When we hear leaders lament the decline of professionalism in the modern workplace, many times their complaints fall under the category of millennials and technology. Employees spend too much time on their cell phones or spend work hours on social media or chat. Yet in the age of tech, when successful businesses often have a social media presence, it’s not possible to limit access to technology entirely.
So how do we encourage our teams to use technology responsibly and professionally in the workplace? Here are a few guidelines and best practices.
- Set ground rules up front. For many entry-level employees, their first jobs out of college are tremendous opportunities for learning and growth. While you have every right as a leader to expect professionalism from your employees, many new members of the workforce may not have received training in appropriate work behavior. Communicating your rules about behavior from the beginning (no personal calls, no Facebook or personal e-mail from work computers or outside of break times) may seem a bit pedantic or micromanaging, but will likely provide better outcomes in the weeks and months to come. Clear policies and consequences for violating the rules should be expressed up front.
- Model appropriate behavior. If you don’t want to sacrifice productivity to your employees’ tech habits, think about how you set the tone for your workplace. Do you scroll through your Facebook feed during staff meetings? Do you bury your nose in your phone when you should be working? Modeling ideal workplace behavior will show your employees that you practice what you preach and that you value the right times to use (or not use) social media.
- Think twice before blocking social media access. Using firewalls to block social media websites can help abuse in the short term, but it also sets a dangerous precedent that threatens team cohesiveness. Firewalls suggest to employees that you don’t trust them, and they’ll resent not being able to access websites of their choice during lunch breaks. It can also potentially hamper your business’s ability to remain relevant in the age of social media and limit your employees’ potential to serve as ambassadors for your company and brand.
- But also think twice before “friending” employees on social media. While this decision often follows the traditions and culture of the workplace, it’s best to remind employees (and keep in mind yourself) that maintaining boundaries at work is sometimes a good thing. Looking to connect with employees online can result in seeing things you (or they) weren’t intended to see, which could potentially influence your professional relationship. Sometimes it’s better not to know.
As social media becomes a vital part of doing business in the modern age, it’s important to remember that millennials are incredibly “at home” online. Given that parameters and policies for workplace professionalism are clearly communicated, businesses are recognizing the immense value that younger, tech-savvy workers bring to their business. Leaders just need to stress the importance of using that knowledge for good.
Leaders with the most impact are those who can build and successfully manage great teams. Every day, we help our clients and colleagues achieve their highest levels of professional presence and personal effectiveness. That includes everyone on the ladder, from company presidents to project managers, to staff members. Contact us at 800-282-3374 to find out how we can help you impact your own productivity and the productivity of your entire organization.
Employee Development Systems delivers results-oriented training programs that increase productivity, effectiveness, & performance.
Photo by Jason A. Howie via Flickr