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Mind Your Business: What Your Boss Doesn't Know (Yet)


Last week, I slammed a whole generation of job hunters with a column about their less-than-professional manner (not to mention their affinity for open-toed shoes). This week, I turn the tables and offer a not-so-subtle wake-up call for their baby boomer bosses.

While Gen Y may be leaning a little left of the professionalism line, their bosses —many of whom began their businesses when the phone book was considered "social media" — need a workplace wake-up call. Social media and Web 2.0, along with mobile technologies, have created a whole new world of work.

It looks as if the next few years are going to demand some give-and-take from both sides of the generational and digital divide. Managers and business owners, in particular, are going to have to accept that the times are indeed a-changin'.

Who do you love? – There was a time when your employees not only worked for you. They worked for you. Everything your employees did —the good ones, anyway —was with an eye toward building your brand, your good name, your company. The thinking was that if the company succeeded, the employee got to go along for the ride. Not anymore. In the age of social media, all of your employees are working for themselves. The ability to develop a social media presence independent of their job means they are constantly working toward building a strong online presence to promote themselves should they ever need a better job. The days of the corporate man (or woman) are over. Everyone's a free agent.

Homeward bound – Working from home is not only becoming increasingly prevalent, it's becoming inevitable. While there are some jobs that will always require reporting for duty at your place of business, for the rest of your employees, home is where the heart is. And, soon enough, they'll be demanding it. With ubiquitous Internet access and cloud computing, there's little they won't be able to do from home — except interact with you, of course.

Personal time – Remember when you could say to your employees, "do that on your own time"? Not anymore. While personal phone calls may still be taboo at work, it's virtually impossible to expect your employees to use social media and the Internet as part of their job without having personal exchanges, too. The long and the short of it is that you can no longer control what your employees do while they're on the clock. Instead, you'll have to judge them based on what they get done as a whole, not how they spend every minute of the day.

No experience necessary – There was a time when a prospective employee's previous experience was of the utmost importance. These days, with social media and technology changing on a nearly daily basis, what a job candidate knows how to do is far less important than how they do it. The fact that they created a blog for their former boss will quickly become irrelevant as new technologies emerge. What you really need is an employee who can roll with the punches, change with the times, adapt quickly and enjoy the ride. No prior experience will illustrate that. Instead, you're going to have to hire based on your gut, previous employers' references and, that all-important social media presence I mentioned earlier. Following a potential candidates' tweets and Facebook posts for a few weeks ought to give you an idea of what they're really all about.

Looks matter – You won't be the only one doing a little background checking before hiring. Your future employees will be checking up on you, too. If there's one thing Gen Y's got, it's a social conscience and they are more than willing to pass on a job if the company doesn't align with their personal ethical beliefs. If your business has a socially responsible component (donating to charity, offering Fair Trade products, etc.) then you'd better be sure you're putting that message out there. It's not just your customers who care — it's your future employees, too.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.