The Facebook generation vs. the Fortune 500

I was talking to a law-partner-buddy of mine recently who wanted advice on dealing with new, young lawyers and their ‘lousy work ethic and sense of entitlement’.  The rules are obviously changing in dealing with different generations. The following story is focused on employee recruitment but it sheds light on the differences.  

Edited from Wall Street Journal, by Gary Hamel:

Growing up online will shape the work expectations of the Facebook Generation.  

If you hope to attract the best of Gen F, you’ll need to understand their Internet-derived expectations and in the future, any group that lacks a vital core of Gen F employees will soon find itself stuck in the mud.

This is a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life and tomorrow’s employees will use these as yardsticks to decide if your company or agency is “with it” or “past it.”

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following—or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.

2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.

3. Hierarchies are natural, not proscribed.
In any Web forum there are some individuals who command more respect and attention than others—and have more influence as a consequence. These individuals haven’t been appointed by some superior, authority trickles up, not down.

4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
On the Web, every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done through other people. Forget this online, and your followers will soon abandon you.

5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
The Web is an opt-in economy. People choose to work on the things that interest them, everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.

6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
In any online community, you have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest.

7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
In large organizations, resources get allocated top-down.  On the Web, human effort flows towards ideas and projects that are attractive (and fun), and away from those that aren’t.

8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
To gain influence and status on the web, you have to give away your expertise and content, and you must do it quickly or someone else will beat you to the punch. Online, there are a lot of incentives to share, and few incentives to hoard.

9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
On the Internet, truly smart ideas rapidly gain a following no matter how disruptive they may be. The Web is nearly perfect for aggregating the wisdom of the crowd. The voice of the masses can be used as a battering ram to challenge the entrenched interests of institutions in the offline world.

10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
The only way to keep users loyal is to give them a substantial say in key decisions. You may have built the community, but the users really own it.

11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
The web is a testament to the power of intrinsic rewards. Think of all the articles and add up the hours of volunteer time and it’s obvious that human beings will give generously of themselves when they’re given the chance to contribute to something they actually care about. Money’s great, but so is recognition and the joy of accomplishment.

12. Hackers are heroes.
Large organizations tend to make life uncomfortable for activists and rabble-rousers. On the Web, malcontents are frequently celebrated as champions of the Internet’s democratic values—particularly if they’ve managed to hack a piece of code that has been interfering with what others regard as their inalienable digital rights.

These features of Web-based life are written into the social DNA of Generation F.

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