It turns out that young people are poised to significantly increase workplace productivity. But, before we get to that link, here are links to help us redefine age and rethink what engagement looks like at work.
1. Recompute your age
Here’s a new way to think about which generation you are part of: How many social media tools you use. Really.
Margaret Weigel, who manages research about media at MIT, introduced me to this idea, by way of commenting on this blog, and now I’m hooked. Weigel writes: “I mark generational differences by media use, not by age. There are gamers, there are bloggers, and then there are those who post every waking moment of their lives on FaceBook, YouTube, Flickr.”
This is a way to explain why people who are twenty years old and leaving voice mails all day are older than their age. It’s also a way to explain why I think of Obama as a gen-Xer. He has 48,000 friends on MySpace – double any of the other candidates for President.
2. Commitment is personal investment, not time investment
Sylvia Hewlett’s broad sweeping study showed that baby boomers are much more willing than younger people to put in excessively long hours at work. However Personnel Development International finds that hours spent working have no direct correlation to commitment to work: Generation X is actually more committed to their work than baby boomers.
(Maybe this is because Gen X job hopped more and job hopping leads to more passion and more passion leads to more engagement at work.)
3. Collaboration is the next frontier of productivity
Ironically, the baby boomers are the ones who have done all the research about how important and effective teams are, but the baby boomers generally don’t like working in teams. My favorite link of this week is from Mike Griffiths at Leading Answers about the wide-reaching data about how incredibly collaborative young people are at work.
It looks like the real productivity is not going to come from hours spent working, which is how the older people in Hewlett’s study think of productivity. But from the collaborating tools and the people who use them intuitively.
What to do with all this? Companies should make sure that people who don’t understand collaboration get out of the way in the workplace.