Because of the connected world in which we live, made possible again through a massive change in how we communicate online and off, each of us is defining ourselves in ways that were not possible only a short time ago.
This is particularly true among the newer members of the workforce and will be almost universally true of the workforce of the future.
DIGITAL NATIVES, people who have grown up using online tools to connect with their peers, are already becoming a major force in the process of purchasing decision making.
DIGITAL IMMIGRANTS, those who are adopting online means of communication and conducting business, are a rapidly growing group.
In and around these populations, communities are developing spontaneously and with varying degrees of organization, allowing individuals to find others who share their interests, concerns, and preferences on a variety of topics.
These communities are as strong as the relationships within them. Any of these groups may or may not include employees of any particular corporation or organization.
The interaction between an employee and the rest of the group creates the potential for communications that reflect positively or negatively on the company. How the employees for Company X represent themselves online and while off the job can potentially impact the reputation of the company.
A positive interaction between senior management and the company’s workforce, through a progressively organized intranet, can provide for an authentic, largely transparent, and organic means of evolving the internal relationships that will then be carried outside of the firewall of the company.
So the question isn’t whether senior executives of a company or organization should accept the new connectedness of its employees with the outside, it is about how they will do it. Even if the company computer won’t allow access to popular websites such as Facebook and Twitter, the employees’ iPhones will.
Choosing not to participate is certainly a choice, but it is a potentially costly choice from a competitive standpoint. It’s also a choice that will be more costly to the company the longer it waits, given the clear evidence of participation in the younger population.
By choosing to participate, corporations and organizations open up a whole world of potential. That potential can be easily identified as the social capital of their enterprise.