If you entered the professional workforce more than, say, ten years ago, you probably can't imagine an environment in which computer access was disallowed.
Or imagine, twenty years ago, if using the telephone in your daily tasks was not permitted.
But what if you were expected by management to get your job done as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Wouldn't you be thinking management was foolish to deny you access to the tools that you'd used in your daily life...growing up and throughout your education years?
You'd be thinking members of management are not very bright or not very trusting--maybe both--and that they are definitely cutting off their collective nose to spite their face.
Yes, both of these tools can also be used for "playing around" and not getting our work done. Being (gasp) unproductive! But they can also empower us to get our jobs done exponentially faster than without them.
Along these lines, for years we've watched big morale problems stem from companies locking down Internet, blogs, and IM access. Frustration arises because we now KNOW that these tools let us research and communicate better and faster than ever before. And the bulk of the reason for prohibition is/was...lack of trust in us to not "abuse" these "privileges" of access.
Now we include social media in the mix. Resources like instant access to brilliant friends through Linked In and Twitter deliver solutions in mere seconds! (And, yes, the same tools permit us to mess around and waste time, too).
Personal access to these tools, that we and our kids have been using for 5-10+ years, on a daily basis, is so affordable and portable that all the company lockdown policies serve to accomplish is to insult and anger the people we hire.
Just as we would have been insulted if we were given no access to a telephone. Or basic computer.
And with smartphones, the access to these banned tools is right in peoples' hands if not on company equipment. We didn't have that luxury back in the day to compensate for prohibited phone/computer access, did we?
Is big mutiny on its way?
I think it is. Check out this poll from Junior Achievement & Deloitte.
Okay, so we know that teens and very young adults aren't the perfect group to look at for evidence of wisdom and judgment in application of professionalism and ethics in how they currently use their social media.
But what we DO know is that the access to ideas and information, not to mention marketing-related contacts, through their extensively developed social networks will be UNPARALLELED when today's youth are tomorrow's emerging professionals. The speed and ingenuity in accessing resources and creating solutions will be impressive.
So what can we do to prepare?
- Open our minds.
- Loosen our policies.
- Educate current employees about appropriate and inappropriate amounts and forms of usage.
- Give people time to change their habits accordingly.
- Add a new element to our people search:
Hiring well will require us to be even more thoughtful, diligent and smart in detecting signs of professionalism and good judgment in those we hire. And then continued training peppered with lots of trust is the only way to deal with this in a healthy manner.
Think back to parenting skills... you cannot rule with an iron fist and simultaneously expect well-adjusted, self-sufficient children.
Frankly, we are all battling the increased distraction of competing technologies vying for our attention.
We could probably ALL use some education and refreshers on prioritization and time management! We sure aren't born with these skills.
And note the sub-heading of the above-referenced story: "Survey Explores Ethical Implications of Teens' Social Networking; Signals to Employers That Training in Ethical Decision-Making is Necessary"
Which of us couldn't use some more training on decision-making?
Some firms have already experienced turnover due to ludicrous, insulting (and sometimes hypocritical) policies that are in place--equating to no phones or computer access (their departed employees have told me so).
Firms that don't become more adaptive may well end up with good, old-fashioned mutinies on their hands.