Millennials Didn’t Invent Social Media. You Did.

Millennials Didn’t Invent Social Media. You Did.

Social media platforms enable leaders and managers to listen to their workforce

Millennials Didnt Invent Social Media You Did
The nerve of those millennials: Here they are showing up with their smart phones and tablets expecting to connect to your corporate network from a coffee shop while they Snapchat their friends on your time and shamelessly flaunt the social media policy it took you so long to get approved. Guess what? It’s not the millennials, it’s us. Most millennials were still eating gruel when remote working, LinkedIn and virtual teams became a reality. Millennials didn’t invent social media, mobile devices or work-life balance, and they aren’t the ones charged with taking cost out of the business, improving collaboration or managing talent. They’re just trying to get stuff done with the tools they have, most of which are mobile apps based on social collaboration platforms. Here’s why this is really good news.


Recruiters will tell you they were social before social was a thing, and 94% of them are using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more to find talent. In fact, 30% of all Google searches are employment related and 73% of 18-34 year olds found their last job through a social network. Specialized services such as Entelo and TalentBin use big data technology to mine social media and root out top people for hard-to-fill roles based on their social media activity and reputation.

With candidates using Glassdoor and tapping into their networks for the low-down on a prospective employer, both sides of the recruiting process have shifted to social platforms. As labour markets tighten, recruiters will be focused on nurturing pools of candidates they can engage with online and tap to fill key roles as they come up.


Just as Uber has disrupted the taxi industry and AirBnB has reinvented accommodation, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are about to change the face of corporate learning and development. The same approach that has made the Kahn Academy and commercial and cultural successes is already making inroads into the $150-billion corporate training industry. According to Forbes, more than 35 million people have completed online learning in the last four years alone.

Yahoo employees, for example, can now earn university certificates for under $100 each. Compared to the cost of a traditional education, the business case is quite compelling. Aquent, a staffing firm, has also jumped on the MOOC model and built its own program, called Gymnasium, to offer its 8,000 employees free skills training for the most in-demand roles. They estimate their initial $150,000 investment paid back more than 10 times in its first year alone.


If your collaboration programs have been struggling to move beyond motivational posters and the occasional offsite meeting, social platforms may be your answer. The connection between productivity and the use of tools such as Sharepoint, Yammer, Google Hangouts, Trello and internal portals is clear. McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, found that in some industries social media can increase productivity by 20 to 25%. Microsoft found that 31% of workers would spend their own money on a new social tool if it made them more efficient at work. Yet some employers still restrict worker access to social media platforms while at work or ban the use of smart devices, except during break times.

Companies have known for years that online collaboration is cost-effective, and many rushed out to build intranets, collaboration sites and other platforms that sit unused and outdated while your millennial employees use other tools to work together. The key to collaboration is to start with a platform your employees are already using, then have your senior leadership actively use the platform of choice.

Rosemary Turner, President of UPS Northern California Division uses Twitter to stay in touch with her 17,000 drivers and employees, sharing everything from employee recognition to road closures to corporate updates in real time. Turner chose Twitter because the majority of the employees were already familiar with the platform and its short-form of messaging works well with the time-focused work UPS does.

Social media platforms enable HR leaders and other executives to listen to their workforce. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Elizabeth Williams is the head of brand and communications for ADP Canada, with a particular interest in the impact of social media on business-to-business marketing.

Originally published in volume 18 issue 3 of Your Workplace magazine.

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