The following headlines and statistics have been gathered about how you're supposedly being ripped off by your employees. These are the same exact employees who, the Department of Labor now says, cost employers an average of $20.00 per hour ($42K annually) to retain. If you sign the payroll, the following five sentences may cause nausea, resentment or hysterical blindness.
Nonwork related Internet surfing results in up to a 40 percent loss in productivity each year in American businesses! Some 86 percent of all employees use office e-mail for personal reasons! Seventy percent of all Web traffic to Internet pornography sites occurs between the work hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.! Want more? Sixty-four percent of employees have received offensive e-mails at work, 24 percent of American workers admit to shopping online at work and even more cop to watching sports online while "working."
Is your heart pumping now? Is there tingling in your left arm? Does your wallet hurt? If so, then maybe you have sped over the first three speed bumps on the treacherous hairpin turn known as critical thinking: Is the source of these statistics credible and unbiased, is the data reasonable and who performed and benefits from this study? Having jumped the gun myself on biased information, I offer up this cautionary scenario as healthy friction to any premature actions you might take in your future and as an icy coolant to chill out any feverish future overreactions.
Here's the lowdown on the Internet abuse statistics you've just read. The source of the factoids is a private company; however, they are not survey specialists. The data did not come from a single comprehensive study with consistently applied controls. As it turns out, this company distributes software that documents and archives employee Internet activity. Surprise! Our helpful little company is in the employee monitoring business. That connection doesn't negate the data entirely, but you might agree that it does raise concerns about its purity of purpose.
The Lure And Hold Of The Internet
Broadband access to the Internet in the workplace is both a magical device and a devilish snare, but it wasn't always that way. The Internet was first created as a socially neutral platform meant to facilitate research and communication between academic and military agencies. It had little cultural impact. Its adolescence was defined by the dot-com gold rush, demonstrating nearly unfathomable growth fueled by an explosion of Web pages, domain name grabs and speculative business development by hordes of panting Internet millionaire wannabes.
The Internet of 2007 is now so vastly different from the Internet of Y2K that it has even been given a new name — Web: 2.0. No longer just a technological revolution, Web 2.0 has more than delivered on its promise of social impact on a planetary scale with rich, user-driven experiences like blogging, the rise of citizen journalists, shopping and gaming sites. The Web 2.0 is fast becoming the ultimate distraction from the uncompromising real world. It also comes with hooks creating a new clinical phenomenon: Internet addiction.
The Rights Of Businesses, The Wrongs Of Cyberslackers
Earlier in my career, B.I. (Before Internet), I had supervisory responsibility for a good number of employees. Our company put great emphasis on fairness. Management worked hard and we needed our people to work hard, too. We offered solid pay, a full benefit package and a safe, modern facility. These were good stable jobs with both a path for future growth and a path to management's open door. We tried to hire only productive people but we sometimes made mistakes and took on a time thief. You know the infuriating type. Visiting somewhere fascinating, like cyberspace, was not required in order to waste time, and they didn't need instant messages to disrupt and annoy your other hard workers. They could cut a path of destruction with a post-lunch stroll and a stale joke.
No business should tolerate employees who chronically slack off and become industrious only when it comes to creatively stealing time and a paycheck. However, when it comes to performance and time, I would urge any owner who still believes that a paycheck buys a person's time by the minute, to carefully reconsider the expiration date on that scenario. You can reasonably expect that from a machine,but not a human being. There has been a significant turnaround in the last decade when it comes to the incredibly valuable role that today's knowledge workers play within an organization. If you're not certain, try to answer this: Do you pay employees for minutes they work or for accomplishments? Knowledge workers are renewable, remarkable resources, not machine assets. Today, you might find it more appropriate to think of an employer as a contractor, hiring a person with talent to accomplish a set of particular goals for total compensation that makes the work profitable for both the employer and the talent.
If the offending staffer can't be coached to respect the environment that you've created and change their ways, then they should be quickly fired for cause. That act will demonstrate your commitment to keeping a fair and productive workplace far more effectively than any policy statement ever could. Giving just the offending party the bum's rush proves your dedication to an ideal. You are no longer just a boss who loves paper rules — you are an action hero upholding standards, protecting your people and kicking slacker butt.