Managing the Online Culture Clash

Business Meeting

There is a real clash of cultures in our society, as Digital Skills become ever more vital for day to day living and business growth.  The younger generation, raised with computers, have an intuitive grasp of rapidly-changing online tools. The older generation, who have watched the extraordinary rise of the internet over the past 20 years with some trepidation, are being left behind.  This disparity can result in a clash of cultures in the working environment, ultimately damaging to business.

Business owners, managers and older entrepreneurs – the Penguins – have excellent corporate experience honed over years of building a successful business.  They may not have developed the same depth of understanding of the online space, and some even ignore it.  “Our customers can always find us.” “We don’t need a new website.” “We don’t get any sales online so why waste time and effort on social media?”

Younger staff, junior managers, and young entrepreneurs – the Polar Bears – can be frustrated by what they see as an ‘old-fashioned’ attitude.  They are used to communicating in a different way.  Rather than pick up the phone, they may ask a question on Twitter.  When they are given a business card or recommendation, the first thing they will do is check the company’s website.  If your online profile isn’t walking the walk, then you may have lost a sale.

When Penguins and Polar Bears meet head on, sparks can fly.  How do you manage that clash of cultures within your organisation?

  • Rather than fighting over different points of view, acknowledge the strengths of the other side.  Knowing how to navigate the complex online world is a Polar Bear’s strength.  Knowing how the business world works and understanding its risks is a Penguin’s strength.   Mutual respect builds a team.   If you can pool resources to reach your goal, you are coming in from the cold to a land of real opportunity.
  • Use your corporate experience to strip back business communication to the basics.  Who are you talking to?  What do you want to say?  What information needs to be broadcast – and what should be protected?  Now use the skills and knowledge in your team to take advantage of the most effective channels of communication.  You already do this when developing your staff:  if someone is particularly adept with a tool on the factory floor, you encourage them to specialise.  If you have a staff member who understands Twitter, encourage them, too.
  • Develop sensible, workable policies to manage corporate risk which you can put in place and implement consistently.  If you know there is a genuine business reason to act in a particular way online, explain it and enforce it.  Set clear guidelines about active communication, making a distinction between personal and business communication.  Decide what is right for you and your business as you move into a new world together.

Managing the clash between Penguins and Polar Bears is all about communication, respect, and a willingness to learn.  When you find the common ground, your business will grow stronger.

Poles Apart: Challenges for Business in the Digital Age is available on Amazon