Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Angry Birds Stealing My Wallet?

Angry Birds are Everywhere
The Atlantic recently published an article, Estimating the Damage to the U.S. Economy Caused by Angry Birds, that caused quite a stir.
In the article, Alexis Madrigal offers up how much American productivity is lost by employees playing Angry Birds at work. He uses a a variant of a calculation that a consulting firm has used to determine lost productivity from the NCAA Basketball Tournament. I am not here to question his math, just the basis of the assumption of "lost productivity." 

In my professional career thus far, I have been a lowly account coodinator at a huge advertising agency and the director of accounts, with large teams of employees. I have also been the president of a region of a company and an entrepreneur of a tiny startup. Through all of these career moves I can assure you of one thing. People at work don't need a specific smartphone game to lose productivity. They (myself included) are perfectly good at seeking out ways to distract themselves from work. Referencing the hot new game is simply a device that journalists use to get the readers attention. An article titled, "Various Means Employed by People to Lose Productivity" isn't nearly as exciting as picking the hot new game or industry.    
Courtesy of The Atlantic

If we look back through the archives of 'lost productivity" articles I assure you they list causes such as the personal computer, phone, water cooler, windows, air conditioning, co-ed working environment... and so on. Therefore, the lost productivity idea is a fallacy as it relates to specific new technology advances. What the advent of smartphones and social media has done, is make it easier to hide the actual activity from their boss. But banning Angry Birds and social media doesn't solve the problem. It only leads more secretive activity and alternative forms of lost productivity, such as people standing around talking about playing Angry Birds!

I am certain there are plenty of great Human Resources professionals that could chime in and offer a great deal of suggestions on how to increase productivity in the workplace. I am not going to attempt to tackle the complete productivity issue. I do feel that it all stems from proper supervision and pro-active management with a human understanding of how people work and live.

I do want to take a minute and address the Angry Birds and larger social media challenge that employers face. How to best solve it? 

Employers should stop directing their IT staff to block offending games and sites. They should stop issuing corporate policies designed to prevent game play and social media (specifically Facebook and Twitter) usage at work. Instead, they should look at their customers and understand that they are probably using the same channels of social media and games. Enterprising marketing officers should be challenging their company to see how they can turn their most avid game playing employees and heavy Facebook users into defacto developers, idea generators and online brand advocates. By engaging with employees about their online activity, a company can better understand changing trends. If employees as unafraid to talk openly about what they are doing, ideas can be shared. 

- Integrate social gaming into company team building.
- Offer incentives for employees that bring ideas on integrating company products into social gaming or online advertising
- Focus less on restricting activities of employees and more on accountability of delivering results.
- Offer at work education on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. 
- Conduct education on what information employees can share about the company and its products. 
- Let social sharing about your company occur naturally.
- If you have active social media marketing staff already, they should add monitoring and reporting of social media activity to their responsibilities. 

There is a great deal of potential in leveraging the ideas from social gaming and the actual reach of social media. If handled proactively and positively by a company, you will be creating a large innovation team and social media marketing team from your existing employees. 

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