Adapting technology for the Internet Generation


They're young, they're aggressive, and they're your next employees. They're going to want Web 2.0 in the workplace, and if they don't get it, they may just go somewhere else. They're members of Generation Y, otherwise known as the Net Generation, and their attitude to the working environment is totally different to yours. How can IT decision makers do things that keep them interested in staying, while protecting their computing resources?

The Net Generation was raised on entirely different resources to the generation before it. This was perfectly clear at a 40th birthday party I attended recently, where the teens sat, uniformly staring at their phones as they texted with friends, taking themselves entirely out of the environment around them. Digital interaction has become an integral part of youngsters' lives, and they demand it, in various forms, in all facets of their everyday existence.

At work, this takes the form of social networking, and Web 2.0 tools that encourage collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Here are five ways in which senior IT decision makers can tweak their infrastructures to keep tomorrow's employees interested.

Don't just tolerate Web 2.0 technology: embrace it

Simply deciding not to block access to Facebook via your company's firewall is not enough when it comes to engaging the Net Generation. Rather, IT departments must implement strategies that actively support their employees' use of social networking services. One way to do this is to link the company's own IT resources to web 2.0-style services.

In the old days companies would implement traditional groupware as a means of facilitating debate, but in a world of lightweight, flexible tools that draw on the same tropes as consumer web 2.0 tools (such as tagging and permalinks), things have changed. Now, corporate knowledge management systems often look more like blogging and social networking tools, and can be excellent tools for gathering unstructured information from employees, and documenting it.

This lightweight approach to collaborative tools can be combined with playful attitudes to help encourage employee participation (perhaps a company could give a prize to the person with the best blog post or the most voted-for innovation posted in the digital suggestion box). Linking these tools into other corporate resources such as customer relationship management systems or even call center metrics software could help to bolster employee performance. Perhaps the employee who handles the highest number of customer calls with a successful outcome could be flagged on the corporate social networking page, for example.Create a demilitarized zone

Access to internal web 2.0-style services solves one part of the problem, but make no mistake:P BOARD.gif

desktops are used.

Implement an acceptable use policy

Employees using corporate resources to access social networking sites must be given clear instructions on what is and is not appropriate. Posting these in a corporate handbook and being given clear instructions during training may help to avoid instances such as homophobic status updates from corporate Twitter accounts, and off-color blog posts made by employees on their own time who make it clear that they work for a particular employer (thus bringing that company's name into disrepute). Both of these social networking gaffes have embarrassed employers in the past.

Make your applications mobile

Young people live their lives via their mobile devices, meaning that they will want access to their corporate resources on the move. IT departments may find mobile-enabled applications difficult to implement, but they are useful assets for employees used to mixing technology intrinsically into their everyday lives.

Adopt flexible working patterns

Not all solutions to help accommodate younger workers are purely technological. Some other, more organizational, changes can help to support technological measures. A company that really wants to create a culture of

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.