The Digitally Savvy Workplace

Welcome to Sunday Koa Kākou. Sunday is the day I answer questions you send to me (or I take the day off! Want different? Be a Squeaky Wheel). If you have a question connected to management and leadership, leave a comment here, or email me

From the Say “Alaka‘i” mailbox:

Rosa, in telling us about Twitter, you wrote: “On the other side of the spectrum, there are scores of businesses still resisting giving internet access to their staff much less taking the plunge with social media, and caution is wise.” So it sounds like you are in favor of businesses opening up internet access to people while they’re at work; true or false?

True, especially for those who are using the computer right now as a workplace tool. I think that working at a computer keyboard without internet access in 2009 is very short-sighted. It’s like expecting a chef to prepare food with sauce spoons but no knives, or expecting a librarian to work in a place that censorship is actively practiced in stocking the bookshelves.

And that is primarily why I am in favor of internet access at work: The internet is a portal which gives staff access to the biggest ‘library’ of information on the planet. Close that portal, and you handicap your chances with approaching the full capacity of your business enterprise.

That clickable mouse is a library card

Google is now a verb. I have not used the white or yellow pages of a phone book for as long as my coaching business has been in existence (SLC is in it’s 6th year now). Consider how our kids will do their homework, and how we all gather so much of the information we’re looking for when we are on our computers at home. Why not bring that common sense to work, opening up access to the thought leaders in your field across our entire planet?

While experiencing the web’s digital, virtual library, the person with computer mouse in hand learns exactly how to access it for real-time need, facilitating the improved quality of actions taken to then immediately implement that knowledge within day-to-day workplace context. We have far, far surpassed the days of only using computers for word processing, or as a fancy spreadsheet calculator, or for the mac-kids and artsy types saving digital pictures and doing graphics layouts.

If a business owner fears the time sinks possible with web-surfing (the biggest objection by far ”“ time frittered away reading stuff unrelated to work), I highly suspect they have an assortment of different challenges requiring their immediate attention. They need to get to the root cause of the problem, namely that their staff is not interested enough in the job at hand: Work bores them. On the other hand, when work is engaging, fulfilling and meaningful, people are actively preoccupied with doing it: Their day flies by, and they find they only have time to web surf at home, for they’ve bought in, and genuinely believe the work they do is more important.

There are new cautions with Social Media

That said, I did not expect Twitter —or even reading this blog— to be on your list of sites to visit while at work: I fully expect this to be extra-curricular reading for managers and leaders who are taking on the tertiary learning of Managing with Aloha (the ‘rootstock mission’ of my Say “Alaka‘i” writing) and social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious and other web apps) as part of their own self-improvement self-coaching docket.

However, they could be brought to work, and quite successfully! It depends on if they are also to become acceptable, endorsed workplace tools which are put into staff hands for a specified purpose, one in alignment with the way you learn and communicate —both inside and out of your company.

There are new cautions with social media in particular. One was linked in my first mention of our Twitter experiment, and again in the question above: Online branding can get muddled, and users must be aware that they can be viewed as business ambassadors when they make public statements on the web. There is also the fact that the internet is a free copy machine, and “delete” clearing one computer screen of a few pixels does not equate to delete throughout the world wide web.

What does it take for a manager to be digitally savvy in 2009?

The computer is like any other tool in the workplace: Arm staff for optimal effectiveness —as opposed to turning them loose while ‘armed and dangerous.’

When people come on board, you do not assume they already know how to use all the tools you will soon place in their hands, right? You teach your people how to use workplace tools in the best possible way.

Imagine a landscaper signing out a hedge-trimmer for the first time. Even if they have used one before, you don’t hesitate to thoroughly explain that “this is the way we prefer you handle this while at work,” and you demonstrate, sharing tips and tricks unique to the landscaper’s craft; you point out safety features, and explain how to keep the trimmer in good working order. You will then ask, “Do you have any questions for me? What are your thoughts at this point on where you’ll use this on the seaside project today? How you will get this to work best for you there? When do you anticipate needing the wood chipper for those bigger branches?”

A computer hooked up to the internet is no different. It is a powerful, work-enhancing tool. To be a digitally savvy manager and leader, I offer you these 5 suggestions:

  1. Shed any doubt and the fear. Shift from conventional thought to innovational creativity ”“ just think of the possibilities!
  2. Learn what technological tools are available to you to better execute the actions that will make your strategic initiatives realistic, and easier ”“ don’t add complexity.
  3. Select digital tools based on how you can best capitalize on their functionality internally (within your organizational culture) and externally, i.e. integrating with your industry.
  4. Enroll your staff in your vision, mission, and strategic initiatives using the user-friendly language of digital tools ”“ get your vocabulary to be current, and aligned.
  5. Be the user evangelist. Learn to use the tools you have chosen consistently well ”“ optimize them. Keep them freshened with new updates, and keep them integrated into your communication channels. Be sure to share success stories.

I know there is an incredible amount of both learning and productivity challenges in those five things. However I also know that new learning and meeting new productivity challenges is always worth the effort.

If you are a digitally savvy manager, or learning to be one, please share your tips with us! We learn to be Alaka‘i kākou, together.

Comment here, or via the tweet-conversation we have on Twitter @sayalakai.

More reading from the Say “Alaka‘i” archives on: 

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” ~
The Digitally Savvy Workplace

Talking Story with Say Leadership Coaching

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  1. says

    We’ve used the net at our locations for finding out if a) we can get the product the customer wants and when it will arrive and b) if we can’t to help identify where the customer CAN get the product.
    The thinking is if we can’t get it then we’ve already lost the customer’s money… there’s no reason to lose the customer’s loyalty, so we help them find where they CAN get it. So far it’s been very effective as far as word of mouth goes in getting people to come back, telling others.

  2. says

    What a great attitude in your philosophy Rich! By default, we seem to think of technology as making things easier/ cheaper/ faster/ for our organizations internally, or for personal productivity, yet it can be best used to serve.
    One of the D15M huddles I will often suggest to managers, is a talk story about product versus service, because ultimately we always come to the conclusion that the value perceived in service delivery always trumps the bells and whistles features of any product. I think that is the word of mouth effect you are enjoying. Well done!
    ~ ~ ~ Editorial note:
    If you are new to Talking Story, read about the D15M huddle here:

  3. says

    Hiding from the Web is Foolish: 5 Steps to Smarter

    ~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” April 2009 ~ Hiding from the Web is foolish: 5 Steps to Smarter mac stillness by shapeshift on Flickr Today, a story I hope will be your call to action. You may find that…


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