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The World Beyond the LAN: Trust and Human Resources

“We’re all baby boomers and we are making the rules, but it’s important to understand that all our recruits and all our people are coming from a different mindset and a different space. A lot of our new employees are all generation X, generation Y, et cetera. If you don’t create the environment that keeps them in the system, they’re gone.”

David Stewart, group managing director, John Holland, the Australian construction group, explaining the company’s decision to reinstate Facebook access after banning it for a few weeks, as reported by Oz’s Daily Telegraph.

Mr Stewart is evidently a really bright guy- well capable of seeing the bigger picture, and trusting his employees.

“It got closed down because there was this fear in the market that it was going to destroy the whole world. Yet, they let people talk on their phones, and let them go out and have a cigarette and talk on their mobile phones, but they closed down what is a fundamental communication tool to probably more than half of our workforce.”

Compare and contrast with a statement reported on Stephen’s blog earlier this week.

Tom Tabor, CIO, Highmark:

“So, what don’t we allow our employees to do? We do not allow access to any Web-based email, instant messaging or Wi-Fi access. We do not see material impact to our employees by restricting access to these. Additionally, we do not allow noncorporate [flash drives, cameras and other personal devices] to be accessed via USB ports on PCs, and only system administrators have the capability to install software on PCs.”

Stephen made the point that attempts at “control” are doomed to failure.

“Control, as much as enterprises don’t like to hear it, is very often little more than a pipedream. More to the point, the cost of control may far outweigh the benefit of freeing users to work more effectively with others in disparate geographies or systems.”

This is part of an ongoing conversation with IBM’s Anant Jhingran and Carl Kessler.

I am glad Carl has joined the blog conversation because he is an important voice in enterprise software development. At Tivoli he pioneered watching how sysadmins actually used software in order to develop products for them (go figure!) I remember pushing him hard on digital rights management and document control a couple of years back, saying IBM needed to say something on the subject, given Microsoft’s DRM push. He just smiled and said: “If you trust your employees you don’t need DRM.”

Which brings us back to the point. Most people, I suspect particularly the generation that went to college in the last ten years or so, will want to work for employers that trust them, not those that try and control them. They will also want to work at places that allow them to use the tools they know make them productive. Forget ROI studies- this generation doesn’t need, expect or want someone else to tell them whether web services might make them more productive. It would be like saying no you can’t use a pen- you have to use this chalk and slate. Forget the phone we have this cool pigeon service…

Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and so on are not matters for IT professionals to decide, really. They are questions for managing directors and human resources professionals. If you want to hire top talent you need to trust people and help them become even more effective. Shutting things down won’t cut it. Is training required alongside the trust? Absolutely. Does your corporation need clear policies about acceptable behaviour, online and off? Obviously.

The bottom line- great people are going to contribute directly to the bottom line. If you want to hire them I suggest you get hip to the thinking of visionaries like David Stewart at John Holland. If I was in Australia I might ask for a job in their desalination business. Highmark- not so much.

John Holland’s job vacancies can be found here.

Enterprise 2.0 is not just a philosophical discussion. Its about people and productivity.

disclosure: I slightly altered the word order in the upfront quote. Please see the Daily Telegraph story for the quote order.

I got the John Holland link from James Dellow of the ChiefTech blog. He seems to be mining a rich seam. When checking his url today, I came across this, which he got from Burton’s Mike Gotta. Its very relevant. Its not rocket science, or is it?

The workplace is changing in ways not due entirely to the introduction of new technology or new philosophies of management. The workforce itself is changing. The rise of the millennial generation brings workers who are more introspective, more connected to the world and their community, and less willing to align themselves to the needs of employers.

For organizations like NASA, which rely on the knowledge, commitment, and skilled leadership of its people, the millennial generation joining the workforce as baby boomers retire will create challenges across the next several decades. Understanding something about this generation can help organizations make the best use of its many talents.

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10 Responses

  1. Great post. We are assuming two things though….1) HR knows its people, knows its business, and knows what makes them productive and successful (which most clearly don’t) and 2) IT today is not based on risk mitigation (which clearly it is today). The fact of the matter is HR as with many other functional areas with an organization still relies on IT to really tell them what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds. I met with an head of HR recently that saw the value in Facebook for things such as recruiting. Unfortunately her recruiters could not access Facebook because the IT organization blocked it.

    I would not assume our functionality leaders know the power of Web 2.0 etc today nor, maybe, will they ever!

  2. Hm.. I wonder if Highmark has a dresscode .. and regulates how often employees get a bio-break :-)

  3. Really great post. Trust spurs productivity, and is a 2 way street. An organization the uses technology to lock down and treat their employees as if they were 12 year olds is only going to get 12 year old levels of productivity out of them.

  4. James said: “I suspect particularly the generation that went to college in the last ten years or so, will want to work for employers that trust them, not those that try and control them.”

    How about those organizations that view employees as babies who need to be disciplined and taken care of? Apparently in India, this viewpoint is a “critical success factor” for HR professionals!

    Don’t believe it? http://www.missionmindedmanagement.com/employees-are-babies-throwing-tantrums-says-hr-their-benevolent-caretaker

    Michelle Malay Carter

  5. Jason – right on right on right on. What would the world look like if companies merged IT and HR – and then gave them a seat at the board. more productive I suspect. Imagine the culture issues. heh.

    Zoli – I am sure Highmark has cameras installed in the bathrooms.

    Sean- I concur in some respects. But you don’t give 12 year olds the credit they deserve. they get a surprising amount done. i know i did. that was the only time in my life i was ever really a hacx0r.

    Michelle- I can see that being an issue, but not everyone in India is thinking the same way obviously. See this poster from Microsoft India
    http://www.gapingvoid.com/0710bluemonsterindia.jpg

    jgovernorOctober 26, 2007 @ 3:52 pmReply
  6. G’Day James. Glad to see you found some interesting stuff over on my ChiefTech blog. Just reading the title of your post also makes me think about this in yet another way – the LAN is shrinking http://chieftech.blogspot.com/2007/10/gartner-top-10-what-about-liquid.html, the Internet and social networking is going mobile http://chieftech.blogspot.com/2007/10/getting-introduced-to-bluepulse.html … so what’s the point in blocking it? Generation Web 2.0 aren’t coming to work for the Internet connection. All your comments about trust, etc still stand.



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] James Governor’s Monkchips » The World Beyond the LAN: Trust and Human Resources Excellent article on trust and the enterprise. “I suspect particularly the generation that went to college in the last ten years or so, will want to work for employers that trust them, not those that try and control them.” (tags: trust enterprise security forwork) […]

  2. […] James Governor’s Monkchips » The World Beyond the LAN: Trust and Human Resources Extensive control in corp environment doesn’t work any more. (tags: work generationgap) […]

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