I am constantly amazed at how effortlessly my son uses technology. By the time he was 3, he was already programming our TIVO. By the time he was 5, he was playing games on my smartphone. Now he’s 8, and he knows his way around my Windows Phone 7 better than I do. He prefers text messaging to talking on the phone, and he is always showing me the latest apps and features he’s discovered.

Having grown up surrounded by technology, it’s as if he was born knowing how to use it.  Watching my son, it’s fascinating for me to think how business will change as people of his generation – the so-called Generation Z – enter the workforce.

Already, enterprises are hiring thousands of recent grads who grew up with the Internet. In the decade from 2007 to 2016, 12.8 million young workers are expected to join the U.S. workforce, all of whom were raised in a world of consumer and social technologies. As this new generation of professionals enters the workforce, we’re seeing a push to incorporate more consumer technology than ever before.

It’s critical that enterprises meet these young workers’ technology demands by incorporating social computing technologies into the day-to-day business world. Why? For one, embracing social computing will help organizations to attract and retain the young talent they need to remain competitive. Young workers are used to social technologies, and want to use them both in their personal and professional lives. Second, social technologies enable enterprises to be more productive. They provide managers with a clear vision into team dynamics. And they give knowledge workers easy, natural ways to share insights and collaborate.

Meeting those evolving needs is one of the cornerstones of our productivity platform. It is designed to help enterprises embrace social computing in a way that’s secure and easy to manage. For example, SharePoint 2010 includes social computing tools such as My Sites, which enables users to easily share information about themselves and their work. This sharing of information encourages collaboration, and builds and promotes expertise. It also includes social content technologies such as blogs, wikis, and team sites that give employees the freedom to work together in flexible, natural ways based on their preference and the work context.

Another key social computing application in the Microsoft productivity platform is Lync 2010, which provides a single interface that unites voice communications, IM, audio, video, and web conferencing. Employees can hold video and audio conferences with other workers no matter where they’re located. They can also connect with their co-workers from virtually any device, making interactions more collaborative, engaging, and accessible.

It’s exciting to see how enterprises are using these tools, and the energized collaboration environment they’re creating.  For example, employees at Sony use the My Sites tool within SharePoint to see who’s online, find the people they need to work with, and exchange ideas. By collaborating this way, they have gotten projects to market faster, while reducing costs. Likewise, employees at TELUS have been using SharePoint 2010 to improve business intelligence and encourage collaboration across departments. In doing so, they’ve created an atmosphere in which all employees are encouraged to chip in and express their thoughts and ideas. To learn more about how Sony and TELUS are using social computing technologies, please see our SharePoint 2010 Communities video. 

What social computing technologies is your organization embracing? What results have you seen? Please take a minute to leave your comment.