In the last instalment of this column, we discussed the different generations in the workplace.
Systems Think with Sam Hlabati
The one element that was common about the generations was the embracing of technology, albeit at differing levels of proficiency; stretching from ability to use a calculator by the older mankind to the younger folk who are “tech dependent”.
The use of technology brings to the fore the use on internet facilities within the workplace. When the internet first appeared, it was a scarce commodity that was used to transmit files and send e-mails. With the increase in connectivity, internet connectivity is now found on the dashboard of a motor vehicle, on a watch (Galaxy Gear and others).
No-one in their clear mental state would accept using a phone that has no internet connectivity capabilities; unless they are part of the old folk who use the gadgets solely to receive calls from their grown children and grand-children.
When the internet first appeared, companies scrambled to get internet use policies in place. Employees who were found to have contravened the internet use policies were charged with offences such as using the facilities for personal use and relieved of their duties.
Believe me; some people’s careers were cut short because of using some 10 couple hundred megabytes of company internet facilities’ data for personal use in a month. Hands up all those who do not use their workplace internet facilities for any form of personal use. Raise them high I cannot see you, don’t be shy for you are the good fellas.
Wow, you deserve my applause for being such liers; unless you do not facilitates internet connection at all. Okay maybe you do not understand the concept of “use of company property for personal use”, it means exactly that, usage other than that which is one hundred percent for and on behalf of the company. So we have all at some point used the available internet for personal use.
I have a bone to chew with leaders who penned out their workplace internet use policies at the advent of the internet facilities. My argument is based on whether their policy that outlaw the use of internet facilities for personal use are still being adhered to.
I belief that the prohibition of all forms of personal use where quite possible at the time when the availability of internet connectivity was limited to a few computers that were used by the lucky few, such as the secretaries and the data entry clerks.
Those were the days when the transmission of emails were limited to company email addresses such as ‘accounts‘@’company name’.com”, that were used by all across the whole department. Back then, the use of personal email addresses such as ‘yourname’@’yourcompany’.com and ‘yourname’@gmail.com were not even in people’s imagination. In the current times, the clauses in the internet use policies that are related to personal use are conceivably only invoked in selected cases when particular individuals are somehow targeted and the bosses are clutching at straws in efforts to get the individuals out of the organisation.
Let me say that the retention of the original restrictions of internet facilities for personal use point to either an antiquated leadership that has been for too long been charge of an organisation, most probably gathering dust alongside their ancient unrevised policies; or points to a leadership regime that relies on invoking “spatially and selectively” applied policies used to settle grudges.
Such an approach to employee relations management would be as unfortunate as it is undesirable; more akin to a draconian approach to the treatment of political dissent and opponents characteristic of undemocratic governance dispensations that rely on “special powers”.
A progressive approach to the use of internet facilities and communication technology at large in the workplace should be more tolerating; being more behaviour modelling that being restrictively controlling.
I challenge any organisation to consider to religiously, without “fear or favour”, apply restrictive policies on banning the use of internet facilities for personal use.
I can swear that the strict application of such policies would result in the removal of most team members from the organisation who have the ability to use a computer; charged with committing the offence of “unauthorised use of company property”.
In this light, it is clear that the policies restricting use of internet facilities could be ready for the business management museums.
I take that organisations need to move into the new age, thus the regulation of the behaviour of employees when using the communication technology that is at their disposal, both within the workplace and outside, whether provided for by the employer or self -provided.
The age that we are in is that of communication rather than connectivity access, for internet connectivity is now available on a plethora of devices.
Social media is the new platform of communication that is at the disposal of everyone. It is arguably true that most individuals do communicate more words and messages on social media than they do in face-to-face communication in their daily lives.
I would challenge the younger folk to confirm whether it is not true that they are likely say more words on Whatsapp and Facebook in a given day (given the forwarded messages) than they would utter in face-to-face conversations; taking cognisance of the multiplicity of persons that one can chat to simultaneously on social media.
To keep the younger generation in the workplace, at least in your ownorganisation, there is a need to review, if not scrap the restrictive policies that control the access to internet facilities.
Some may immediately raise the argument about costs associated with internet access. I would retort that with advancing the view that it would be more prudent to allow access, and then restrict volume of content allowed; such as putting data quotas per individual than a complete ban to access.
New age policies should focus on the use of social media, both within the workplace and outside, for one has continuity of use of the platforms throughout all the social settings they are engaged in.
The behaviours that are engaged in by the employees in social media platforms can damage their own character reputations and could ultimately bring their own company’s name into disrepute. Therefore, organisations should be concerned about the social image that their individual employees do portray in the social media circles.
You could be familiar with the case of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling who is currently been mired in controversy since the celebrity website TMZ.com released an audio recording with a voice said to be Sterling’s criticising a woman friend for associating with “black people.”
The recording included Sterling asking his friend not to invite former Los Angeles Lakers star player Earvin “Magic” Johnson to games. The NBA banned Sterling for life and ordered him to pay a fine of US$2,5 million. He has been ordered to sell his team.
The conduct of your team members on social media needs to be guided; helping them avoid hate speech, offensive words, indecent exposure and being dragged into controversy.
A picture of one of your employees, who is publicly associated with your organisation, portraying them in a compromising and deplorable state could damage your organisations’ reputation alongside the employee’s public image.
Such an activity could have been posted onto social media without the use of your company’s internet facilities, however that should be more concerning to the organisation than the use of company internet facilities to send a couple of personal emails or using Facebook on the company’s internet facilities to post a decent picture.
The United Nations declared that the access to internet is basic human right.
The question then is this; Are organisations saying that they would want to deny employees a basic human right simply due to their consideration for costs? Or should organisations rather allow for the provision of a basic human right (internet access) without necessarily allowing employees to abuse data.
There are countries that have passed human rights laws connected to access to the internet. Estonia passed a law in 2000 that declared access to the Internet a basic human right.
Sam Hlabati is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®), a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP®) and a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter handle; @samhlabati'