Currently, 80% of employees use personal technology for business use, according to a Harris Interactive study for security firm ESET. Employers need to catch up to employees' increased use of their personal mobile phones for work purposes with bring-your-own-device policies. Progressive companies have already started taking advantage of this shift, using apps on workers' cell phones to deliver enterprisewide information and create new opportunities to communicate.
"The world at work is changing," said Tamar Elkeles, chief learning officer at Qualcomm, a leader in mobile technologies, during the Great Place to Work conference. "Mobile devices are changing the way people are living - they also need to change the way people are working."
In fact, according to Forrester Research, 50% of workers brought their own devices to work in 2012, whereas the year before, 60% were discouraged from bringing their own devices to work.
"Mobility touches every part of an organization and will change it as no other technology has changed it since the mass adoption of desktop computers in the 1980s," explains Dan Eckert, director in PwC's Advisory practice focused on mobility. "As companies are building enterprise apps to meet the needs of their employees, employees are expecting a consumer-like experience."
Every employee at Qualcomm who has their own device "can bring those to the workplace. We can provide them with opportunities to utilize those devices to increase performance as well as productivity," Elkeles said. At Qualcomm, only 20% of employees have a company-provided device such as a laptop; the remainder of tablets and phones used in the office are employee-owned and not subsidized by the company.
In order to connect their 28,000 employees and make processes more efficient, Qualcomm encourages the use of apps among its workforce. The company's turnover rate is less than 4% annually, which is good in the tech industry.
This year alone, Qualcomm will hire 4,000 people. To attract and retain these new employees, especially those from younger generations who expect mobile integration in the workplace, BYOD policies and company apps will prove more important than ever in uniting its expanding workforce. For example, younger generations will want interactive mobile training rather than traditional in-person training sessions.
"Future employees want to be a part of a group - included in something that is larger than just themselves," explained Elkeles. "Find ways to utilize mobile apps to make life easier for employees because the next generation will want this [capability]."
Building a BYOD culture
Giving employees access to company-created apps on their personal phones open new opportunities for engagement and communication. For example, employers can offer new-employee orientation on mobile phones. Qualcomm has future employees download an app before their start date. They can view information about the company culture and watch videos from leaders. Companies can also provide forms for new hires to fill out ahead of time.
Leadership development - tips for how to motivate teams, for example - is also conducive to instruction through personal devices. Some companies provide leaders with tablets that contain their personal development curriculum. In locations where employees have long commutes or network constraints, such as India and China, employees can access updated information from their mobile devices.
In cases of mandatory training, mobile apps also enable employees to access consistent information and log their hours. Employers can also easily deliver audio language training to employees, especially in dispersed locations. For example, CafÃ© Coffee Day, a division of India's largest coffee conglomerate, pushed out English language training to all employees through a mobile app to better reach employees at all 3,500 of its stores across India.
Employers can also have workers clock in and out of work using their mobile phones. If employers want this capability for employees, they need to install geolocational support to make sure the employee is in the facility when they clock in. The law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP offers HR managers and supervisors the ability to calculate FMLA leave taken by and remaining for employees in a mobile app.
At Intel, employees who bring their own devices to the workplace can access 25 company-wide apps that provide access to the employee Web portal, allow them to reserve conference rooms, reference acronyms for just-in-time information and on-the-job training, and even find out what's being served in the cafeterias.
Job training nuggets
Dr. Katherine Jones, researcher and senior manager of HCM Technology at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, suggests employers supply job training information in a "nuggetized" way to have maximum impact. For example, a manufacturing company that sends bite-sized reminders about safety to workers on the factory line has seen significant improvements in safety and line productivity.
Qualcomm leaders provide consistent information through mobile devices - a daily news feed, the employee directory, for example - to all employees. The company also has a blogging site available for employees, and all the apps are device-agnostic, meaning they'll work on any platform the employee has.
Apps used at Qualcomm
Here are a few examples of apps used at Qualcomm:
* 52 weeks: This app sends a story out every week about the company culture. The company shares successes as well as failures, information about company leaders and background on certain business decisions. Every new employee is automatically signed up for this app.
"To ensure that every employee knows the story, [sharing] stories is the best way to share information about a company," explains Elkeles.
* Q Maps: Qualcomm has 48 buildings in San Diego alone, so it offers maps for easy orientation, as well as floor maps for offices. Employees can even call for a shuttle from the mobile app.
* Qualcomm Library: Employees can look for books from the corporate library. Another app called SnapDragon provides information on chips whenever employees need it. "Product training is a great opportunity for mobile," says Elkeles.
* Qualcomm Museum: The organization created a museum in San Diego to educate employees about the company's history. It also created an app with video segments for the 8,000 employees outside the United States who can't access the museum in person.
* Gimbal: This app uses context awareness (designed for retailers to advertise sales when customers enter their store) to alert employees about who else is in the building when they arrive, and in which offices meetings are being held.
* Third-party apps: Qualcomm also takes advantage of outsourced apps to give employees additional training in technology and mentoring for managers. Elkeles suggests that employers build apps for internal purposes as they need them, but also consider buying some from third parties so they have a suite of different products for employees. She also advocates working with vendors to get specific HR processes - employee scheduling, for example - onto apps.
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