Memo to employers who want to create and retain happy and engaged staff –

Memo to employers who want to create and retain happy and engaged staff –

– and who talk about their work-life balance ethos, support for employee engagement and so on.

 If you are serious about (a) treating your staff as adults; (b) making it easier for them to have a work-life balance and,  indeed,  a life away from the office and (c)  you really,  truly want to engage with them and make them feel that they’re supportive of the wider organisation:

 – then consider loosening the shackles on your IT policy. 

You know,  the policy which blocks approximately two thirds of the internet, making it impossible for anyone to do anything on the net in their own time,  such as at – radical thought – lunchtime.

Most lists of handy hints and tips on how to be more organised,  as either a working parent or just as a wage slave,  with or without children,  will these days suggest that you go on-line and do stuff. 

Pay your bills,  on-line.  Order your groceries,  on-line.  Book a hair appointment – on-line. 

Great: if you can GET on-line.

Of course,  I’m not suggesting that we’re on the payroll in order to spend the day surfing around chat rooms,  porn sites and other nefarious sections of the Net.

Or even on Facebook.  Or Twitter.  Or Linked-in.


But equally,  there are sections of the working day (first thing in the morning,  ahead of the arrival of your colleagues,  or at lunchtime) when I think it would be valid to be able to do the odd personal thing at your computer,  given you’re sat there anyhow.  The fact that sites such as those for grocery deliveries, banking and the like are banned says to me that someone, somewhere has done a survey and made a conscious decision to block them,  along with the webmail sites,  the porn and so on.

 This to me is old-school, twentieth century,  thinking.  Firstly, it’s failing to acknowledge that,  these days,  a lot of people do live a lot of their lives on-line – and if they’re away from home, working for you,  for c. 60 hours per week if you include travelling time,  then it’s pretty difficult to do those things Monday to Friday.

Secondly, it’s not treating your staff  (especially the Gen Y crowd, who’ve never known a life without instant on-line access) as if they are the smart, skilled adults that you must have thought they were when you hired them. Instead, it’s treating them as if they’re cunning, work-shy net surfers who’d be on-line 24/7 if they only had the technical environment to make that possible.

 What you end up with too,  is possibly counter-productive.  You may think that you’re stopping the work-shy cubicle rats at your version of Veridian Dynamics from spending hours on Facebook,  but all you’re doing is creating a culture where people have their smart phones on “silent”,  do what they can on-line via apps but under their desks and where an illicitly plugged in BlackBerry, Nokia or iPhone charger is worth its weight in gold.

 Does that really spell “talent management” or “employee engagement” to you?


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