By Bill Rosenthal, CEO, Logical Operations
Not every learning executive understands the emotional connection employees feel toward their personal devices. For many, the feeling is so visceral that policies restricting their use in the training room seem like an affront to them. Other employees are less wedded to their devices but would greatly prefer to use them during training. For both groups, anti-BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) rules can dampen enthusiasm for the training and lessen its effectiveness.
There’s a sound reason for anti-BYOD rules: The organization has to protect against data breaches and related problems. Learning executives shouldn’t passively accept these policies, though. They should be leaders in an effort to make BYOD safe. They should become chief lobbying officers for the development of technologies that assure the integrity of organizations’ IT systems even when employees use their personal mobile devices to access company resources such as e-mail, file servers, and databases.
Increased connectivity is essential for significant gains in productivity, anyway. Full-scale integration of personal devices into corporate systems, or “the consumerization of IT,” can be as transformative an event as the introduction of the first “personal” computers into the workspace 30 years ago. It’s not something organizations—and the learning organizations within them—can ignore.
This transformation is quite different from the supposed transformation of workplace learning with the introduction of computer-based training (CBT), followed by e-learning over the last few decades. These introductions were learning specific, and while they continue to offer benefits and hold promise for some organizations, absent meaningful support from outside forces beyond learning, adoptions rates and productivity enhancements from them have been less than many would have expected.
BYOD is different: It will be everywhere within our life (both at work and at home), thus we’ll have a workforce highly motivated—for many reasons—to make it work. In effect, learning organizations will get to “ride the wave” of the transformation (or risk being overrun by it).
Learning leaders who lobby for the adoption of BYOD-enabled IT systems are certain to have the support of other functional leaders, particularly those whose employees are often on the road: salespeople, customer-site service people, drivers, and others. Where is the sales executive who wouldn’t support a better way for a salesperson to more easily access product information or provide a here-and-now alert about a dissatisfied customer?
Half the U.S. population now uses mobile media; there’s been an extraordinary 20 percent increase over one year. A quarter of users now access the Web exclusively through mobile devices, and that figure is as high as 70 percent in other countries. Small handheld devices now can access a fully interactive Website, including a full-length video. Wireless data delivery is now faster and more problem free than ever. The use of personal devices is ubiquitous (an observer of one iPhone user after another walking along the street one night thought at first that it was a candlelight procession). Our I-want-it-now zeitgeist demands no less than instant communication. The day is not far off when the use of personal devices will be viewed as an employee right. Today’s most worker-friendly workplaces no doubt will lead the way to BYOD’s acceptance and reap commensurate profits.
Balancing Freedom and Control
Though it won’t be their first choice, employees will accept BYOD policies that balance freedom and control. They certainly will support initiatives to better secure a BYOD-enabled system if they fully understand their own devices can be compromised when there are breaches. It’s advisable to remind them of their vulnerability. This way, they will more readily understand the need for bans on apps known to be risky, protection against bypassing of passwords, or the expectation that passwords must have a certain level of complexity. In any initiative that involves control of employee activities, compliance is best obtained by appealing to the employees’ self interest. Make it clear that compromise to the system equals compromise to the personal devices.
How does a learning leader persuade senior management to create a BYOD organization? The same way in which the leader secures sponsorship for other initiatives that improve productivity: by identifying the gains in bottom-line terms. Not: With this improved connectivity we can train X-many employees in Y-many skills. Rather: Employees will use new workplace skills to improve productivity by X percent.
Bill Rosenthal is CEO of Logical Operations, http://www.logicaloperations.com, the former Element K Press. Now in its 30th year, the company helps organizations and individuals to maximize training with an adaptable expert-facilitated/instructor-led learning experience. Its more than 2,000 titles are available through flexible delivery platforms. Contact Rosenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org.