Banning Employee Use of Facebook? Your loss.

The Ontario government has banned Facebook for all Ontario Public Service employees. This is bad information policy, bad organizational strategy, bad public policy and bad political strategy. Of course Facebook will continue to strike fear into the autocratic management style that tends to occupy the corner offices, and other large organizations will surely follow.

This is part of a bigger issue of IT policy: employee access to basic Internet tools, including personal email. As Tom Purves has argued, “If you can’t trust your own employees and knowledge workers to use the tools you give them responsibly, who can you trust?”. Colin Henderson at TheBankwatch.com put the strategic alternatives in sharp relief: Web 2.0 or 1984?

Technological change is blurring the lines between home-life and work-life. How many employees banned from checking in on their friends during the day are expected to return emails on their Crackberry during their personal time? This is about real breathing human beings and their relationship to work; a new generation of employees who increasingly refuse to subsume their independent identity to that of The Company. Employee Internet access policy needs to be carefully rethought in the context of an organization’s talent, communications and innovation strategy.

Interestingly, the Ontario government’s ban scoops up government MPPs while opposition MPPs and their staff escape the ban by virtue of their network segment being controlled separately. So the Liberals have put themselves at an electoral disadvantage in the months leading up to a fall election by eliminating a communication channel with a growing section of the electorate that is increasingly difficult to reach through traditional media. Dumb.

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