The new generation of workers, the Millennials, almost insist on bringing their own smartphones and tablets with them to the workplace. For that matter, even Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have caught the technological bug and have their own smart devices. Increasingly, important notes and information are stored on these devices. Furthermore, Gartner recently predicted that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own devices. Given this Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, where will corporate knowledge be stored in the coming years?
To Gus Murby, executive partner for Lexington Leadership Partners, LLC, the question is not where the corporate knowledge should be stored, but rather how relationships can be fostered to keep the knowledge flowing. Citing Fortune Magazine’s recent list of the 100 top companies to work for, Murby believes that corporate knowledge is safe as long as companies realize they need to be fostering better relationships with their employees.
“Millennials have been brought up to be more collaborative than the previous generations have been,” Murby says. This means that Millennials will be working side by side and sharing information with others in their organization, rather than working individually and hoarding the corporate knowledge. Much of the worry about where corporate knowledge will be held is based upon what Murby sees as a flawed representation of the character of the average Millennial.
“I’m skeptical of the picture of Millennials as free electrons, moving from job to job,” Murby continues. Indeed, the transition of Millennials from job to job might be more an indicator of the state of the economy and business in America than an indicator of a lack of loyalty on the part of the younger generation. For previous generations, Murby points out, career equity and seniority with an organization meant tenure and an almost guaranteed position for life, but that is simply not the case anymore.
Even so, Murby does not feel that the safety of corporate knowledge is in jeopardy. Despite the BYOD culture prevailing across much of corporate America, the intellectual property and other important data can be stored and recalled easier now than ever before. “There are advantages being made in big data,” Murby points out, “where you can extract data out of fundamentally unsearchable data sources. That means you can analyze the full record of communications and extract the data that way.”
In other words, the threat of corporate knowledge being lost when a Millennial moves on to another position is overstated. The challenge is retaining the Millennials, learning how to store their knowledge, and using big data advances to better sift through it and retrieve the information when it is needed. “Even if you have the Library of Congress of information, you still have to figure out what you’re going to do with it,” Murby stresses.
If Murby’s argument is correct, then the problem is not so much where corporate knowledge will be stored, but how relationships can be built to make the most of that knowledge. Murby believes that human resources professionals need to begin looking at new strategies for recruitment, focusing on finding effective teams rather than individual key players. The predilection of the Millennials to collaborate makes this idea both practical and promising, since a ready-built team of Millennials could become more than just the sum of their parts.