the right learning asset, such as a person, a learning group, a course, or a video, and then use that new knowledge on the job to satisfy a development need.”
Jeanne Meister and Steve Dahlberg wrote in Talent Management magazine that “Instead of switching between professional mode and personal mode like Gen Xers, millennials are often in both modes at once.” Yet Emelo feels that this idea of a work-life blend is not quite accurate. He believes that “Millennials will tailor how they engage with others and through which channels depending on whether they are networking with a personal or professional audience.” He states that Generation Y workers will use professional sites, such as LinkedIn to build their professional brand, while relying on sites such as Facebook or Instagram for their personal relationships. “For example, within our River software that enables social learning via mentoring, coaching and peer learning relationships, we rarely, if ever, see Millennials sharing inappropriately personal information with their colleagues or exhibiting behavior common on more personal social media websites, like Facebook,” he adds.
While managers should view the younger generation of workers as social beings, they probably should think twice before accepting a friend request on Facebook from a direct report. “I think it’s best to keep professional relationships confined to professional social media sites, like LinkedIn and other internal applications designed to connect colleagues with one another,” states Emelo.