Social Media – Social Revolution?

In 1980, In ‘A Farewell to the Working Class’, Andre Gorz predicted the demise of the traditional working working class and that this would be replaced by other social movements… In the same way for over a 20 years commentators have suggested the end of full time permanent work because of the improved technology and the need for organsiations to be flexible and agile in a post industrial world….

It seems that the chorus is getting louder… Self Styled Social Media experts are the new vangaurd suggesting that new technology will liberate organisations and individuals from the slavery and drudgery of our our traditional structures and work patterns. Some have even suggested that our businesses will no longer be able to engage and retain our key talent without using new technology. Is business staring at the abyss or do we all have to be transformed into hoodie wearing executives, a la Mark Zuckerberg?

Aldous Huxley once said ‘Facts do not cease to exist because we choose to ignore them’. And I wonder is this what the vanguard are conveniently ignoring. By looking at the facts we can see that many of these claims are either mischievous (for a self serving purpose) or just misguided. By examining the facts we can see that many of these claims are both untrue and unlikely to remain unrealised for some years to come.Sadly, even the optimist in me does not see liberation from wage slavery as Gorz did over 30 years ago….

Let’s take the idea that soon companies will be merely sheperding contract workers and that permanent work is at an end… The hailed rise in ‘self employment’ is mainly due to economic imperative not choice. Part time work is on the rise but is this through desire or necessity?. Equally, this trend is not mirrored in Europe or Asia Pacific. It also flies in the face of Socialogical and Economic research. In his book ‘Happiness’ Richard Layard suggests that humans want to be part of organisations for reasons of belonging, security, kinship as well as pure economic gain. Changing jobs or companies is still a relatively rare occurrence for most people including those we class as top talent.

The key for us as leaders is to engage and energise our workforces ensuring we build businesses that really have long last value for customers and employees that ensures sustainability, builds pride and respect amongst all stakeholders. The use of social media maybe useful tool but it is not the driving force of any of these factors. Neither is it a weapon in the war for talent.

Another well trodden myth is about generational shifts. Apparently, Gen Yers are demanding to be treated differently, need the tools of social media to make work bearable – Shall we debunk the myth that social media the domain of young people? The average age of a Linked In User is well into the late 30s and Facebook is increasingly the domain of parents and grand parents. In addition, research into Employee Engagement suggests that there are not huge generational differences in what drives engagement.

Research from Kenexa claims that drivers of engagement globally are common across the globe and, unsurprisingly, are not driven by use of social media. Employees need to be inspired,and the four factors focus on Vision and Leadership, Culture, Development (learning) and to be Rewarded fairly (in comparison to peers). Individuals may place different emphasis on each of these at different times in their careers. This is no surprise to organisations and leaders who have grasped the nettle. Nowhere is there a mention of social media.

This does not mean we ignore the new tools and they have dramatically changed the way we communicate and sometimes transact. Innovative and successful businesses do not telling that they need to embrace technology, or the need to innovate. Neither should we lose focus on what works in driving growth, employee satisfaction and customer delight…. its about vision, leadership and a focus on how we can make things different and better…. these are in the human domain not technology…..


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