There is a feeling among many in commerce that social business will truly arrive once the Millennial generation become the majority. The assertion rests on the notion that Millennials have grown up surrounded by social media, so they will no doubt be naturals at utilizing many of the same kind of tools once they enter the workplace.
Except, the reality is not quite so straightforward. For instance, last year a study published by Kellogg Business School found that whilst Millenials often have excellent technical skills on social media, many are lacking the ability to translate that into using them for professional purposes.
Of course, at the heart of this is the reality that social business is more about behaviours than it is technology, and a recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit shows that graduates are not entering the workplace with particularly strong collaboration skills.
The report found that there was a large skills gap between what higher education produced and what the workplace needed, particularly in softer skills such as collaboration. This skills gap has prompted them to launch an open innovation challenge to try and close the divide.
All is not completely lost however. Last year for instance, a partnership was launched between IBM and York University. The partnership would see a social incubation unit created whereby up to 400 students could gain experience using the kind of social business tools IBM hope will eventually become a central part of every workplace.
t was a fully immersive experience, with students utilising virtual workspaces where changes in time zones, locations, and dynamic bundling of software applications continually morphed to support continuous learning and performance improvement. They used online discussion forums, shared files with peers, conducted meetings online and scheduled their tasks and activities all from within the IBM environment.
They even used a poll tool to allow live voting on new business ideas, thus allowing a democratic approach to decision-making to be taken. The whole thing gave them a valuable experience and appreciation of how social tools can be used in the workplace, and indeed how such tools can change how organisations conduct their business in a flatter and more meritocratic way.
There are also moves afoot to make collaboration a greater part of the school experience. As with the efforts to do the same in the workplace however, there is a significant history of working non-collaboratively to overcome, so this becoming the norm is some way off yet.