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Workplace Technology: Its Impact and Utilization in the Hands of Gen-Y

February 28, 2010

The Gen-Y workforce is technology driven and thrives on the use of technology for communication, research, and many other purposes.   Employers who are willing to invest in the latest forms of technology and encourage its use, will find that the new workface can work faster, more efficiently and ultimately be more productive and innovative.  As stated earlier, workers who use technological tools on a regular basis earn more. This can be a motivating factor for new employees who come into the workplace. The younger generation is adept to utilizing the computers, and downloading documents and applications to their mobile phone to access Portable document formats (.pdf), Microsoft Word and Excel, email, instant messenger. This tools are essential to finding, applying, and sharing information; it can also lead to new the formation of new information.

Technology has become an increasingly important tool of knowledge management process as it relates to the Gen-Y employee’s careers. The concept of knowledge management empowers individuals to search, store, distribute, apply and create knowledge. The internet and mobile technology has come a long way in aiding this concept through search engines, social bookmarking and applications such as Google apps that can be stored on phones. However, at times there are so many information options, that the young professional can become overwhelmed and not know what path to take to reach their goals. Companies can help employees starting out in their careers by giving them a framework for success as they progress in the company. This can involve teaching them both the hard and soft skills that are instrumental in progressing themselves and the organization. Internal and online software program tools can provide training and development to give them the initial tools needed for knowledge management process. Such as program is the Cornerstone on Demand’s software that Give each employee access to personalized learning portal for completion of critical documentation and access to development and orientation curricula.

Two important characteristics of these programs are they should be accessible and interactive. Accessibility allows the employee to obtain information from their phone or on computers away from the work environment.  Information should also be interactive for training and development to allow for the application of acquired knowledge. Cornerstone on Demand offers additional insights of training and development technology. The first benefit is employees have immediate access to single location for key orientation documentation. The second benefit is employees complete forms and access training and development online, at any time.

Another tool that employees can use for acquiring knowledge is professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn. According to Katherine Lewis, writer for About.com, employees can use LinkedIn to find business opportunities for their employer. They can also connect with other professionals in their specialty and learn how the professional does their job. Employees can use that information to improve their own performance. Another goal of these sites is to build the online mentoring relationship and eventually take it offline to an apprentice relationship if possible. Mentoring allows teaching skills; whereas, apprenticeship allows teaching and learning through hand-on training. For example, a young employee can find professionals in their departments or in the industry and build a mentoring and apprentice relationship with them, furthering the acquisition of departmental or industrial knowledge and its application. Only after the employees have the opportunity to acquire and apply knowledge can they distribute information. This distribution of information can take the form of mentoring, leading teams or possibly writing white papers on company research. The ultimate goal of knowledge management for employees is to create new products and services for the company. The knowledge management process motivates employees because  the tools gives them the opportunity to build business relationships, develop in their career thought training and teach others and eventually create new products and services that will aid in the growth of the company. The knowledge management process categories have many components. Below we highlight common uses of the concept as it relates to technology.

Talent management platforms can take place through online platforms that all employees to align individual goals with the departmental and organizational goals. This ensures optimal productivity for positive results. Typically it addresses the gathering, storing and application of the knowledge management process. These systems help employee identify areas that need improvement through easy to access and automated performance reviews. Employees should be able to find and access the information as needed so they can take the appropriate actions to improve before the yearly evaluations occur and ensure they are consistently performing on an acceptable level. It can help them to make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely), drive accountability, and tie development plans to competency assessment processes. Feedback motivates the new workforce. It is important for the Gen-Y employees to received feedback. If feedback is provide as well as suggestions for training, poor performers are able to know what it takes to move to the next level of employment in their departments. Making this accessible, companies can aid in the process of knowledge management to aid employees for success.

Technology can be used for compensation management. This addresses the gathering, storing and application of the knowledge management process. Having immediate access to these tools help motivate the employee in making appropriate decisions such as deciding whether to stay at a company or perhaps leave for better compensations plans at another company.  If they have a chance to review the information they might reconsider their notice.  Gen-Y employees who view benefits as important, they can utilize the system to make changes toward better plans.

Lastly, technology can lead to innovative employee engagement and increased collaboration.  This addresses the distribution and creation of knowledge in the knowledge management process. Platforms for listening and responding to employees are vital.  It gives the opportunity for each employee to have a voice in innovation and development plans.  Tools such as internal forums, micro blogs, applications (i.e Google apps), and employee opinion blogs provide an impetus for such opportunities. The worst thing in the workplace for Gen-Y is to feel like they do not have a voice. These tools that allow them to make suggestions, voice opinions and can lead to increased collaboration.

Collaboration begins as others comment on postings and make suggestions of their own. Internal collaboration can help connect employees who would otherwise not know each other and build business relationships. Mutual exchanges of communication can lead to the improvement of current products or services and possibly even the creation of new products or services. These exchanges should be open to anyone in the company because all knowledge is not held solely by members of a single department. Collaboration should occur company-wide. Gen-Y employees who contribute will have a boost in their motivation and enthusiasm because they will feel that they were effective in contributing to the creation of new products or services. This could possibly lead to mentoring opportunities, apprenticeships or promotions.

As one can see, technology can provide many avenues for career development through the knowledge management process which we now find include access to talent management and compensation, and collaboration tools to help them make appropriate decisions and lead to new innovations.

These tools are becoming more utilized to keep a connected, well informed, and empowered workforce. The ability to have knowledge at one’s fingertips is greatly beneficial for young employees to increase performance and job satisfaction.  It is vital that managers understand the knowledge management process and create an environment where employees can utilize their skills. Using technology motivates and teaches young employees to do what they understand and enjoy. As a tool for in knowledge management process, it can improve performance through constructive feedback, and make appropriate employment decisions. Lastly, it can provide a platform to share information and create new products and services thorough individual and collaborative efforts.

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