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    « HR Happy Hour Episode 4 - SHRM 2009 Recap | Main | HR, Barbecue, and a Blog Conference »

    Be innovative (but only with the tools we give you)

    I am sort of but not really an IT person, so I understand why most corporate IT departments like to enforce consistent standards for the workforce's computers.  Security, compliance with vendor licensing, reduced maintenance cost etc. are the typical reasons why an organization will issue a company computer with an 'official' configuration and a set of applications pre-installed.  The exact mix of applications could vary depending on the user's role, but essentially, the employee is expected to perform their job duties using the 'delivered' configuration.

    And in many organizations this standard pc configuration is coupled with an aggressive internet filtering system that blocks access to unauthorized sites from the company's network.  Originally these filters were put in place to block pornography and gambling sites.  Then as now it does seem like employees whiling away the hours surfing porn and playing online poker would be a drain on productivity. But don't employees already know that?  Do you really need to actively marshal IT resources (that theoretically have more strategic, value add activities to work on) to make sure your staff isn't abusing the internet?

    Do we really need to put up a sign in the breakroom that says 'Committing a felony is against company policy?'

    I digress. 

    The main issue is how these risks and issues get quantified.  It is pretty easy for the IT folks to calculate how PC support costs are kept 'in-line' by enforcing a strict set of standards.  It is also fairly simple to determine the costs to the company if a malicious computer virus infected the network and rendered all the computers inoperable for a period of time.

    What is much harder, if not impossible to quantify is the 'cost' of employees not being able to download a free application or program to experiment with that may help them become more productive.  If a key piece of information or training course is available via YouTube, but the company blocks the site, who knows how long it will take the employee to find the needed information from an 'allowed' source. These costs are real, even if they can't be precisely measured.  And what else is real is the frustration level for employees who know that there is a better, and more efficient way to do things but have their hands tied by company IT policies.

    And don't even get me started on companies blocking access to social networking sites.

    In today's downsized, pressure-packed, do more with less world, we are asking our employees to be more productive and innovative, but in many cases not equipping them with the freedom to use all the tools in the workbench. Rolling out 'company-issue' PC after PC and clamping down on worker's online resources might have made sense 10 years ago, but that time is long gone.

    Note - This post is dedicated to Lisa Rosendahl of HR Thoughts, who was not able to watch a live stream of a SHRM 2009 panel during which the panelists specifically mentioned her blog as a great example for HR blogging in the public sector.

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