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HR must roll with Social Media punches

I find the statistics from a recent study hard to swallow considering the fact that young people fresh out of college are having a real hard time finding work, yet they’re willing to turn down a job due to social media and device restrictions at work.

The study, 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report, says respondents were not only college students but also newly hired employees fresh out of college. But it boggles my mind how internet access can be more important than pay-grade or just having a job. I guess I’m old school.

According to the study, “More than half of the study's respondents could not live without the Internet and cite it as an integral part of their lives. In some cases, they call it more essential than owning a car, dating, and going to parties.”

Times are changing

Several years ago I listened to Tom Fitzgerald, CEO of Nevadaworks, (a local workforce investment board in northern Nevada) talk about how we essentially need to roll with the punches when it comes to keeping our new generations engaged at work. You can’t force them to do it the way you want them to or “the way we’ve always done it”. It makes a lot of sense considering these statistics from Cisco.

I think this line about social media at work sums it up best “…56% said …they would either not accept a job offer or would join and find a way to circumvent corporate policy”  hence, disciplinary action, resentment, lower productivity, lower morale, and higher turnover.

The stats

33% of young potential employees under age 30 will demand social media freedom, device flexibility, and work mobility overpay in accepting our offers of employment. 64% plan to ask about our social media usage policies during interviews.
24% believe that policy will be a key factor in whether they accept our offer. Nearly half think they would accept a lower-paying job with a more flexible policy than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.

The majority of our current workforce (68%) believe we should allow them to access social media and personal sites with their work-issued devices.

The IT Policy

Many employers are enacting, or have already enacted, an Information Technology policy in order to ban undesirable internet usage by their workforce. An IT policy must address security risks and it should look at ways to limit and control the use of social media. What it should not do, according to these statistics, is ban undesirable internet usage altogether.

A lot of policies are designed to ban the use of all electronic equipment owned by the organization for any such activity. It also places accountability with the supervisors to police such a policy. Really?

I understand the inherent risks of accessing social media sites at work, using smartphones in a similar way while connecting to internal company networks, and using personal smartphones the same way. We must also consider how these things will still continue to happen uncontrollably if we strictly prohibit them.

What to do

Perhaps, we must address this in new employee orientations to encourage employees to use personal electronic equipment for such activity.  The worst thing we can do is focus on the limitations the policy creates for something that is such a priority of life. We don’t want to discourage young up-and-comers from working for us nor do we want to hire a bunch of rule-breakers.

They will be accessing their email accounts, social media sites, internet favorites, etcetera one way or another. Compare it to raising children. If we don’t give them any freedom they will rebel and defy us. If we show concern, explain our stance and monitor their apparel, activities, etcetera they are much more likely to act more like we want them to act and dress more like we want them to dress.

The Study

The study was from a global perspective with two separate groups of respondents: college students and those that recently entered the workforce.  The countries involved in the poll: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, India, China, Japan, and Australia.

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