Some advice not to fear internet in the workplace

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You are scared that your employees stop working and spend their days surfing on the net ? A too easy shortcut based on the assumption that people inevitably lose their time when they are on the net. An assumption that may also be true. In fact, the issue is about two questions :

The first is to know if your staff need internet or not, what amounts to wonder if it can be a business tool or if it’s only a leisure tool.

In the case the answer to the first question is positive, the second question will be about usages. Nearly everybody agree that net surfing is like cholesterol : there is the “good surf” ” and the “bad surf”, the one who serves the company and the one that makes you waste your time.

Here again, there’s no “magic formula” but we can figure a few things out with a few common sense.

• Can internet be a business / work tool ?

I’ll spare you the traditional “Yes, it’s obvious” discourse. According to me it’s actually obvious. According to certain people it’s obvious that it’s obvious that it can’t be. “And that’s all’. There are very few chances we can get to anything sensible with such reasonings, so let’s try to have a more objective approach.

Try to list the kind of information your staff really need. And, among them, those than can only come from the outside. Let me help you a little… how would you consider an employee who doesn’t care about how the market is evolving, who is not interested in knowing what your competitors do, what is being published about his business concerns, about the future trends the company will have to adapt to. Let’s go further : what do you think of your employee’s ability to remain competitive in the next three years without any contact with ideas and people from the outside ?

No ! Your business intelligence dept. doesn’t have the answers to all these questions.

Yes. What will happen within your walls tomorrow depends on what’s happening outside today. And not the opposite.

In brief, this little work should have made you realize some things. And, possibly, you also understood that not every employee has the same needs. I guess your HR or Marketing people need more than financial controlers.

• Separate the wheat from the chaff

One thing is sure : they all have the needed tools, some know how to use them for business purposes. Some don’t. But, among those, who don’t, very few will develop “good practices” alone if they are not showed how and why. The best way to make sure they won’t have any undesired use of the net is to show them what a good use should be;

How to identify the relevant informations ? Where ? How much time to spend doing that ? These are relevant topics. You can even systematize the “amazement report” : “what did I learn this month that helped me with my work ? How ? What were the benefits”. Adopt a “carrot approach” and you’re close to build a benchmarking and ongoing improvement culture. Maybe, the next time they’ll use facebook, instead of playing vampires vs zombies, some will have the idea to check how your competitors are communicating, to get back in touch with a friend who was contacted by a competitor in order to know how they do things, how they sell, or read what some well-informed bloggers say about you, your market, your competitors.

Internet is like big rivers : you can’t stop them. But you still have the choice between bening flooded or use them to produce electricity. The choice is yours.