The Social Workplace

Generation Y are our youngest workers, and the way they interact socially could soon have an impact on company policies and hierarchies.

I found an blog post from a writer with the Wall Street Journal named Gary Hamil. The post is entitled “The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500.” It is part of GH’s blog entitled “Gary Hamil’s Management 2.0, A look at new ways of managing.” This particular post was published on March 24th of 2009.

The blog post’s main point is trying to relate the online life of today’s high-schoolers and college-goers and what they will expect from their future workplace environments because of social networking. He gives “12 work-related characteristics of online life.”

Here is a quick overview of GH’s 12 characteristics:

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
(A workers’ ideas are accepted and valued equally, no matter what their status at the job.)

2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.

3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
(One’s popularity is due to personality, not rank, at work.)

4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
(The boss is working right along beside their workers instead of telling them what to do and how to do it.)

5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.

6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.

7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
(In numbers five, six and seven, the employees have the right to choose what projects to work on, who to work with, and what causes to raise money for.)

8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.

9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
(GH means user-generated content, where information is tweaked until it is perfect.)

10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
(This is kind of like democracy. Workers can overturn decisions because of sheer majority, not rank.)

11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
(It’s not the pay that matters most to employees, it’s the motivation and recognition they get from their positive and helpful efforts.)

12. Hackers are heroes.
(Activists are thought of as an example of democratic rights and an example of the underdog winning.)

Some of the points he gives are good suggestions to give all employers an equal opportunity; some are very radical, proposing that employees would get to choose with whom they interact with and on what projects they work on. To me, work is not always fun or your choice of activities. Someone is always going to have to do the boring jobs, and there will always be people at work that others will just want to avoid but have to interact with anyway.

Hamel states that these 12 features are also how Generation Y functions socially nowadays, but how that these characteristics are also void in today’s Fortune 500 companies. If companies were to adopt some of these ideals I think that their would be a lot more progress in areas like fund raising and employee morale.

If a company were to adopt all of these characteristics, it would have to make sure all of its employees wanted to do that specific type of work while also finding employees who enjoyed mundane tasks, because they would be the only ones doing them.


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