CYBER cynicism is taking a grip of West Midlands business as many employers fail to capitalise on the benefits offered by technology – and even view the internet as a waste of time.
New data issued by the Chartered Management Institute confirms long-held views about “internet policing” and suggests the failure to allow widespread use of technology will hinder business in the long run.
Based on a poll of managers aged 35 and under, the research reveals employers across the West Midlands view internet activity as a ‘massive timewaster.’ Three-quarters (71 per cent) monitor employee internet access and a similar proportion (74 per cent) block ‘inappropriate’ websites.
Meanwhile, a significant number of firms in the region (31 per cent) also retain tight control over access by imposing curfews on internet usage.
The high level of policing comes against a backdrop of enthusiasm for internet-based applications amongst employees in the West Midlands.
Asked to highlight why they want to use the internet, the majority in the region focused on its use ‘for professional development’ (68 per cent).
Around 52 per cent claimed freedom to use the net was ‘useful for research,’ while 37 per cent argued it helped ‘for doing work.’
Just 37 per cent of the managers questioned focused on the internet as a ‘social space.’ The data, published in association with Ordnance Survey, also reveals different usage patterns according to age groups.
A total of 67 per cent of those under 25 had ‘read a forum’ in the past three months, compared to just 51 per cent of those aged over 30.
Two-thirds (69 per cent) of those aged 25 or under have watched videos online (work or otherwise), compared to 54 per cent of individuals aged 30 plus.
With evidence also suggesting respondents in the West Midlands want to use business networking sites such as LinkedIn (three per cent for both managers and students), the research suggests employers must change their attitude towards technology, or risk alienating future managers and leaders.
Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, said: “Younger managers are growing up with much greater familiarity of technology and are comfortable using technologies such as mobile video, TV on-demand, or information services such as Google and Wikipedia.
“Quite clearly, organisations need to harness the comfort levels these individuals have with internet-based resources, because failure to do so will lead to frustration and the loss of top talent at best, or worse, an open door for competitors to build advantage through a better equipped and enabled workforce.”
Analysis of the data confirms that many respondents in the West Midlands believe their enthusiasm for web-based technology is not yet matched by employers. Just five per cent claim their organisation ‘falls in love with the latest trend’ while 52 per cent say their employer only ‘takes up things once they’re tried and tested.’
And 16 per cent go as far as describing their employer as ‘dinosaurs.’
Jan Hutchinson, director of HR & corporate services at Ordnance Survey, said: “The low level adoption of new technology is in tandem with employers’ belief that Internet usage is a ‘timewaster.’
“It’s something that must be looked at because the longer this situation is allowed to remain unchallenged, the greater the likelihood UK employers will fall behind their international competitors.”