Thursday, 6 October 2011

Social Networking at Work: Why Banning Facebook Makes You Like… the Oldest Person Ever. By Scott Keenan

Many organizations have banned Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites to combat work avoidance and increase productivity. This might work for some companies for now, but seriously….how old are you? I tried to explain to one of my superiors that I still check facebook on my phone, and it ends up taking longer than if I could just do it on the computer. She then expressed concern that I would run up a large phone bill. At first I was a little puzzled at why she thought I wouldn’t have purchased a data plan with my smart phone (does she think I’m stupid?), but then I realized she thought I was checking it with my office phone… the touchtone phone on my desk.

What Banning Social Networking Says About You

1. You don’t think much of your employees - You know who puts parental controls on things?...Parents! Treating your employees like children will naturally result in your employees acting like children. Giving an employee a computer and limiting what they can do with it lets them know that you don’t trust them to work efficiently on their own. In turn, you will retain many employees who are unable to work efficiently on their own. Congratulations??

2. You’re not interested in exploring innovative ideas - The ban can also stifle creativity. Social Networking has proven extremely effective in marketing, promotions and other areas. However, your staff will need access in order to use it effectively, or come up with ideas on how it can benefit the organization. Have you ever tried to research how social networking can improve your recruitment process using a computer that does not have access to social networking sites? It’s basically like making a peanut butter sandwich without peanut butter, knowing you will have to present this sandwich to the very people who banned peanut butter in the first place, and convince them that peanut butter is great. (I just won an award for using peanut butter the most times in a single sentence…it’s not a Pulitzer, but it’ll do for now).

3. You’re just lame - An inability to understand and follow technology just makes you appear out of touch. Even my mom can go on "the Google" or “Like” all of my Facebook statuses. (She doesn’t tweet yet, so that’s still cool.) If you do plan on blocking sites for anything other than security issues, make sure you block all of them. If you blocked LinkedIn to stop your employees from looking for work, why didn’t you block Career Beacon or other job banks? If Facebook is blocked why isn’t Twitter? You know I can link all of those together and still update my status every ten minutes right?  If you’re trying to block these sites to increase productivity, because you’re super-old and kind of lame, your main concern with these sites is the amount of company time your employees will waste using them. Newsflash: The internet has millions of different ways to waste my time. Social networking is but one of many. Remember when you tried to block msn messenger, and then they just created e-buddy and a slew of other similar sites? Aren’t they just going to do that again? Here’s a neat idea! Why don’t you check on your employee’s progress with the projects they’re working on and evaluate how they’re coming along? It’s called performance management….it’s kind of your job. If they’re not performing adequately you can look in to how much time they spend on these sites to see if work avoidance is the issue. You cannot look in to how long they spend on these sites on their personal phones or how long they spent staring off into space this week. Employees will rarely track this information for you. At least if they do it on your computer, you have some evidence of the work avoidance.

What to do with Gen Y

Young employees are rumoured to have a strong sense of entitlement, so you need some concrete reasoning behind why you’re removing these entitlements. Remember that this generation has grown up using social networking as a form of socialization. Prohibiting its use is just like telling them they can’t stop and chat with each other in the hall on company time. I’m not saying that there’s never a reason to ban these sites. There’s always the issue of bandwidth constraints or security issues. Just make sure when you’re imposing the ban, you’re doing it for a legitimate reason you can communicate to your staff so they don’t feel as though they’re being treated like children. Also, make sure you’re doing it in a smart way that doesn’t make you look old and out of touch. Alternatively, a much more effective approach would be a policy regarding internet use. Tell them their internet use should not affect their ability to do their job, and follow up if there are performance issues.

Side Note: When the phone bill comes in, you should be able to check how many times your employees tried to call facebook on their touchtone phone. Refer these ones to your EAP, and pray for their families. 

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