Social networks will shape workforce of the future

22 Jun 2007

How will your workforce look in 10 years‾ Research firm Gartner states that 60% of IT organizations globally are ill-equipped to build the workforce of the future.

A recent report from Gartner notes that advances in technology, rising globalization, changing work demographics and new business practices will change workplace rules and dynamics.
Gartner expects many companies to struggle to attract and retain key talent due to a lack of clear strategies to provide the necessary environment and flexibility to enable workers to operate effectively.

The growing use of social networks, collaborative technologies and advanced real-time communications have changed work patterns with modern-day workers contactable at all times and from any location. Many workers are now using blogs, wikis and community networks to communicate, link members within projects, acquire knowledge, and network in search of greater reach and more effective ways to work.

Not just for play
A survey conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp - formerly HRI) revealed that 65% of business professionals in the US are clicking and connecting via personal and professional social networking websites like MySpace.

LinkedIn - a site aimed at professionals - was the most popular site among professionals, followed by Yahoo 360 and MySpace, which are traditionally associated with younger users.
The survey also stated that 52% of companies which use social networking sites do so to keep internal staff and remote employees connected, while 47% of total respondents use the networks to connect with potential clients and to showcase their skills.

I personally use LinkedIn to get in touch with sources and potential contacts across the Asia region and sometimes even in the US. For example finding a notable conference speaker in Thailand or Malaysia would have taken a host of phone calls to simply get a contact. With LinkedIn I can use not just my own network but the networks of over 30 other people to click and find my target speaker.

What this means for companies today is that without proper planning and a strategy to create a dynamic and accommodating work environment they will likely struggle to retain key people.
As the traditional work-life balance shifts and removes the distinction between work-time and off-work time, workers must be allowed to fit in their personal activities in and around their work. If expectations are that people are always on-call and responsive to work demands during times when they are normally off-line, then likewise a worker should be given the leeway to fit important personal events and activities around their work.

Company HR policies will need to accommodate significant milestones in lives like pregnancies in a different manner, with more flexible work-from-home practices and allowances. Even those who reach retirement age should not necessarily retire if they still have the skills and means to contribute.

Companies will also be looking to source talent globally, with less emphasis on hiring locally as location is increasingly less important. Gartner predicts that by 2015, people will spend more than 80% of their time working collaboratively across 10 or more virtual teams.

This requires a major shift in HR policies and working practices as well as the technologies to provide constant communication, collaboration and the provision of the social and emerging virtual networks to allow workers to be more creative, innovative and effective in their day and/or night jobs.

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