Entries from December 2007 ↓

Stop Blocking covered on “The Rundown”

I completely forgot to blog this — I meant to — but Luke Armour interviewed me on his BlogTalkRadio show, “The Rundown,” earlier this month. The subject was Stop Blocking, the wannabe grassroots campaign I started out of frustration over the kneejerk company action of blocking employee access to online content.

In case you haven’t heard a BlogTalk Radio show before, it’s essentially a radio call-in-like experience, with audiences listening live online and calling in through a phone line. The entire session is recorded and made available as a download and as a podcast (through subscription to the series). There were a few call-ins that spiced up the session, and Luke‘s a solid interviewer.

I was also impressed with BTR’s functionality. It would be a kick for Neville and me to record an occasional episode of FIR this way, much as we’ve done with our two SkypeCast efforts (which produced quesitonable results).

This post is cross-posted to my regular blog.

At-work online shopping as an employee benefit

While so many companies worry about the productivity issue with access to online content, consultant David Gammel wonders if allowing employees to use online shopping sites at work might not be better approached as a benefit:

Announce that each employee is encouraged to spend up to 2 hours shopping online for the holidays. Tell them they have to work out coverage and scheduling with their bosses but that you want to recognize all they do for you year round by making their shopping a bit easier. You gain good will and scheduling efficiency while losing nothing that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

The shopping thing has always rubbed me the wrong way. As one CEO put it to me, would you rather have your workers spend 30 minutes on the web doing some shopping, or have them take a three-hour break to go to the mall? With the kinds of hours companies are demanding of workers, if they can’t shop while working they probably won’t have much of an opportunity to shop at all. (Remember the days when you couldn’t make personal phone calls from work? When, exactly, then, were you supposed to call your doctor, who worked the same hours you did?)

Gammel’s idea is a good one: Build employee loyalty by letting them know you expect them to bring their lives to work just as much as you expect them to take their work home.

The growing social media contradiction

Rob Cottingham pointed me to a Canadian study that suggests business and marketing leaders believe the importance of social media is eclipsing that of traditional media. The study determined that 46% of respondents say that social media is more important than TV, radio, newspapers and magazines; 85% believe social media have become vital elements of the communication mix.

At the same time, though, 66% don’t think employees should be using it at work.

The study of 444 business and marketing leaders was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights for Veritas Communications’ new com.motion unit.

Consider that, according to the study, 43% of business and marketing leaders have profiles on MySpace or Facebook. That would include a significant number who believe their own employees shouldn’t be able to access that profile or interact with the business leader — or other employees, customers, or others in their business network — during company time.

If social media are critical elements of the communication mix, shouldn’t employees be exposed to it? Participate in it? Shouldn’t the organization help employees figure out how to represent the organization in their online dealings, the way some companies are?

Rob also wondered (in his note to me), “So… Which group of employers is going to be more attractive to a young, entrepreneurial workforce in an era of skills shortages? And which group stands the better chance of being alive, vibrant and growing in ten years’ time?”

At least we’re starting to witness some chinks in the armor. A few days back, I heard the usual report from job placement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas warning companies that productivity would suffer on Black Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving when online retailers offered deep discounts. Their estimate: $488 million in lost productivity, based on 68.6 million American workers spending an average of 12 minutes on the Net. The company also pointed out that those 12 minutes result in $700 million in online sales, which is positive for the economy. But in the radio interview I heard, John Challenger also said that employees are increasingly expected to work when they’re away from the office, which balances things out.

Challenger also offered this, from a report in the Kansas City Star:

While employers shouldn’t be surprised to see distracted employees on Monday, Challenger, Gray said it is hard to measure productivity using a traditional “widgets per hour” formula.

The consulting firm said that while some productivity will be lost, employers should not fret because, realistically, workers are not paid by the minute and are not expected to be productive every minute of their work day.

Overall, “… unless online shopping causes deadlines to be missed or Internet performance to suffer, companies should not attempt to crack down on the practice. Doing so could negatively affect moral and loyalty, which ultimately will have a greater impact on the bottom line than a few minutes of cyber shopping,” said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas has been releasing these productivity calculations for some time, around everything from Black Monday to the NCAA Final Four. This is the first time I’ve seen an admission that the numbers don’t mean very much.

I’ve cross-posted this from my blog.