Robert J. Thomas, coauthor (along with Rob Cross) of "Driving Results Through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth," points out a few ways to make social networking more palatable to older employees who are hesitant to give it a try:
- Point out that social networking via technology is the same thing they've always done—with a twist. "The one-to-one connection always has been there," says Thomas. "[The difference is] now being able to do it on a greater scale and with a greater reach. When you ask people to connect in network terms, they don't find it all that difficult. It's when you ask them to connect to networks they are unfamiliar with that they have some challenge."
- Explain why they would want to make themselves visible to "strangers." "When we start out in our careers, we think it's what you know that matters," Thomas says. "And then we discover that's never enough; it's also who you know that matters. Now we're discovering how you know also matters—meaning the breadth of ways of getting information is greater now. It's now not only who you know, but who you don't know, but ought to get access to, and by different means, that matters."
- Ensure your internal social networking helps rather than hinders. "People often will use these technologies, and find they are inundated with information, or people asking them to make commitments," Thomas notes. To avoid aimless interaction that will annoy your Boomers, organize your social networking initiative around a strategic objective, such as collaborating on new branding. That way, participants will understand communication on the platform should be focused and goal-oriented.