Ryerson prof: Why CIOs shouldn’t ban chat, IM

Young Canadians entering the workforce view social and instant messaging tools in the same way the older generation use the telephone. According to one Ryerson University business professor, today’s business leaders will need to concentrate on bridging this digital divide or risk getting left behind.

After interviewing more than 2,000 undergraduate students, Avner Levin, who chairs the law and business department at Ryerson’s School of Business Management, found that 90 per cent of those surveyed used social networking tools on a regular basis. In addition to the huge adoption numbers, Levin also found that young social networking users expect a high level of network privacy when sharing information online.

“When the younger generation puts something up on Facebook, and it’s intended for their group of friends, they consider that information to be private,” he said. “The older generation doesn’t buy into that. They say that if something is posted online and it can be accessed, it should be considered public information.”

Levin said that those from the older generation have kept their personal and professional separate in the offline world for years, while the younger generation now expects to do the same over the Web. As Generation Y continues to invade the workforce, a company’s ability to draw in and engage these young workers will be a vital part of keeping their business afloat and eliminating the digital gap.

“CIOs need to understand how young people use technology,” said Penelope Trunk of Brazencareerist.com, whose Web site is focused on the hiring and training of young professionals. Learning these skills can even help CIOs run their departments and lead to success, especially as businesses become more dependent on technology.

“It would be career death for a CIO to ignore young people,” Trunk added. The biggest problems for CIOs are hiring and staying current with the newest technology. Both these problems, according to Trunk, could be solved by hiring those most familiar with the best tools, which would be those who’ve grown up in the Internet age.

Levin agreed, saying that organizations will have to be proactive and look for ways to adopt emerging communication tools. “Companies need to recognize that they won’t be able to ban chat and messaging tools anymore,” he said. “The natural expectation among young people will be to talk to their colleagues at work through these applications.”

He added that organizations that are currently keeping ahead of the curve have begun implementing in-house social networking tools, which alleviate the need for employees to go outside the firewall to the popular Microsoft or Yahoo-based apps. Developing a clear policy that regulates the use of messaging tools is also important, he said.

And while some CIOs have expressed hesitation on social networking tools because of the potential security issues they can bring, Trunk said the same argument could be lobbied at long standing business communication tools.

“People can pick up the phone and read corporate memos to competitors, but businesses certainly couldn’t survive without a phone,” she said. That same type of logic can be used to show the benefits of attracting younger workers and implementing social networks. Without either of them, she said, businesses would have a harder time keeping up with the pace as technology changes around them.

With files from Jarina D’Auria, CIO.com

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