Last month, in Learn the language before you speak to me, I said that you have to understand what it’s like to be a node in a social network and that there is almost nothing like it in the industrial workplace or school system to prepare you for this. The basic premise is that you have to walk the talk before you can criticize.
A recent post by Dave Pollard highlights what can happen when the older generation [my age cohort of which many are in positions of authority] does not engage with the same media as the younger generation. It seems that most young people in the workplace (generation millennium) use IM, text messages and especially their mobile devices to connect with their peers. This generation is ignoring the desktop and the organisational knowledge bases and turning to their own age cohort for timely help and advice. This is a real cultural and age gap that can have a detrimental impact on our organisations:
Aside from the wasted content effort, this means that most young people will learn from peers, not from mentors. How much of what senior people know will never be learned by younger workers, simply because the networks of trust necessary for valuable conversations will not have been forged (and given that Gen Millennium workers are expected to change jobs on average every four years, might never be forged)?
Our generation should know better than to just ignore this situation. It is up to us to engage younger workers, not to complain that they don’t get it. Leadership by example is required, but first we have to be able to communicate. That means observing communication behaviours in our organisations and seeing how we can best connect. It may mean getting a Twitter account and a mobile device so that we can see that quick post about an issue that someone is facing.