Meeting Generation Next

On Saturday, April 26, 2008, I had an opportunity to meet an enthusiastic bunch of students while conducting a half-day workshop on corporate etiquette and networking. These students are working towards a 15 month MBA from a B-School in Bangalore.


Quite the Generation Next of India, I figured! Articulate, respectful, knowledgeable, willing to challenge the status quo and quick to embrace new technologies.


During the three-hour interaction, they asked me relevant and mostly tricky questions on corporate expectations (how to assert themselves), make a difference (land the right job – we discussed using social networking sites effectively), ability to identify the corporate culture and how they fit in (we spoke about matching personal values with the organization’s, generation X and Y). In fact, one student in class googled my name and got to my blog which inspired him to raise a question around quality of content vis-à-vis quantity of posts!


I learnt a lot through this interaction. Most importantly, understanding this new generation – the future of modern India, requires you to listen and observe them actively. Their ambitions, viewpoints and expectations are practical and transparent. Their need for openness and change are critical for human resource and communication professionals to consider while devising engagement strategies.



Internal communications trend from a GolinHarris study


A Golin Harris prediction for the next 50 years in PR includes a mention of the digital age, new media and internal communications.


Keeping the workforce motivated is a challenge – the report mentions trust is on the decline with organizations. According to the prediction, a recent study from Insidedge indicates only 50% of U.S. employees and only 47% of U.K. employees actually trust their own employers.


Unlocking creativity says the study, occurs when the organization allows open communication.


Controlling technologies like e-mail and IM is becoming more and more difficult.  External sites are getting more visits off the job, blogging is increasing and employees discuss company matters also. News is freely available – and faster when employees go outside the organization. All these are trends which organizations need to take cognizance of. Educating and engaging workforces are a top priority.


I personally liked the Authenticity chart which indicates how well audiences relate to a trustworthy source – Wikipedia over Yahoo Answers and American President vs American Idol! No prizes for guessing who gets more votes!




Talent management and internal communications


An interesting research report by Deloitte. – ‘It’s 2008: Do You Know Where Your Talent Is?’ on talent engagement shows a widening gap in employee commitment across the globe.


The research bases itself on the premise that ‘the contest for human capital is evident everywhere, although the nature and significance of trends vary from country to country. Only those companies that win the hearts and minds of their top talent will be able to deliver value over both the short and long terms.’

While I firmly believe that cultural and economic shifts impact the way jobs and careers are viewed, the onus on engagement is a big responsibility of managers, succinctly described by the Gallup study and the book – First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman.


Communicating is a vital element in energizing a flagging workforce. The research points to overcoming information overload. Getting them to manage work and performance by providing the necessary tools is another way to motivate and engage.


The research proposes a model, – Develop, Deploy, Connect taking into account alignment, capability, performance and commitment. I personally feel the toughest element in the model to implement is the Connect link. Connecting calls for greater transparency and trust which employees must perceive. The model talks of connecting as in improving the quality of interactions and building networks – both essential elements of a social media perspective. So, does it mean social media efforts internally help build greater engagement?


Deloitte’s report quotes a couple of relevant survey inputs – a Conference Board study which highlights open, two way communication as one of the top three expectations of employers. Another study from MIT which reinforces the social engagement aspect – ‘people are five times more likely to consult a co-worker for information than a corporate system’. Today, it matters who you know and not just what you know, a shift from our earlier understanding of knowledge and importance within an organization.


These pointers are crucial for internal communicators – to remodel the way communication needs to get created, shared and viewed. Social media tools will play a defining role in building trust and transparency, drive engagement and help measure the impact of how employees view their employers.



Employee engagement – actions speak louder

I read an interesting article in an expat magazine for India on Employee Engagement. Marshall Goldsmith, voted as one of the top 50 most influential living thinkers by London Times, talks about what engagement means to the employee and to the organization.


He mentions that companies should understand the real cause for success or failure is always the people not the words in the values or mission statements. Leaders need to act on feedback since actions speak louder than words and mean much more to employees


He cites an interesting example of Johnson & Johnson which had an old fashioned mission statement but still meant a lot when translated into action and followed religiously by leaders.

Implementing new media into your internal communication plans

There have been and there are still numerous discussions on the advantages of leveraging new media tools as part of any organization’s communication strategies. While the picture looks very exciting at the onset, it takes a lot more than plug and play when it comes to including new media into the DNA of any organization.


I am currently on that learning curve and happy to share some experiences from my ‘work in progress’ new media project. What started as a knowledge sharing session turned into an exploratory program to leverage new media tools that works. It was also a stroke of luck to discover some talented employees who had a perchance for creating videos with their hand cams and mobile phones. They in turn became our internal new media heroes to emulate and champion.


There are two key objectives – firstly to engage employees and secondly to tap and channelize immense talent amongst them for the benefit of the organization.


Trust and integrity  


The culture of the organization plays a large role in gaining acceptance of any such plan. It makes it all the more difficult if there is no precedence of such usage within the organization.


Go with the flow -Like we know, the power of new media is in its ability to co-create content and de-centralize control. Therefore, trying the bottom-up approach with this medium works well. I identified a set of employees who have various skills like writing (they pen a blog), can create content (videos, flash, photography), leadership abilities (manage teams and participate actively on discussion forums, building communities).


After the initial round of brainstorming, a working document on a wiki chalked out the plan and themes which the Communities of Interest can drive.


Loosely moderated to fully controlled?


Going by what new media or social media stands for, the latter may not quite work but it makes sense for the organization to understand how creative content developed internally can be managed and published. Again, I can speak from an Indian context – the nature of the organization’s business and risk associated with employees creating content can be worth considering.


Best practices vs. what works for the business


Social networking sites have some fantastic features like birthday alarms, rating content, sharing links, survey creation – some of which are worth trying out – but tread with caution. Not all such applications are required or make sense within an organization. The bottom-line is still about business benefits.

More as my project shapes up…