At a recent web 2.0 conference, the speaker digressed onto the subject of employment, and told his audience that the impending war for talent means that employers will have to accept the newest workers on their own terms. He went on to specify that this included the channels of communication they preferred. He expanded on this point, saying that employers better prepare for an influx of workers who expected to be able to surf the web recreationally, IM with their friends and hang out on MySpace while at work. My first reaction was disbelief, even anger.
But I see his point, and I see evidence that he's right among the younger workers I know. They really do seem to expect these things. I'm lucky enough to work with younger employees that try their best to toe the line when it comes to company policies and expectations to stay focused on work when they are at work, but clearly they struggle. If and when opportunities come along that offer unfettered access to these things, how powerful will the attraction be?
For that matter, how will employers react when they are interviewing a promising young candidate who suddenly asks, expectantly, "I will be able to IM at work, right?" Or a promising young candidate who just assumes that he or she will be?
The speaker who brought this up went on to talk about a company he worked with, that allowed employees to spend as much time as they liked blogging every day, on any topic they liked. When he asked them about it, they told him that as long as employees were productive (produced the expected volume of high-quality work) they didn't care what else they did. That's a remarkable paradigm. I consider myself pretty progressive, but even thinking about this radical idea makes me vaguely uncomfortable.
I wonder how much the tables will turn when job seekers really have the upper hand, as many predictions suggest will happen soon. I wonder what the impact will be on businesses, not to mention on how today's managers adapt.