Research into the Impact and Potential of Social Media at Work Across the Generations 

Join research into the impact and potential of technology/social media on working relationships & business performance across the generations and the world

Many organisations have developed a well thought through plan to adopt Social Media so that it delivers specific and measurable commercial and cultural benefits. Other organisations adopt it almost by accident and don’t always reap commercial or cultural benefits. Whilst there is plenty of data around the personal use of social media there is little research into the impact of social media on working relationships and business performance across generations and the world.

Our focus is very much on the social/behavioural outcomes rather than the media. For example we have already noted that Social Media in the workplace influences attitudes to peoples’ sense of social space at work.

To redress the lack of data Phoebe Lebrecht, Glass Digital Media, (M gen), Bonnie Carlo, Carlo Communications (Y gen), Marc Wright, Simply (boomer), and John Smythe, Engage for Change, (boomer) are undertaking research in the public and private sectors and with NGOs. This is a not for profit exercise where the costs are largely being born by the researchers, though help with travel where great distances are involved is invited.

Who else is participating? At this date:

  • Various Australian entities
  • Network Rail
  • Roche
  • Zurich Financial Services
  • The Cabinet Office
  • BAE Systems (TBC)
  • The Royal Palaces
  • BamNuttall
  • Involve Group
  • Saffron
  • Blue Cross
  • Many more are a work in progress

What we need from participating organisations

We are seeking host organisations to allow us to run focus groups around the topic. These should ideally comprise groups of 10 – 15, and where possible be cross generational including boomers, X gen, Y gen and M gen. Just one group would be fine, but several would be better. We are happy to travel to multiple sites.

We will also source some views from the soon to be with us Z gen.

Participants will also be asked to complete a very short survey monkey to provide a quantitative element which is also open to others not participating in the focus groups. The link is contained in the individual participants’ brief and below.

Participating organisations can be anonymous (eg ‘large global professional services’) or be identified.

Visible sponsorship of the process in participating organisations is suggested to build interest and participation.


Field work will continue across the spring and summer and possibly into autumn. We appreciate that making arrangements in organisations takes time and careful planning. We would rather give people time to get it right than rush.

Benefits of participation

  • Participating organisations will have full access to the findings and our analysis well before it becomes widely available via the Engage for Success site
  • Host organisations would also be able to add topics to the core inquiry to explore company specific interests around the core topic, which would remain privy to the host organisation
  • John, Phoebe and Bonnie are willing to run an exclusive findings and analysis session for participating organisations with no other outsiders present to bring attention to the commercial and cultural aspect of the topic
  • We have already found that running them sparks interest in host organisations helping internal sponsors of Social Media to generate C suite engagement around the commercial and cultural benefits of a well thought through approach (as opposed to a focus on the technology per se)
  • On a separate commercial basis we would be happy to present the topic (in a highly participative fashion) at company leadership gatherings and the like.
  • Phoebe, Marc and John are both members of Engage for Success’s ‘More Social than Media group’, of which John is currently chair. This research will eventually find its way to Engage for Success’s content bank and then be available to everyone, everywhere.

The (evolving) structure of the focus groups:

  • Introductions, ground rules, company sponsor and project purpose
  • Identification of different generations present
  • Identify the current work place culture using an Engage for Change schematic
  • Review of traditional communication methods (and role models) in use. Explore if these are symbols of more traditional command and control styles of leadership or vanguards of more mutual styles of leadership
  • Explore use of social media outside work
  • Identify officially sponsored social media in use at work and the history of its adoption. Was there a commercial and cultural plan or was it accidental /incremental adoption?
  • Explore the influence of social media/digital on cross generational relationships, particularly the idea of the ‘Social self’ and the influence of Social on privacy, private (digital) space and disclosure
  • Explore the influence of Social media on organisational performance at work
  • A few years on how might Social media change cross generational relationships at work and what are the possible business performance benefits
  • Thanks, process from here and close

Next steps

  • Conversation/meeting with us in which we can help you organise the process
  • Survey for all participants

For more details and to get involved please contact John Smythe.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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