Women who are members of Generation Y are more hesitant about mixing their work and social media lives than their male counterparts, according to a new global survey.
While that gap between male and female attitudes is consistent among those surveyed in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, women in the U.S. are far more open to mixing work and social media.
The findings released in January 2011 are from Decoding Social Media @ Work, a report that summarizes the results of a survey conducted July 30-Aug. 27, 2010, with 4,612 social media users ages 15 through 34 in the three countries. The findings are part of a larger study, Decoding Digital Friends.
Among all respondents, 64 percent said they are careful about what information or feelings they share with others on their social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The survey found that women and men in the U.K. and Canada are far less agreeable than women and men in the U.S. as to whether companies should allow employees to use social media at work:
In the U.S., 38 percent of women and 46 percent of men think companies should allow social media use at work. In the U.K. and Canada, 26 percent of women and 36 percent of men think companies should allow this.
Women and men in the U.S. were more open to the idea of potential employers seeking them out through social media than women and men in the U.K. and Canada. In the U.S., 41 percent of women and 49 percent of men were satisfied with this idea; in the U.K., 27 percent of women and 38 percent of men were OK with it; and in Canada, 28 percent of women and 39 percent of men were agreeable to the idea.
However, respondents in the U.K. had a higher percentage of people in their social network who were from work—25 percent vs. 20 percent of U.S. respondents and 19 percent of Canadian respondents.
Women and men in the U.S. were more open than their counterparts in the U.K. and Canada to the idea of potential employers viewing their online social media activity. In the U.S., 39 percent of women and 45 percent of men were OK with this idea; in the U.K., 24 percent of women and 34 percent of men were satisfied with it; and in Canada, 25 percent of women and 33 percent of men were fine with the idea.
“These findings don’t mean that companies shouldn’t use social media,” noted Robert Barnard, CEO of London-based Decode, which conducted the survey. “It just means that they should be more careful [thinking] that it should work for everyone” in Generation Y.
The gender gap, for example, might be attributed to women trying to maintain a separation between work and personal life, and they might consider social media use as “their play time,” he told SHRM Online.
Be More Precise
HR directors and recruiters should be more precise about how they are building their recruitment strategy and who they are building it for, Barnard pointed out. “Think much more clearly how you’ll use social media … to target the right group of candidates [you’re] looking for,” he said.
He suggested looking to recent Generation Y hires that use social media to help the organization with its recruitment strategy. “Turn them into investigators and find out what’s going on” inside and outside of the company regarding this group’s view toward social media and work, he said. “Get some champions who want to do it right”—and ask them to help find the solution.
“When you ask them to create a solution, they tend to give you a slightly different answer because they have more invested,” he said. “They’ll put a lot of time into thinking about what they want to create.”
Other Steps to Take
Barnard suggests that employers take the following actions:
*Compare the number of interactions on the company’s Facebook page with those on the company’s website.
*Identify barriers to social media use. The group most likely to figure this out will be recent hires.
*Ask employees on the next satisfaction survey whether the employer should allow social media use at work, whether the employer should seek job candidates through social media and whether the employer should be able to view online social media activity.
*Consider asking people applying through the company’s online site for permission to contact them through social media and/or view their online activity.
The survey found cultural differences among members of Generation Y. Respondents in the United Kingdom, for example, are far less supportive of social media in the workplace than those in the U.S.
The tech-driven culture in the United States is something employers would be wise to consider when creating global recruitment and retention strategies.
Surprisingly, high school-age respondents in the U.K. and Canada were the least agreeable to the idea of employers allowing employees to use social media at work—only 25 percent of those in the U.K. and 28 percent in Canada said they think companies should allow this.
In the U.S., 42 percent of respondents in this age group agreed that companies should allow employees to use social media at work.
High school-age respondents in the U.K. were more conservative than their counterparts in Canada and the U.S. when asked if they were open to potential employers seeking them out through social media—only 29 percent in the U.K. vs. 34 percent in Canada and 45 percent in the U.S. are fine with this.
And only 25 percent of high school-age respondents in the U.K. and 28 percent in Canada are open to potential employers looking at their online social media activity; 42 percent in the U.S. are OK with this.
Finally, remember that Generation Y covers high school students, recent college graduates, young singles, young couples and young parents.
The older members of Generation Y were much more open to mixing work and social media than their younger generational counterparts, according to a news release.
“There are sort of these big, overreaching assumptions about each generation,” Barnard said. Assumptions about Generation Y’s view toward work and social media use may be “true for some but not necessarily true for all.”