Generation Y-ers have been the subject of many workplace studies. Ys are criticised for being overly insistent on their value to the organisation and “too precious” about the myriad career choices open to them, but they have also justly been credited with driving much of today’s technology-led innovation.

“This is in large part due to their prodigious consumption of information – and equally prolific record of contributing to knowledge – both as innovators in their own right and in their preference for open, collaborative new ways of communicating, which tends to spur innovation,” says Gys Kappers, CEO of WyseTalk.

“Thus it would seem that a workforce of young Turks who question and try out everything can be a very good thing,” he adds. “And indeed, my research and experience of such work environments bears this out,” adds Kappers.

In reality, however, a complex array of factors comes into play when young blood enters the system. Mirroring the good and bad of Gen Y-ers themselves, their influence tends to be both enlivening and inhibiting.

Social business software (SBS) has uniquely catalytic capabilities to help organisations minimise the impacts of generational renewal and manage a positive outcome characterised as open innovation balanced out by a conservative security posture.

Tale of two (inverse) cycles

Cycle 1 – restricting

As organisations increase their Gen Y staff component, fissures may appear, including a pronounced generation gap. New hires, exposed to a wider spectrum of media and educational opportunities in an open, global formative environment, often encounter restrictive organisational behaviours, viewpoints and approaches in their new employer.

“In such cases, trust levels in the organisation tend to drop as the enterprise tries to deal with change, including the infectious reliance of Gen Y-ers on technology and open communication,” says Kappers.

“As information channels open up, this invariably leads to a stricter information security stance, which puts a dampener on the zeal and dynamism of the Gen Y mind-set and minimises their positive contribution.”

Cycle 2 – balancing

But the new generation’s affinity for technology tends to work in the opposite direction too, allowing Gen Y-ers to come into their own. As the Gen Y mindset of organisations increases, so does the likelihood of adopting SBS.

This generally leads to more efficient and effective collaboration and communication, as well as increased use of high-impact multimedia/entertainment-led learning platforms.

“This, in turn, is the basic premise of open innovation – involving the use of both internal and external capabilities in solving problems or creating new products, assets or channels – improving organisations’ competitive standing and chances of survival,” says Kappers.

“In effect, this reinforces the Gen Y mindset of the organisation.”

Thus, the positive cycle balances out the negative cycle, but it is SBS that stands central to organisations’ ability to seamlessly welcome Y’s into the workplace and manage the potential fallout through shared understanding and knowledge development.

“As companies try to cope with new markets, technologies, attitudes and behaviours, social technologies will help them embrace and rally the new generation of resources they need for continued success,” concludes Kappers.