Monday, 24 November 2008

Why young workers won't stay put

This Guardian article by Don Tapscott is interesting.

Having tried to write this post three times, and been blocked by our company's WEBSENSE system, here's a final attempt:

Don suggests:

* There's higher turnover among young workers because they are disappointed to find work environments where social web is barred, and collaboration approaches are worse than they had at school.

* There's a divide between the young workers who want regular feedback (like they get in Facebook every day), and the manager who thinks an annual appraisal is sufficient.

I think

* Young workers will use cellphones to access their facebook whenever they want, but they will be less likely to tell their employers when they spot opportunities for their companies to harness the potential the social web can offer their business.

* Furthermore, young talent won't stay put, unless companies offer social web and collaboration friendly environments. So the money employers invest won't give the same returns as in the past.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Living and Learning with New Media - Digital Youth Project

Research into teenage use of social media by the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley was published earlier this month. Over three years, University of California, Irvine researcher Mizuko Ito and her team interviewed over 800 youth and young adults and conducted over 5000 hours of online observations as part of the most extensive U.S. study of youth media use.

Some of the main findings are that young users are using online networks to extend friendships which mainly exist in the real world. Sites like Facebook and Myspace allow them to deepen relationships and be in constant contact with their friends.

A smaller group seek out connections with others who share niche interests, and some seek opportunities to build online reputation and share their accomplishments with a wider audience.

In both these friendship and interest based communities, young people are increasingly learning from each other in a self-directed way. There is growing evidence of peer to peer learning, especially that users are building technical and media literacy as they experiment online.

The researchers suggest that social media has changed the way that young people socialise and learn. Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technical skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society. Erecting barriers to participation deprives teens of access to these forms of learning.

While teens may not welcome adult attempts to facilitate their friendship based networks, the researchers suggest that in interest-driven participation, adults have an important role to play. Here adults can have a role in setting learning objectives, and acting as role models, sharing their experience in the context of the specific interest of focus.

The research is online - there's a two page summary, as well as the full report available here.

One of the objections careers advisers most frequently raise for not using social media is the belief we should not "invade teenage space". This research seems to offer a helpful differentiation between friendship and interest driven use of social media. I believe educators and advisers can definitely play a positive role in the latter. However we do need to take note of the preference the teens in this study clearly have for learning from their peers.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Social networking and careers advice

Last year IT recruitment firm, Harvey Nash commissioned YouGov who sampled 1054 working adults aged 18-30 in the UK. Because of the polling method there is an inevitable bias towards internet users (82% of respondents use the web daily), since the survey is conducted online. However there are still some interesting messages in the research.

Of the social networking sites, Facebook was most popular, used by 40%, with Myspace used by 36% and Friends Reunited by 34%. A minority of only 26% said they did not use any social networking sites.

So what are they using social networking for? The main reasons are to catch up with old friends (77%) and to stay in touch with current friends (72%). Other reasons are to share things (42%) - e.g. files, photos or music - or to keep abreast of forthcoming events (20%). 7% said they used social networking sites to look for new jobs, but only 2% used it to seek careers advice.

This group of respondents was asked about their attitudes to careers and careers advice in particular. 62% had not decided on their first career choice at the time of leaving full-time education.

When asked about which services they would like to receive as part of careers advice they selected the following:

* Guidance on CV's and resumes (75%)
* Interview preparation (70%)
* Work experience placement (49%)
* Financial support/advice (41%)
* Personality testing (40%)
* Psychographic testing (30%)
* IT/technology skills (26%)

11% of those surveyed said they had not received any careers advice during their full-time education. 21% said they had received other formal careers advice outside of school or university.

Where people had received careers advice the most common issues covered where CV guidance (56%), work experience/placement (47%) and interview preparation (39%). 17% said they had advice on developing their technology/IT skills (of particular interest to Harvey Nash as they specialise in IT recruitment). Only 11% said they had received psychographic (career interest/values/aptitude?) testing and only 18% personality testing.

Only around a third of this group of young people said they took the careers advice they'd been given into account when seeking their first employment. A similar proportion felt the advice they'd received helped them make further decisions about their career. Around 38% agreed the advice they'd received was consistent with what they were already thinking of careers wise.

Around half felt the careers advice they received was confusing and did not help with their decision making.

62% said they received more useful advice from informal sources compared to formal sources. If they were seeking careers advice respondents said they would look to:

* Friends/colleagues (72%)
* Online job sites (52%)
* Other internet sites (16%)
* Online magazines/news sites (26%)
* Parents (45%)
* Employer websites (44%)
* Recruitment fairs/ open days (34%)
* Consult a careers adviser (20%)
* Consult social networking sites (5%)

Despite the low current usage of social networking for career develoment puroposes, the researchers concluded that there was an interest and willingness to use them for this in future. 26% would use a social networking site to find careers advice. 31% said they would use dedicated careers forums and 23% would make use of dedicated careers blogs.

This research was reported in various media - one such report by the BBC gives the story!

It's important to keep in mind that this research was conducted with the 18-30 age group, and with people already in employment. Their expectations and needs are different to younger people, who are still in education. Careers advice and guidance is not just about work and recruitment. However it seems some have the expectation that careers advice should tell you what your first job should be, which seems a rather unrealistic expectation, and very narrow focus, allbeit perhaps a very personalised one.

The activities from which respondents selected don't reflect the full range of IAG activities which careers advisers provide to all their different client groups. If you were to survey those aged 13-19 - i.e. the next generation of social network users it is possible you may get a slightly different picture.

It's also worth noting that careers advisers have to be present online, understand the technology and its capabilities, and then actively promote services online in the first place. Without this happening users will not be able to say they are getting advice through that means.

In a way it is not surprising that few users access careers advice on social networks, since very few advisers seem to be actively putting themselves online and encouraging users to access them. There are some services trying to be innovative and it's good to see careers advisers in Oxfordshire and Berkshire using the likes of Facebook, Myspace and Bebo. In the West of England a different approach has seen the Connexions site social web enabled - adding links to all their content so users can easily link it to their social networking or social bookmarking sites. Others like Connexions Herfordshire's "Channel Mogo", have established closed social networks on their own sites, allowing registered users to communicate and network in a more restricted environment.

It does seem that there is some interest in using social networking as a means of accessing careers advice, and that this could grow in the future. Advisers and service providers are interested in tapping into this technology, although they are wary of the dangers that might exist, and sceptical about it's real potential. The strength of informal advice networks is evident. People are using the web and tools such as those provided in social networking sites to communicate.

I believe that the true value careers advisers can offer is to help both young people and adults understand the potential of their informal advice networks (both online and face to face), make sense of the different viewpoints and conflicting information they receive through such networks, and maximise the value for their personal career development.