Join the pack – Creating a social enterprise around the generational divide

I recently attended the intra.NET Reloaded conference in Boston where 100 senior industry executives congregated for two days to discuss key industry topics, exchange knowledge and create new partnerships. The objective of this conference is to ‘bridge the gap between business and technology to enable a digital workplace on the highest possible level.’

Interact was a title sponsor of the event, had a stand in the exhibitor zone and secured a spot to speak on the main stage about ‘The Intranet Equation.’

scott stage crop_3

Interact’s VP of Global Sales, Scott Hitchins, presenting ‘The Intranet Equation’

At the conference, there was a lot of chatter around Millennials and their role in contributing to and/or inhibiting a social enterprise. The conversation was about the generational divide – how Millennials have grown up surrounded by social technology – versus Generation X-ers, who have not. This resulting divide is proving to be counterproductive to social enterprise progression and adoption of social technology in the workplace.

Let’s examine the common traits of these two generational groups so that we can understand why the divide exists and social enterprise wide collaboration does not:

  • Millennials were brought up working in teams with shared rewards. They want to be told often they are on the right track and doing a great job.
  • Generation X-ers entered the workplace as independent, resourceful and self-sufficient people who value independence and often prefer to work alone rather than in teams.

(Source – Multigenerational Characteristics)

It’s no wonder that this social challenge is widespread amongst organizations. We have a generation that is longing for team work and praise, and another that traditionally works well by themselves and values autonomy.

A truly social intranet provides social tools that are blended with business productivity tools which allow employees to have purposeful collaboration around the way they work. These tools help bridge many divides, as colleagues will come together and work more effectively, regardless of their location, generation or professional skills.

Additionally, there are complimentary actions that can be taken to support social intranet adoption and bridge the divide even further. Here are some social enterprise collaboration ideas that I learned at intra.NET from communications professionals at L’OREAL, Wells Fargo and Pfizer.

  • Employee ambassadorship– If you leverage your employees for content creation and sharing, your reach and engagement is 100x greater than if you just added content as an administrator.
  • Give rewards for content creation– A quick note from the CEO, a gift card or even an @mentioned compliment from an intranet influencer can go a long way.
  • Encourage with history– Be sure to tell stories of “we came from here, we went to there” to encourage further social adoption and growth.
  • Use gamification to drive adoption– Something like an influencer score encourages users to contribute to an intranet, scoring their level of activity such as liking, sharing or commenting.

These actions have proven to be successful in helping the Fortune 500 companies mentioned above to boost adoption of social intranets and mend the generation gap.

I recently came across an inspiring example of true social collaboration – the wolves. Wolves are highly social animals who communicate and share knowledge horizontally across generations, not just vertically down through their own. What the wolves lacks in size, power and weapons, they make up for with their natural trait of true collaboration.


A social intranet brings locations, generations and skillsets together to communicate and share knowledge. Use an intranet to empower your workforce to join the pack.