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Is it time for smartphones in the workplace?

Cristian Grossman

It’s time to realise that smartphones are friends not foes when it comes to HR. Contributor Cristian Grossman, CEO and Co-Founder – Beekeeper

The last decade has seen workplaces embrace digitisation across a number of areas including finance and document management. However, when it comes to HR, many still use traditional methods of communication including email, newsletters and noticeboards. Since 83 percent of the global workforce doesn’t have a company email address, there needs to be a solution that doesn’t alienate those who aren’t office based.

But how do you implement digital systems for internal communications across a large workforce where most employees don’t have access to that noticeboard or email? What tool do they all regularly access that you can tap into to provide more structured communications? The answer is in your pocket, or perhaps in your bag or maybe you’re even reading this on it. The smartphone.

With the majority of the population owning a smartphone in 2018 and relying heavily on them to organise and communicate in their personal lives,  it’s inevitable that they migrate into our work lives. Rather than discourage use in the workplace, it should be embraced and viewed as a great opportunity to invest in a mobile platform that securely hosts and facilitates a number of business operations.

A mobile HR department
Enabling employees instant access to a range of HR services has multiple benefits for everyone involved, but what does a digital HR department look like? It can have as many functions as needed, one main one being hosting your payroll system on an app. This saves time and money across the organisation since sending payslips is no longer necessary and workers can view and flag any issues immediately. A task that previously took two to three hours now takes mere minutes and will improve team satisfaction as there is no longer a wait time.

Communicating with your workforce about news, procedure updates or team changes in real time regardless of location and job role helps employees feel involved and HR teams confident that everyone has access to vital information. Adding read receipts also allows HR teams to track the message views and to evaluate if follow up is necessary. After all, it’s difficult to track who has read noticeboards.

There are other significant benefits to digitisation as it can host shift schedules, holiday requests, company guidelines, training manuals and even content translation for those who don’t speak English as a first language. Holding all of this information in one accessible place provides workers and HR teams with a seamless way of working.

Form a safe culture of trust
Creating a BYOD (bring your own device) policy in the workplace means you’re a creating a culture of trust. For many of us, feeling trusted by management can have a huge effect on our mindset at work and make us feel valued, happier and less likely to jump ship. Employers should have faith and trust in the people they’ve hired. As Steve Jobs pointed out: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Of course, the inventor of the iPhone would probably agree that smartphones have a place in the workplace, but his ethos is difficult to argue with.

However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that smartphones, while the primary target of most BYOD initiatives, are also the biggest vectors for data leakage or loss, representing almost 70 percent of cases according to a cybersecurity trends report. To prevent an organisation from leaking data through every personal device’s sieve, you’ll need to control certain aspects of your employee’s devices.

Imposing control on employee devices is bound to make your employees unhappy, so you’ll have to ensure that you utilise secure software that can act as a soft barrier between your user’s device and the company’s important data, without getting in the way of the user’s job. By introducing this layer of protection, employees can rest assured their device will stay safe and also remain useful in the course of their work. Even more importantly, you won’t have to worry about data breaches or malware infections slipping into your corporate network as a result of a well-crafted BYOD policy.

Create two-way communication
Facilitating two-way communication amongst management and staff is often complicated due to schedules and locations. In the digital world, employees can ask questions or voice concerns directly to management as soon as issues arise. For HR teams, this is very valuable as they are made aware of problems in real time and are able to address them before they become a larger issue. From an employee perspective, being able to have your voice heard by management is vital for you to feel valued and more likely to engage with the company. It also increases transparency between management and employees, which is something the majority of employees think is missing.

Start a whole new community
Globally, there are two billion mobile workers and in many companies these employees are spread out with little opportunity to interact with each other in person. The task of creating a work community therefore becomes almost an impossible hurdle. A digital platform enables workers the ability to chat with each other and share ideas, achievements and learnings. For example, a worker in Yorkshire may have an effective way to conduct a task that can be adapted by someone in Devon. Sharing information benefits the business as teams can help each other improve. It also means everyone can provide input and vote on company decisions, everything from: ‘which new branding do you prefer’ to ‘where shall we have the Christmas party?’

Adding up all the advantages of using a smartphone to connect with a workforce, it’s hard to deny that embracing them in the workplace will bring huge benefits and create a sense of community that’s been almost impossible to create before now. I would urge everyone to consider the potential those little screens can provide in improving internal communications and day-to-day work life.