The Generation Gap - Employees and Cell Phones

I supervise a number of younger workers. They seem to have grown an appendage for texting on their cell phones and have the attention span of a gnat. How do I motivate them to focus on their jobs?

If you want to motivate the younger generations to do their jobs, start by realizing the sins of their fathers are visited upon every corporate manager. Many people in the younger generation have been raised glued to video games, Game Boys, cell phones, computers and television. For some young workers, human interaction is almost a novel experience.

There is hope

Many older managers are ready to rip their hair out over their frustration supervising a generation of workers they seem to have perennial Attention Deficit Disorder. Consider that you can bemoan a problem or you can recognize and solve a problem. If you pause your grumbling about how unfair it is that these kids were poorly raised, you'll have better success at training your younger workers to be productive.

I have a twenty year old daughter who is constantly texting away, thumbs flying, intense look of concentration on her face, head tilted down to look at the phone screen. Sound familiar. I asked her why it is so hard to get the Gen-Y kids to stop using a cell phone at work or at school. Her answer, "because we want to."

cell-inschoolCell phones, texting and the culture of youth entitlement is here for the near future; we need to find a way to live with it and make the best of the situation.

One of the first steps is to clarify what the company policy is for cell phone usage is at work. Here are some things to ponder as you consider for yourself what will work best for your business.

What cell phone issues already exist within your company? Why exactly do you feel you need a cell phone policy? Is your business environment too noisy? Do you sometimes glance over and catch an employee texting when on a tight work deadline? Acknowledging these issues before you get started will help realize what you need to tackle when you start writing.

Your first question might be, what types of guidelines are reasonable for my kind of business? Take time to assess the daily tasks of your employees. If you run a public relations firm, for example, where there's likely a necessity for constant communication, your policy might be more lenient. A company that involves construction or hazardous situations? Not so much.

What mobile capabilities do my employees need? This is a vital question for IT, as they may need to install company-specific apps and software on employees' phones, or set up various e-mail or calling functions.

While the guidelines in your cell phone policy should be specific to the needs of your company, there as some basic rules of phone etiquette you should include. Many of these rules might seem to be common courtesy – or common sense – but explicitly explaining what you expect is the best way to get the results you want. These rules should be upheld on all devices, whether personally- or company-owned:

The “vibrate' function is your best friend: When working in a professional atmosphere, the vibrate function should be a default. No one likes a loud ringer – especially when left unanswered.

No phone use during meetings: Instruct employees to step out to take calls or send texts when business meetings, conferences, or brainstorming sessions are being held. You may even ask employees to leave phones at their desks altogether.

Letting calls go to voice mail isn't a sin: According to a survey of 1,500 adults by the Pew Research Center, 24 percent of them said they felt obligated to take a call – even if it interrupted an important meeting. Voice mail, however, can be just as efficient in communicating with others outside of work. Stress this in your policy.

Maintain low tones: There are few things more annoying than a loud phone conversation, and that rings doubly true when people are trying to get work done. Clearly explain to employees to keep a low voice if they must answer their cell phones, or find a quiet area to talk. It might also be helpful to designate a specific area, like a lobby or cafeteria.

Content and language guidelines: It's not uncommon for a customer to be offended or even turned away as a result of an employee's expletive-filled phone conversation. Professional communication is not the same as communication at home, and your policy should delineate the difference.

Camera Use: Most mobile devices today come equipped with cameras, and your policy should strictly define where and how they should be used – if at all. For example, consider restricting your employees from taking their phones to the restroom. With the world gone privacy aware, why risk an issue of an inappropriate picture circling the internet beyond your control.
Remember a Camera Phone is also a Photocopier: You also want to reduce the chances of any confidential or propriety information from ending up in an employee's phone – and later in a competitor's hands. You can do this by expressly forbidding mobile devices in the research and development department, for example, or in the vicinity of private documents or financial activity.

Public Conversations: Regulations that ban the sharing of proprietary information should apply the same for verbal exchanges, via personal and company-owned phones. You might want to give advise on confidential conversations. Business conversations should be held in private – not in an elevator or airport.

driving-cellTalking and Texting While Driving: Many provinces, such as Ontario, have strict laws that completely ban the use of hand-held mobile devices while operating a vehicle. Even if your province doesn't have such legislation, your policy should completely prohibit drivers from using cell phones during work hours– especially in company-owned transportation. In the event of an accident, an injured party will likely sue the company – not the employee. “If I'm an employer, I can say, ‘No, you can't do this while you're working, therefore I'm not responsible.

Harassment: Don't forget to include guidelines from your workplace harassment policy. State that employees should immediately report to management if they feel harassed through texts or e-mails sent from another's cell phone.  Technology in the workplace has really made it so much easier for employees to harass each other.

When interviewing potential employees address the issue directly. Let them know from the outset exactly what you expect from them right from day one.

cashier-cell1. During the interview process make your expectations crystal clear. Let the potential employee know that your job will involve leaving their cell phone inside their desk and the ability to focus for long periods on work that can be boring.

2. Once the employee is on board, set consequences for behavior you want the employee to avoid. For example, if you see text messaging while the employee is working you'll start by putting a letter in the file, then move to a day's suspension, then move to terminate. Make sure employees know what you expect.

3. Set up a reward system tailored to appeal to each employee's individual needs. You'll need to get to know workers enough to know that one adores extra training opportunities, another likes public praise, and a third will go the extra mile for time off.

Next time an employee is texting away try saying, "Yes, I know that you prefer to stay in touch with your friends during the day but this job requires your full attention. Is this the right job for you?" Your employee than has the choice to stay and do the job you are paying him for or leave and let you hire someone who will do the work.

Recipes by Gina - Recipe of the Moment

Seafood Stuffed Squid

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced 8 to 10 whole squid (about 3 to 5 inches each)
  • 2 ounces raw shrimp
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped tomato
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups prepared tomato or spaghetti sauce

  • Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat until simmering. Add the onions and salt and sweat until the onions turn translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Do not brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
  • Rinse the squid thoroughly, turn the tubes inside out (since the outside skin tends to curl outward, it'll hold the stuffing better inside out), put into a bowl and set in the refrigerator until ready to use. Place the tentacles and the shrimp into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 6 to 8 times or until there are no large pieces visible. Do not process until smooth. Transfer to the mixing bowl along with the onions and garlic. Add the bread crumbs, tomato, lemon zest, ginger, parsley and pepper. Stir to combine well.
  • Place the mixture into a resealable freezer bag and snip 1 corner. You may use a pastry bag with a tip just small enough to fit into the end of the tubes. Pipe the stuffing into the tubes, dividing the mixture evenly between them. Do not over-stuff.  Place the tubes into a glass baking dish and cover with the tomato sauce. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately over prepared pasta.

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