Automate Monitoring of Social Media at Your Peril.
It is a sign of the times when a broard sheet, somewhat conservative newspaper such as the Sydney Morning Herald (Thursday 3rd May, 2011 p.16) has a piece in its Editorial that comments on and supports the use of Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter by employees during working hours.
Allowing the use of social media during working hours is a way of freeing people to be at once connected to their social network and involved in their work. Being socially connected provides a means for people to feel happy in their workplace with a ‘virtual window to the world’. As the SMH editorial opinion points out: “A happy worker makes for a happy employer”.
The deliniation between ‘at work’ and ‘leisure time’ has continually eroded due to the introduction of mobile phones, connection to IT&T systems such as e-mail for employees at home, PDA’s, Smart phones etc. The move by employers to have automated systems to track the amout of time that employees spend on social media during working hours is a one sided approach. As the Editorial points out and this author has pointed out in previous articles, there is expectation that employees will remain connected out of normal hours. If an employer introduces ‘tracking technology’ for social media, is it now appropriate for their employees to track the amount of time they spend on work related matters out of hours and send a message to their manager saying “warning, work involvement about to be exceeded, please self regulate”?
An effective manager is well aware of whether an employee is meeting targets and operating within the spirit of their employment. Using ‘apps’ to track the time people spend on social media during working hours introduces an Orwellian perspective of distrust that opens a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of ‘tit for tat’. The logical employee response will be “if you won’t let me have access to the outside world at work, why should I let you have access to my social time out of work” as the ‘Herald points out.
Thomas Watson Snr, founder of IBM, fostered the culture of enabling employees to ‘think’, even if that meant them taking time out of the work environment so they could be more effective in their work for IBM and introduce innovative ideas. One imagines that if Mr Watson was at the helm of an enterprise today, he would encourage the use of social media to enable his people to remain connected to the outside world, albeit in a frugal way, so that they were fresh and able to apply their creative thinking to the enterprise’s success; refreshed from feeling they were not ‘locked in a box’.
The ‘Connected Generation’ will not engage with organisations that do not recognise that they can’t have their cake and eat it too. If management introduces measures to stop social networking during work hours, they will either find an employer that will or refuse any work connectivity during their social hours. Prohibiting social networking during working hours or demonstrating that it is culturaly unacceptable is “so yesterday” – and “fully unproductive”!