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There is an Internet... "e-Mergency"
Tomorrow's Manager Needs to Master the "Unseen" Root of Internet Problems-Especially for the Next Generation of Employees
By Michael Fortino

Knowing that the Internet can simultaneously bring significant benefits-and lethal problems-to your company isn't nearly enough. You must know how to live with this monster, and that means knowing its power source. Most importantly, you must know how it can overpower you.

This is especially true for professionals who have
foresight and realize the overwhelming impact the Internet will have on the corporation of tomorrow. With the right knowledge you can capitalize on your own good initiative. For now, forget about the technical aspects, let's focus on what the Internet will do to you and your people. Maintaining a positive balance between using the Internet for your company's advantage and the destructive impact it can have on productivity, workplace relations, and even customer service, is key in today's competitive marketplace.

My observations and research over these past years, and the results, are crucial to your understanding of how the Internet can help and hurt your company. This intensive study involved 6,000 participants and the insight from a myriad of experts to determine what behavioral affect may result from excessive Internet usage. The intent of our research was not to simply describe a social ill but rather, to help our audience first understand why there exists a problem, and second, understand how we may each play a part to resolve it.
Let us focus here on the very basics, understanding the next generation of workers you will have to deal with, as well as some Internet related pitfalls that kill productivity.

Tomorrow's Generation Gap: Cyberspace

The Myth of the Golden Age tells us that things always were "better" one generation ago. This especially is true when we talk about the newest breed of young professionals, and those who will be freshly minted graduates in a few months. These young people are commonly called the Internet "generation" because this technological wonder has been a big part of their lives, and they have been getting a pretty bad rap from almost everyone.
It is amazing how much time these young people actually spend online. the average Baby Boomer will spend approximately five-and-one-half years online, and Generation X members will surf the net for almost a decade. 

These are staggering periods of life spent glaring at the screen. But they aren't the most shocking numbers. Generation Y-the next up-and-coming group of young people who will work at your company soon-will spend more than 23 years of their lives online. This represents almost a third of their lives on the Internet!

It takes patience to help nurture the Internet generation while remaining a professional manager. You must first understand how the Internet makes them different socially, and then utilize these empathic skills to communicate in their language. 

Here are some facts about Generation Y I have learned through my research:

* They demand lightning speed and multimedia stimulation. They are much more impatient when dealing with technology, equipment, and non-computer savvy people
* Their minds jump from project to project. They are often scattered during research assignments because they have access to an abundance of information and don't distill it very well
* They are willing to take more risks and be more aggressive online than they ever would in person
* They were far more likely to discard a friend or leave a social group because of access to so many new relationships available online.
* They are more concerned with speed of communications than good spelling, punctuation, or grammar.

Even though we are talking about a problem caused by a new influence on society, we can address the issue with some good old-fashioned common sense.

Be Internet Smart: Learn the lingo. Know the meaning of "spamming" or "flaming" or "wirefire." Understand that sending e-mail in all caps is the equivalent to yelling. When you understand the language, you will earn their respect.

Be proactive: Don't tolerate a culture where co-workers-who sit right next to each other yet never, actually speak-live in smoldering anger because of e-mail fights. Mandatory department meetings on a regular basis will provide an opportunity to ferret out problems.

Be in the Loop: Require employees to "cc" their supervisors on all customer or client e-mail messages. Keep the tone of these messages in check. Check spelling and grammar and address these problems. Remember, the Internet generation is often too bold and hasty in the virtual world. They need to remember that you live in the real world where clients don't tolerate being "flamed."

The bottom line is that you need to keep the human factor alive in tomorrow's workplace. 

Productivity and Time Management

The average Internet user will spend almost two-and-one-half years opening and responding to e-mail at today's volume. Within the next five years, e-mail volume is expected to double. Imagine the amount of time everyone will be wasting.

What's more tragic is the overwhelming periods of time we spend lost online, the average Internet user will spend almost three years lost online. This "cybersoaring" can be caused by an unfocused search, being sent on endless hyper-links, or simply becoming distracted.
"Cybercancer", technological overkill, may actually cause systems to breakdown or lose productivity: (1) the easier it is to contact someone, the more they will be contacted, or (2) the easier it is to access information, the more information will be accessed. 

When you combine the increasing flow of e-mail with the tremendous amount of online information that can be researched, stored, and hopefully used, there exists the potential for terminal efficiency or cybercancer.

During the early 80's business's demanded and got more done in less time. They saved countless hours and made considerably more money by making their employees more "efficient." What they didn't focus on was the amount of stress they were causing. Our research found a sharp decrease in productivity when workers lost touch with their lives outside the office. 

Now, let's put this in context with the Internet generation, and even older employees who now have discovered that the Web is addicting. Many people now use the same computer for work as they do recreation. When this occurs, the lines between off-time and office time are blurred. We have added 5 to 9 onto our 9 to 5. Stress increases and productivity decreases.
Another problem is the innocent detour that ends in disaster. Not everyone intentionally becomes an Internet junkie. Often, a "bad" search for work-related information takes an employee on an enticing journey that he doesn't want to end. This is a very common Internet e-Mergency where older professionals easily can become victims. 

Losing track of online information is a tremendous problem as well. In fact, the average Internet user over their lifetime will drudge through approximately 1.1 million useless web pages. Once we lose track of information or become lost, we as hunters and gatherers must then go back out onto the plains and kill our prey again. Once more, the search can go awry and we begin to lose ourselves once more on the Internet.

A good example of how you can prevent your employees from becoming a victim of terminal efficiency or cybercancer is to take advantage of tools that allow us to harness this information overload. One example is a fabulous software program by soft-q.com. Simply called "Q," This friendly management tool allows users to access stored information 24-hours a day by logging onto the Internet, or even using the telephone because it features voice recognition software (a first). Because the data is stored somewhere else, you can access it at any time.

Products like "Q" represent an ideal strategy for managing information both at home and at work because now access to your entire world is simply a phone call away. 

In wake of this Internet explosion, we must not forget to remain technologically responsible. To survive today's Internet e-mergency, we must navigate around the landmines. To survive tomorrow's Internet e-mergency, we must learn how to defuse them.

Michael Fortino is a professional speaker, trainer, consultant and author of the just released book "e-Mergency".You can contact him at 800-FORTINO Email: [email protected]

Internet "e-Mergency" Facts

* Generation Y is 34% more reserved in their social skills than the previous generation
* Mindless Internet surfing results in more than 400 hours of wasted time per employee, per year
* The average Internet user will click a mouse approximately 42.2 million times in a lifetime
* We will type more than 300,000 e-mails during our lives, but hand write only about 265 love letters
* The average Internet user will spend more than one year of their lives reading banner ads without any interest whatsoever
* The average Internet user will misfile 120 pages of information and 33 folders each month
* 72 percent of Internet users had more confidence and were more aggressive when communicating over the Internet as compared to real-world confrontations
* 92 percent of Generation Y users admitted to counterfeiting their identity online
* Generation Y is 22% less physically active than the previous generation
copyright 1999 2000 The Fortino Group All Rights Reserved
                                                      ExpertMagazine.com 2000
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