Workplace Communication Technology: Managers need to be like students, embrace technology

As published, Monday, October 15, 2012, by the New Haven Register.

By Frank Kenna III

Managers need to be like students, embrace technology.

Are company managers ready for the wave of connected kids, their future employees, who will soon be showing up at recruitment offices?

As was explained in a September Register article, today’s schools are busy working out the kinks of dealing with students who are hyper-connected to the outside world and each other 24/7.

The policies they’re developing today will be the ones company managers will have to deal with tomorrow.
Schools are taking an in-depth look at their BYOD (Bring Your Own Device: smartphone, laptop, iPad) policies. Should students be allowed to bring them at all? When may they be turned on? And, what activities can they be used for?

Some schools are actually requiring students to have them.

The schools are doing this for two reasons. One, they see the writing on the wall. One principal quoted by the Register said, “It’s hard to have people use [technology] as an integral part of their lives, then shut it off [at school].”

The other more powerful reason is that the learning techniques that can be used with touch-screen, interactive, online technology are truly revolutionary.

While business leaders often complain that the schools are not teaching the right skills, they need to be aware that a tidal wave of connected students, their future employees, are headed to their workplaces within a few short years.

Many of these businesses are still trying to figure out how to keep devices out of the workplace, instead of preparing for employees with new skill sets who are conditioned to learn quickly and in new ways.
I see conflict on the horizon. What’s going to happen when a freshly minted graduate who’s been using an iPad daily for four years shows up for work in a workplace that doesn’t allow personal devices?

The company I run sells products that help managers communicate important issues with their employees. Ten years ago, the standard workplace communication techniques involved posting paper posters and memos on walls.

We then developed digital signage products, but until recently faced significant sales resistance because managers didn’t get the new technology.

They do now, but we’re already on to products that communicate via smartphones and tablet computers. And once again, most of our customers aren’t ready.

That’s tolerable for now, but when these connected kids start showing up looking for jobs, company managers are going to have to be ready for them.

Just tolerating young employees and their devices won’t cut it either. Managers need to embrace these new workplace technologies now and learn what the schools already know — that these devices can radically increase learning rates and spur innovation and creativity.

The good is that once figured out, the results will translate into productivity and profit gains.

Frank Kenna III
December 28, 2012

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