Cisco’s Martin talks of tomorrow’s employees, the ‘Digital Natives’

Technology is transforming the way we approach work, and today’s youth raised with Facebook, Twitter and other social media will need different incentives to be motivated on the job in years to come.

The generation known as “Digital Natives,” born after 1995, is being defined by global awareness, social responsibility and its sense that “life is short.” They may be more motivated to work for companies that offer a leave of absence to help on social projects in India than ones offering traditional compensation.


Cisco’s Enrique Martin told fellow HR directors that geography will be less a factor than age in the future workplace

Those were among the ideas shared by Enrique Martin, human resources manager for Cisco System’s Latin America and Caribbean region at a meeting of WorldCity’s HR Connections held Jan. 14.

Martin oversees business in a region where Cisco posts about $2 billion in sales yearly, and employs about 1,500 people in offices and about 5,000 people in factories.  A marathon runner, he takes the long view of technology and talent.  As innovation speeds up, he sees employees increasingly distinguished by their age and comfort level with new technologies, rather than their country of origin.

“Longer term, the main difference will be more about generations than geographies,” Martin said.

Today’s technology already has changed our approach to work. With email, smart phones and video conferences, more employees now work across time zones and can work “anywhere, anytime.” More also grapple with information overload and must nurture relationships without face-to-face contact.

For HR professionals, recruiting now involves mainly online resources, especially LinkedIn, not direct  meetings, added Cindy Oliver, director of HR for Miami-based tech company Terremark Worldwide.

One new challenge for recruiters is how to weigh postings on Facebook and other social media in evaluating a job candidate. Older generations tended to keep their personal lives more private, and older recruiters may wince at today’s youth who often live on-line, posting pictures of their partying nights and speaking of highly personal subjects on the Internet, participants said.

But younger generations see Facebook and other social media “as a chance to be part of the world, to be heard,” said Natalia Riquelme, who is leaving Nokia Latin America, where she is head of corporate social investment to work with WorldCity on a new program, the CSR Innovation Lab.

Riquelme said thoughtful recruiters should understand that social media lets you see someone as they really are: their thoughts, interests and lifestyle. Before the internet and before the explosion of social media,  job candidates could sugar-coat their resumes, and companies risked hiring someone who turned out to be quite different from how they portrayed themselves or how the company  had expected.

“Isn’t it good to have all that information about someone? Doesn’t it help in recruiting?” asked Riquelme. “We’re not hiding anything.”

But such openness raises questions about how employers might use the personal information about employees that they find on social media sites. For example, is it fair to disqualify a potential manager years later  because he happened to have photos on Facebook drunk at a party in college?, participants asked.

New laws and rules on using information from social media may be needed in years to come. And companies might even sprout to clean up your “social networking score,” the way that companies now  clean up your “credit score” to boost  your chances for jobs, loans and other applications,  said Lazaro Acosta, who is leaving Burger King, where he is HR director for Latin America and the Caribbean region.

HR professionals also will need to use their own judgment to evaluate personal information. Yet that often can be subjective. On good days, a recruiter may have the time and patience to delve into reasons behind problems in a job candidate’s history or Internet postings, such as a divorce or illness.  But on stressed-out days, she might be less understanding, said Diane Vento, formerly head of Human Resources for Olympus Latin America and now principal at Vento Dynamics.

What’s clear is that new technologies and new tools will keep emerging that will transform how we approach and perform our jobs, Martin told the group.

“These tools you can use for good or for bad, like a hammer,” Martin said.  “And the pace at which these new tools are coming is increasing.”

HR Connections is one of seven event series organized by WorldCity to bring together executives on international business topics, from marketing to social responsibility. The HR series is sponsored by the University of Miami School of Business Administration and executive search company Diversified Search Odgers Berndtson.

The next HR event is set for March 11.