Just Exactly How Important Are Smartphones To Younger Workers?

Smartphones are useful, but just exactly how important are they?
Smartphones are useful, but just exactly how important are they?
Image Credit: Pabak Sarkar

More than one CIO that I know has become very upset when what they were saying during a meeting was interrupted by one or more mobile phones going off while they were speaking. Just to make things worse, we’ve all had that sinking feeling that we get when we are addressing a group of our workers about the importance of information technology and at least one of them has their head down and is typing furiously on their smartphone screen – clearly they are not listening to what we are saying. What’s a CIO to do in order to get some attention around here?

The Importance Of Smartphones To Your Workers

This may come as no surprise to you, but your workers view their smartphones as being a very important part of their lives. You know this because as you’ve been driving home, you’ve seen people who look like the people who work for you sitting in their cars at red lights staring at their phones – unable to be away from them for even a few minutes. It turns out that your workers are not going to be able to do good work if they can’t get to their smartphones.

A study has recently been done of 18-24 year old iPhone users. What the study discovered was that the subjects of the study performed better on a cognitive test when their iPhones were nearby – in a purse or a pocket instead of located across the room. What makes things even more interesting was that when the people participating in the study could hear their iPhones ring but they could not answer them, both their blood pressure and their heart rates increased.

The take-away from this study appears to be that as the person with the CIO job you should not be thinking that you are going to be able to keep smartphones out the meetings that you hold. Instead, you’re going to have to take a different approach. It may turn out that a better approach would be to tell your workers to bring their smartphones, but before you start your meeting request that they set them in order to reduce the possibility that they will cause a distraction.

Why Smartphones Are So Very Important

The power of a smartphone is very strong on the people that it has cast its spell on. What this means is that if you are not careful, a smartphone can be a major distraction. This can have a significant impact on how much work these workers are able to accomplish and the quality of their output. However, we also have to realize that a lot of what the smartphones are being used for is communication and this may help the flow of information within the IT department.

One of the most important insights that the person in the CIO position has to have about their staff and their relationship with their smartphones is how the staff view the phones. In some ways, the phones are serving an almost “security blanket” role in your staff’s lives. Perhaps a better way to state this is that your staff now views their smartphones as an extension of themselves. The phone is key part of how they communicate these days.

Understanding the deep relationship that your staff have formed with their smartphones is key to being a good CIO. What this means is that when you host a meeting, you need to make sure that the people who are attending do bring their phones along. This will allow them to not feel any sort of “lessening of self”. However, you need to insist that everyone keeps their phone in silent mode. What you want to make sure is that the people in your meeting are not aware that their phones may be ringing because it will end up decreasing their attention when this happens.

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing for CIOs. What this means for us is that when we are meeting with the members of our team, there is a very good chance that they’ll be bringing their smartphones along. This can start to annoy us because if they ring or distract our audience, then we’ll feel as though we’re not being listened to.

A study has been done about what happens to 18-24 year olds when they have their smartphones taken away from them. It turns out that they become distracted and when they can hear them ringing, but cannot get to them, then their blood pressure and heart rates go up. What this means for you as a CIO is that you need to allow people to bring their smartphones to your meeting; however, you do have the right to require that they silence them so that they don’t become distracted if and when they ring.

Here in the 21st Century, smartphones are a double edged sword. Now that they exist and because everyone has one, we can always get in touch with members of our team no matter where they are. However, smartphones can be a powerful distraction for young people and so we need to understand that allowing them into our meetings is a good idea, but we’ll need to set some ground rules so that everyone pays attention.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If during one of your meetings, someone’s smartphone starts ringing, what is the correct response from you?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Psst – would you like to know a secret? It turns out that at most companies, how much any given employee gets paid is determined more by art than science. Yes, that’s right – most firms (and their IT departments) are making this stuff up on the fly. When you decide that that data scientist needs to be added to your team, nobody really has a clue what you should be paying him or her. Perhaps it’s time for the CIO to step in and create some structure to this task.

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