Engaging the Disconnected Generation

There was a time we feared our children living in front of a screen. The TV, computer or video game would make them less sociable, a potential generation of loners, unable to connect with the real world.

But then along came ‘social media’.

And far from being alone, we discovered our children inhabited a world in which their ‘friends’ could easily number into the hundreds and whose ‘followers’ could embrace four, five or even six figures. And through these on-line connections, they now find themselves more connected than we could ever have dreamed possible less than a decade ago (Myspace was launched in 2003, ‘thefacebook’ in January 2004, Twitter in 2006 and Tumblr in 2007).

Now the generation who have grown up with this connected reality are entering the workplace. And they are presented with a host of tools they may not have regularly used with alien protocols they fundamentally don’t understand. Tools like ‘Outlook’, for example.

So what are we to do? Educate this new generation to use a tool that is often slower and less functional for the quick conversations with remote colleagues and clients that are sometimes required? Or, could we learn a thing or two from the quick-fire snapshot approach to information sharing that has served them so well?

One of the keys to successful communication has always been picking the right medium for the message. And that must surely mean embracing social media as quickly as we embraced email to replace the fax machine. And not just social media, but useful social enterprise tools too. So as well as email we’re now more regularly using Skype for those quick conversations that are better served through Instant Messaging than email.

Of course, email still has a place. And there are occasions when nothing works better than a handshake. And doesn’t Instant Messaging still demand protocols? Just because someone can be messaged instantly doesn’t mean they’re instantly available. Or does it? Maybe this multi-function, multi-directional thinking is the new norm? Engaging people has always meant picking the right media to maximise engagement.

What’s clear is that as Generation Z enters the workplace, the ‘office’ they inherit is evolving more rapidly than at any time in history. The 21st Century workplace isn’t behind the desk, it’s in the clouds above the building, park, coffee-shop, hotel meeting room, factory or railway carriage where they’re working.

And maybe, the connected generation are in fact better prepared than any generation ever has been for the world of work?