Try this question during a job interview: “If I spend time at work doing personal career management activities on social sites using my mobile device, is that OK with management?” A not-yet-published Gartner study shows such mobile careering is more common than you may think. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
The study of over 500 US based knowledge workers in September, 2010 found that a third used their personal devices during the prior 30 days to access social networking sites while at work. Quite often (70% of the time) this usage was for personal or personal career advancement purposes.
I’m sure the immediate reaction to these stats will range from anger to resignation to the fact they can’t do anything about it (unless they want the workplace to feel like a Mississippi prison).
But I see another, valid point of view. I have written before (in A Different Take on the Argument In Favor of Social Software) about the potential for negative bias to the applicant pool of organizations that clamp down on social software. So while it may seem obvious that letting employees spend work time updating the job history on their profiles or chatting with potential employers, there are some devil’s advocate questions I’d like to ask:
- As we’ve moved from the “company man” era to job-hopping being expected (indeed, it even looks bad to many potential employers if you’ve stayed at the same company for 15 years), is this just a natural next step? That employees now take an even more active role in nurturing their careers and employers benefit by getting rid of people that don’t want to be there and having a better pool of applicants coming in?
- Are workers that actively manage their careers better workers on average and, if so, will attempts to restrict these activities lower the average quality of a company’s job candidates (assuming you can’t keep draconian policies hidden from applicants)?
- If you can’t stop it is it better to concentrate on reaping the benefits?
If I were a CEO or HR policy maker, before a knee-jerk reaction I would:
1. Assess where your company is on the compliance scale relative to competition for talent (geographic area and industry). Decide how far you want to deviate from that mean for competitive or business protection reasons. For example, no matter how sensible a policy of not allowing social software at work (or career management), if you’re the only company in town and among your top competition doing it there’s a higher risk of losing good candidates. But if everyone is doing it, that may be fine.
2. If you haven’t already, begin tracking where new employees are coming from and the degree to which social media played into it. If you see that number is high or increasing, you may not want to look down on the same technology that is getting you candidates in the first place.
3. Consider SNA – social network analytics. Begin to correlate employee performance with SNA centricity to guide policies that may rein in networking. You may find heavily networked employees should be encouraged, rather than facing an inscription on the entrance to the HR department that reads “Abandon hope (and smartphones) all ye who enter here”
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