UK managers don't get the web

New research by the Chartered Management Institute shows employers across the UK are failing to use technology to drive business. It also confirms employees' suspicion that organisations are more concerned with 'internet policing' and stopping social use of the internet at work than possible business advantage.

Some 16% of respondents as far as describing their employer as "˜dinosaurs'.

The research was based on qualitative and quantitative research of almost 1,000 managers aged 35 and under, the research reveals that employers view internet activity as a "˜massive timewaster'. Nearly two-thirds (65%) monitor employee internet access and the same proportion (65%) block "˜inappropriate' websites. A significant number (18%) also retain tight control over access by imposing curfews on internet usage.

This high level of policing comes against a backdrop of enthusiasm for internet-based applications amongst employees. Asked to highlight why they want to use the Internet, the majority focused on its use "˜for professional development' (72%). Over half (59%) claimed freedom to use the internet is "˜useful for research' and 43% argued it helps "˜for doing work'.  Interestingly, just 41% of the managers questioned focused on the Internet as a "˜social space'.

On the other hand, although 95% of respondent businesses use email or communicate with staff via intranets (81%), only small proportions are happy to use web-based applications such as Google Docs (39%), organisational message boards (19%) or web-casting (9%).

The data, published in association with Ordnance Survey, also reveals different usage patterns according to age group. For example, 67% of those under 25 have "˜read a forum' in the past 3 months, compared to just 51% of those aged over 30.  Two-thirds (69%) of those aged 25 or under have watched videos online (work or otherwise), compared to 54% of individuals aged 30 plus. 

Evidence also suggests respondents want to use business networking sites such as LinkedIn (6% for both managers and students), the implication is that employers must change their attitude towards technology, or risk alienating their future managers and leaders.

Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, says: "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."