The Internet Has Taken Over: Employees Choose Social Media over Salary

Now that we have it, it’s clear: we can’t live without the internet. …I’m not sure we can even make it to the store without our smart phones.

But if you need proof the internet has taken over, a 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report shows just how strong our dependency has become. Cisco studied an international workforce of nearly 3,000 people, comprised of college students and recently employed graduates (many working their first full-time jobs). The result would make your parents slap their forehead: 2/3 would choose the internet over a car, 2/5 say it’s more important than dating (thus ending humankind) and 1/3 say the internet is as important as food, water and air. Yes indeed, the internet has taken over. 

Ever since Al Gore invented the internet was invented, we must have known this day would come. We’ve baby-stepped our way into easily one of the greatest resources man is allowed (along with food, water and air of course…) Each advance, be it Wikipedia, viral videos or online recipes, has been accepted with click-happy fingers and open hearts. And why not, it’s revolutionary!  It’s saving us time and money (by being all in one place and keeping the Encyclopedia salesman away), while simultaneously costing us time and money (by soaking up all our free time and making online shopping so brilliantly simple).

I doubt I need to explain how Facebook rocked the socks off the internet when it was introduced, but I will. According to this study, 9/10 college students and young professionals have a Facebook Account. (I believe that number is 10/10 when dealing with the SharePoint Community!) 89% check it at least once a day and 1/3 check it at least 5 times a day. (I saw you nervously glance up at the tab in your browser with the iconic ‘blue squared f’ in it.)

And do people still crack open the newspaper with their morning coffee? ‘Fraid not. Unless you’re part of the 4% reading the newspaper or the 6% watching television, you’re most likely the 90% using Mr. Internet to give you all your news. But there’ll be diehard people who undoubtedly cry foul to these numbers. “Hey, nothing beats a newspaper! Those are just college kids talking – the world reads the paper!” And I’d be inclined to believe you… if I hadn’t seen my own grandmother using the internet for news.  She can barely work a remote! Convenience beats the classics every time. Less ink on your fingers, I guess.

The second chapter of Cisco’s report details Social Media as “The New Workplace Currency.” This is where it gets interesting. But first, how important is Social Media to you? When you started working was it even a thing? You did fine then, but could you do without it now?

56% of those interviewed would turn down a job from a company that bans social media. Worst case, they just wouldn’t listen. 1/3 have prioritized Social Media freedom over salary. One for the money, two for the show, I guess. And again we may judge these as just foolish young’uns, but Social Media’s reach has spread into the professional workplace as rapidly as it did the curious student sector. Industries like Marketing are forced to recognize Facebook and Twitter as the way to the consumers’ hearts and minds, and in situations like the SharePoint Community (where we often market ourselves as much as our companies), it’s the easiest way to connect with everyone else.

Now 69% of workers of all ages find it unnecessary to be in an office, and the number’s even higher for students. The idea is that productivity increases with a home office and over half of the students interviewed believe they have a right to work remotely with a flexible schedule. Aren’t we feeling a bit entitled?

But regardless of what corporate minds or the minority of employees think, the trend is pointing towards a connected workforce that doesn’t necessarily need to be from a cubicle. (Sounds a bit like a SharePoint advertisement doesn’t it? Collaboration from anywhere in the world?)

My advice as a young person with an education and a job and a foot firmly planted in social media: Workplaces, where it makes sense, do themselves a disservice by banning social media. There must be boundaries, of course, but by setting those (maybe through a short, company-wide presentation) you influence the role Social Media should have within the office. Workers can promote the company with Facebook and Twitter; they can monitor the company image as well. When an employee is empowered by their employer to maintain a balance of these social media liberties, they’re less likely to abuse it.

As a personal example, I’ve worked in offices where non-essential sites are banned and it causes nothing but dissension and raises the question of trust in the workplace. When I started here at Fpweb.net, they explained the value of Social Media to my job and to the company. The flexibility and freedom allowed in our workplace has created a happier culture and a more loyal employee. It’s almost simple really.

As times change, the workplace must change. We can’t be expected to jump on every trend (otherwise the workplace would be filled with pogs and beanie babies), but when we’re talking about the happiness of an employee and therefore the entire office, it’s worth the minutes lost to status updates.

For further reading on the rise of the internet and the role of social media in the workplace, check out Cisco’s Connected World Order Infographic and Social Media Workplace Infographic.

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