Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fool's Errand

Our daughter works in HR for a local state-supported non-profit. They absolutely, positively prohibit employee use of social media at work. Don't do it, don't think about it, don't even think about thinking about it. This means she violates organizational policy whenever she updates their Facebook page or posts job openings on Craigslist.

You can't make this stuff up...

Now before you think I'm picking on one organization I would submit that there are a lot of old school traditionalists that are still of the mindset that social media use at work can be banned. The State of Tennessee where two of my relatives work has blocked eBay at the firewall. Many others have blocked Facebook. What all of these types of organizations fail to recognize is that a game changer has arrived.

Mobile Social Media. Here's why this changes everything.

According to Research in Motion approximately 50 million people use mobile social media applications, most notably Twitter and Facebook. At current sales projections this same report estimates that number by the end of 2012 to be 800 million.

Instead of a single phone usage communicating two-ways between two people (caller and receiver), one post can communicate instantly with tens of thousands and start a hundred thousand collatoral conversations. Our CEO can reach 90,000+ followers with one tweet from anywhere in the world instead of reaching one person with a phone call or email.

Vanguard's Vision 2010 report estimates that only 15 million adults in the world don't have a cell phone. Yes, you read that correctly, don't have a cell phone. In the next five years that number will be cut in half.

The Economist recently reported on a Chinese company making light-weight solar panel kits that sell in African for the equivalent of $70 U.S. dollars. One small panel on a grass hut provides enough electricity for a small cook stove, a few light bulbs, and a cell phone charger. Yes, you read that right as well.

Combine all these innovations with the rapid development and deployment of smart phone hardware and higher band-width networks (3G, 4G, etc...) and you have a worldwide e-ecosystem that operates outside of your company firewall.

Want to ban certain sites from your workforce? They'll access them on their phones. Want to control their phone use? Well, have you seen the small size of those phones? Hope you have cameras in the ladies room...

Workforce control is the SOP of weak managers who limit information out of personal insecurity or fear of hard conversations. Good management engages its workforce in the conversations pertinent to the business, especially the tough ones, and earns its respect. Concerned about confidentiality? Put confidentiality agreements in your Handbook and Employment Agreements and deal with violations as they come up. Oh yeah, and hire the right people and treat them well. Don't be afraid to get rid of the rest. Loyal and engaged people are better than the best security.

The better model is what we've done at Nelson. Encourage really good people to engage the marketplace in social media conversations that are good for the business. This current technology, much less whatever is coming next, makes your firewall obsolete except as a way of protecting your servers from hackers and viruses. Companies soon will have a simple choice; the fool's errand that brands your company as backward or the policy of engagement.


EJEllis said...

I see so many valid points in your article. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on managing the impact on productivity brought on by employees distracted from work by social surfing.

I truly enjoy your writing style & plan to watch Twitter for links to your future posts.

Thanks for sharing your professional views on this topic!


Benjamin Lichtenwalner said...

Excellent points - all of them. A company must serve their employees - not attempt to control them. A controlled employee is a poor one. A well served employee is happy, engaged and productive.

By the way, those employees using mobile devices to get around your firewalls? They're also commenting on you at - making it harder for you to hire quality employees in the future.

Jim Thomason said...

EJ I believe that in managing people's use of time there is no replacement for a present and engaged supervisor. If someone is wasting time the cause is irrelevant; it could be social media or gossip or web surfing for another job. Whatever it may be if the job has a full work load then time wasted will show up in missed deadlines and/or poor work quality. Managers should deal with that and not focus on the technology as the source of the problem in my opinion.

Thanks for the comment!