Managing People in an Age of Hyperconnectivity

We're almost all hyperconnected. Our mobile devices allow us to check email, send messages, surf the internet, and monitor social media 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This impacts not only our personal lives but our professional lives as well -- and presents executives with new management challenges. How does connectivity affect people management within organizations? We have a few ideas on how to manage people in the ever-more connected workplace.

Hyperconnectivity affects how we work and how we manage people | Image: iStock

We’re almost all hyperconnected. Our mobile devices allow us to check email, send messages, surf the internet, and monitor social media 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This impacts not only our personal lives but our professional lives as well — and presents executives with new management challenges. How does connectivity affect people management within organizations? We have a few clues from University of Navarra Professor José Luis Orihuela and others.

Against ignorance, more training

It’s easier to criticize connectivity than dare unlearn, and then learn something new. Top executives, with their wealth of knowledge in some areas, may be among the least savvy technology-wise. One solution? Training. It can help close the gap between hyperconnected employees and those with a lower level of digitalization. And the training should never stop: you constantly have to be ready to unlearn and learn again.

Another solution may be inverse mentoring, where the most digitally advanced, although often the youngest, help their less digital colleagues to get up to speed with technology. It’s important that everyone understand that missing the digitalization train affects employability. It’s frequently a case of “do or die”, professionally speaking.

Instead banning, offer guidelines

Hyperconnected employees are not afraid of technology, but this doesn’t mean they know how to use all their digital tools in a professional manner. Despite being early adopters, they often need guidelines for using social networks wisely so that they’re fully aware that their digital fingerprint can be monitored and can affect not just their own reputation, but also that of the company.

But it’s not just that employees may post things about themselves that are at odds with the company’s beliefs. Hyperconnectivity dissolves the walls of the organization. Thanks to social networks, every internal communication is only a click away from becoming public.

Does your company have social media guidelines with recommendations for making good use of digital tools? It should. Instead of banning things, create policies that will help employees manage their personal and professional identities on the internet. The guidelines don’t have to be hundreds of pages long; they should be brief and easy-to-follow recommendations.

Having overcome the physical barriers, make work flexible

Hyperconnectivity shouldn’t just mean that emails are expected to be sent and answered any time of the day or night. Make sure employees can take advantage of the upside of connectivity, which allows us to work any place, any time. It makes little sense to stick to traditional timetables or insist on clocking a certain number of hours in the office. Whenever possible, make work flexible and allow employees to set their own hours when they need to, always with clear and well-defined objectives.

 In the age of immediacy, provide rapid feedback

The only scarce resources in a hyperconnected world are time and attention. The days still have 24 hours, but the content available on the net is increasing exponentially. Hyperconnected people live in real time and value immediacy. In this context, it is the tempo that is increasing.

Don’t make people wait too long. Respond to employees’ proposals in a timely manner and give them rapid feedback on their performance. It is essential to learn to manage time within the new rules of the game.

In a hyperconnected world, encourage horizontality

The architecture of the internet breaks hierarchies. The internet puts everyone on the same level. With this in mind, hyperconnected employees are looking for organizations that promote horizontal, collaborative structures.

Encourage direct communication between management and subordinates; create horizontal structures that facilitate employee participation; and foster employee collaboration, regardless of the positions different people hold in the company’s organizational structure.

IESE’s Executive Education programs can help you learn new tools for managing people, as well as give you fresh approaches to issues such as how technology is rewriting workplace rules.

» REFERENCES

Alumni Learning Program session: “The Impact of Hyperconnectivity on the Management of People,” Barcelona, March 6

“Hyperconnectivity and People Management”, in eCuaderno.com, the blog of José Luis Orihuela

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