Facebook for the FORTUNE 500 Firm?

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 04.13.08

This week, I spoke and attended the CLO conference entitled “Orchestrating Change: Leading Organizations with Learning.” My presentation focused on Brave New Learners: Millennials and Beyond.

The presentation addressed such issues as:

  • What impact will all of this have on the four generations currently in the workforce?
  • Do Millennials really learn differently?
  • Will FORTUNE 500 companies ever create their own Facebook for internal use?

There is no doubt that online social networking is weaving itself into the fabric of all four generations in the work force, defined as:

Veterans born between 1925-1945
Baby Boomers born between 1946-1965
Gen X born between 1965-1977
Millennials (Gen Y) born on/about 1978 or later

It was the discussion about these topics that really got us into a lively and engaged session with lots of questions and frank dialogue:

The four generations of the workforce should really be defined attitudinally (i.e., what they are involved in at work and how they have embraced social networking, rather than by their chronological age). I, for example, am a Baby Boomer, but think, act and engage like a Millennial.

Despite the huge popularity and widespread adoption of social networking websites like LinkedIn and Facebook, the concept of social networking has had a difficult time finding traction in the business world where IT managers fret about security issues, and rightly so. Instead, the “early adopters” of social networking for learning and human resources are creating “Facebook-like” applications behind their firewalls. They are also thinking about what they expect from social networking and how it will benefit the organization. In addition, they are asking themselves “What do we want ‘increased connectivity’ to bring to our business? What does success look like for the recruiting, sales and learning departments?”

A new category is emerging in the social networking landscape called “socialprise,” a mash-up of social networking and enterprise computing applications. Look for more examples here from companies like Select Minds and InsideView.

Finally, and perhaps most compelling, the audience for the session at CLO was overwhelmingly comprised of Baby Boomers. One Chief Learning Officer from a Fortune 100 firm came up with the most honest assessment of why FORTUNE 500 firms will continue to be slow to adopt to social networking:

“I know I continue to feel guilty when I am on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. I feel that I am not working, not producing those power point presentations or answering those emails that I have stacked up on my in-box.”

But then another member of the audience shot back:

“That would never be an issue for Millennials. They have social networking in their DNA and know connecting to colleagues and using the latest technology to stay on top of industry trends is part of working in the 21st Century.”

But let’s remember as we explore how to incorporate social networking into the enterprise that it’s not about the technology. This is still relatively new to Fortune 500 firms - the larger issue is to have a clear vision for what you want to accomplish and build both online and offline solutions that allow increased connectivity for your employees, customers and business partners.

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6 Comments

  1. Robert Burnside, April 14, 2008:

    At Ketchum we have a number of internal (inside the firewall) employee focused blogs. For sure, our younger employees make more use of these than the older ones, but we are seeking to build this method of internal communication. We have tried external Facebook groups, but that gets less attention.
    We are also working with Rob Cross of the University of Virginia to develop Social Network Analysis for our clients. This application identifies the real “Who’s Who” of a group from the inside, the group members themselves. Then you can work with this “insiders group” to facilitate your communications with the overall group. You can learn more about this at www.robcross.org.
    Robert Burnside Ketchum Chief Learning Officer

  2. Margot Finley-Aguilera, April 18, 2008:

    Hi Jeanne,

    I have been in executive search for fifteen years and social networking has transformed my work like nothing else in the past decade (except email of course). Having good people whose networks I trust connect me with more referenceable good people across the nation and the world through personal networks has allowed me to deliver better results faster for my clients. Referrals has always been a critical buiding block for executive search and social networking like Linked In has increased our speed and effectiveness a thousandfold.

    As for my clients, some of them are making it a top priority to hire visionaries and the accompanying staff with the technical know who can develop the appropriate social networking tools for their organization based upon their corporate mission and values. Some of them have not even considered the value it could add to their organization yet.

    It is a very exciting time!

    Margot Finley-Aguilera
    President
    Avondale Search International, Inc.

  3. Rita, April 23, 2008:

    Are institutions of higher learning using social networking?

    I write a blog for boomer consumers at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com.

    Rita

  4. Rob Campbell, July 14, 2008:

    I think the challenge with the transition of social networking to the workplace is in how it is used. MySpace and Facebook are quite literally focused on the social. The closest corporate equivalent is breakroom or water cooler talk, which by their very nature, are culturally not viewed as “real work.” Until the corporate world can find value beyond this, I think social networking will struggle in the professional setting. Perhaps that is why wikis are gaining in popularity. They tend to be social (although not nearly as social as tools like mySpace and Facebook) and interactive. Equally important, they also tend to focus on topics/problems/opportunities that both the company and the associates care about.

  5. Martin Zwilling, January 22, 2009:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one struggling with understanding millennials. Business people as a whole don’t know how to deal with the new influx of millennials and their expectations. There are many issues and concerns on both sides - see my article on http://blog.startupprofessionals.com titled “Facebook or Faceoff” for some specifics.

    Marty Zwilling, Founder & CEO, Startup Professionals, Inc.

  6. Roger Mundell, January 26, 2009:

    My company provides a free plugin that transforms Facebook into an LMS, and links to an easy to use course-creation tool.
    Since launching the Facebook LMS in June the takeup by corporations has been slow, but we have had more than a dozen requests to take the plugins and link them instead to internal Portals, Intranets, Sharepoint servers, etc., Even sometimes to other web based social Networks such as Ning, that are (mis) perceived as being more private.

    Although it is early days, it seems to me that once the social network is rerstricted to within the company a great deal of the driving momentum is lost. Instead of being a place that is consulted continually it becomes like a discussion board where people only go when they have to. The lack of continual interesting news feeds discourages use, and most feed items tend to relate specifically to courses.

    It is too early to provide meaningful metrics, but I am still convinced that in the long run social networks need to cast a wide net in order to succeed, and linking learning to a wide ranging group of mentors and friends will work better than an imposed hierarchy.

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