It’s not a shiny-new phenomenon, that would be so boring. Breaking news… employees increasingly bring personal digital devices to work. Where once a company provided pagers and digital assistants – most often Blackberrys (OLD SCHOOL) – to a select few executives, field service and sales talent, today the workplace trend is for most employees to bring their own devices; from garden-variety cell phones to a plethora of smartphones, iPods, iPads and laptops.
It’s not unheard of for people to bring in audio and gaming systems, which are often Internet-enabled (Rhapsody, Pandora, anyone?) This presents a challenge for leaders. Do you agree? It’s not exactly a simple equation.
The short story is most of us work in digital workplaces, whether that’s what the business planned or not. This is problematic and wonderful for leaders on a number of levels: your IT team may be required to support some or all of these connected devices. Security of data is an open question when devices are not company-owned.
Also, there’s the whole question of who pays for what: can a company require an employee to list a cellphone on a business card if they don’t cover at least some of the cost? Then there’s ownership of data. Determining who owns email on an employee-owned device could be tricky. Regulations, like SarbOx, require very specific treatment for email stores, with chain of custody required and email archives and backup a non-negotiable business requirement.
Of course there’s the whole workplace productivity thing for employees (more employees are playing ‘Words with Friends’ or live-tweeting a client or company meeting, things are going to go South real fast). Games are one thing and only growing; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and G+ offer a different dimension of excitement and potential distraction.
I see both sides to this equation from a leadership perspective: there’s the fun collaboration and instant call-and-response of Twitter, Skype, Facebook etc–and, on the other hand, the sheer waste of time cycles represented by those very digital entities. HR Technologists—let’s tune in.
Let’s not forget security. Smart leaders give employees devices with full-on security software always running. But what if an employee accesses a secure email from a personal device? The road to Hell, after all, is paved with (someone’s) good intentions. What do we do next? How can leaders find the right balance?
And we haven’t even scraped the surface of ethics. What if your employees are downloading pirated content onto a company-owned device? It happens, more frequently than you may realize. I was not shocked the other day when someone I trust and believed to be morally unimpeachable, calmly stated she saw no problem with pirating content. The soul shudders. And who is wrong here? Me, for naïveté, or she, for amoral behavior? I Or both? I can see both sides being “right,” by the way. Music and culture makes me happy. This is not simple for a leader to connect the dots on.
So while connected workplaces and connected workers solve some business problems, they create others for leaders. Unintended consequences and all. Security is chief among these, followed by regulatory compliance and followed closely by unplanned demands on IT’s time and resources.
All of which means we have a meaty topic for this week’s TalentCulture World of Work #TChat. Please join us Wednesday night, February 15 from 7-8 pm ET (6-7 CT, 4-5 pm PT, or wherever you are) to talk about the realities – and perils – of the connected digital workplace. We need to be connected. Or do we? Don’t miss the discussion of workplace/worker connectedness and its many perils. Join me, Kevin Grossman, Maren Hogan, Sean Charles and Kyle Lagunas for a very special #TChat.
Here are this week’s questions:
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Q1: What does “digital workplace” mean to you and your business/company?
Q2: How does social tech and mobile make it easier and/or difficult to be productive today?
Q3: Are you allowed to bring your own digital devices to work? Why or Why not?
Q4: If you are allowed bring your own devices, how are security concerns addressed?
Q5: How can business leaders ensure responsible and compliant employees in the digital workplace?
Feature image: Chris-Håvard Berge