Mr. Manners steps into the boardroom

Stephen Mill recently attended a company conference at DisneyWorld, where his firm, Robert Half Technology, was assembled for a strategy meeting. As the team filed into the meeting room, they were asked to hand over their BlackBerrys, says Mill, a vice-president at Robert Half. When you’re bringing

a group of people together and some of them are more focussed on incoming e-mail or celllphone calls, it’s a time waster, he says.

The IT staffing firm is practising what it preaches. In a study on tech etiquette blunders Robert Half released in October, more than three-quarters of the chief information officers surveyed said they frowned on sending and replying to e-mail when a meeting is in session.

“”In a boardroom, when you see one person with their phone on vibrate and two others working their BlackBerrys, it’s distracting,”” says Mill. “”There are times and places where you have to turn off.””

What is appropriate use?

He says as technology — and wireless devices in particular — becomes more pervasive, the question of appropriate use is being explored more by companies.

“”It’s time for companies to take a look at what their policies are,”” he says. “”Most have not updated the acceptable use of how an employee can use technology. Let’s say you’re a sales person visiting a client, shouldn’t there be some sort of a guideline as to how you can use technology?””

Gary Davenport says it’s premature to talk about enforcing policies for mobile technology use. The vice-president and CIO of Hudson’s Bay Co. says the appropriate use of devices comes down to common sense and respecting other peoples’ time.

“”We don’t have a policy on the use of devices in meetings, but we have guidelines on who is eligible to get these devices funded by the company,”” he says. “”They’re tightly controlled, not only because they’re an expense to the business, but also because we want to make sure they are effectively used.””

Davenport says at this point, HBC is taking a wait-and-see approach with respect to crafting a policy to educate employees on the use of such devices.

“”It’s an annoyance and something to be conscious of, but I don’t believe it’s a huge problem,”” he says. However, he admits with the mobility of HBC’s workforce and the time pressures everyone is under, the inappropriate use of personal communication devices has the potential to become a problem. If it gets to that point, Davenport says he will enlist the help of others departments to craft a policy.

“”I don’t think this is a policy you set from one office,”” he says. “”You need some collaboration on it. Specifically, I (would) look to the VP of human resources.””

Mills says that day may be coming closer for many organizations, because the interruptions caused by these devices comes down to a time management issue.

“”Go back 10 years ago. If someone walked into a meeting you were in and started talking to you, would that be acceptable? No, but that’s essentially what’s happening.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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