BYOD (bring your own device) is not just an IT issue, HR must deal with it, too

A bring your own device (BYOD) policy starts with HR setting the terms for new employees

Bringing someone into the workplace means making the new employee “one of us” in terms of knowledge of the company mission, the rules and procedures of the workplace, the tools to do the job, and in many cases, adapting his or her appearance to certain standards during working hours. Uniforms or at least a degree of uniformity are part of many employers’ brand and public image. Most people will recognize a UPS delivery van and the brown-uniformed driver as a normal appearance on the street and not as a suspicious person “casing the neighborhood”.

By working together, HR and IT can help the business win the battle of finding and retaining highly skilled employees

One of the functions of Human Resources (HR), depending on the type of business, is to ensure that employee knows the channels through which to obtain the standard tools needed for work as well as where to get uniforms, name-tags, caps or other items that make him or her conform to the company image. HR should also have informed everyone about what to do if something breaks, is soiled, lost or stolen. Forms for this are part of the HR software. This, so to speak, is not HR rocket science.

Taking a clear position on employee-owned devices is critical

Implementing these policies is easy in businesses that trade in tangible stuff (selling, servicing, or building things) or meet people face to face. You can’t do carpentry without a hammer, nor plumbing without standard wrenches and tools. When it comes to services, it helps to be identifiable as the UPS delivery person or the maintenance person with a logo on his or her shirt, but here things start loosening up. In retailing, you can either have a uniform of sorts or a visible name tag, or you can let people dress just like their customers, for instance, in clothing boutiques catering to the young and hip. In fact, let the sales staff dress as they would in everyday life, wearing the Lady Gaga t-shirt the young salesperson bought for herself and not at company expense. In other words – bring your own outfit. That policy also generally works for people in the back offices – insurance claims forms and invoices don’t see whether the employee is wearing a tie.

Security, compatibility, control… we enter another world of pain

Serious issues arise when the work involves processing information. This can range from requiring the employee to have a smart phone on which to get calls and texts while out in the field digging ditches, or it can be a laptop or tablet directly connected to key, mission critical company software and databases. Not too long ago, HR would almost always point new hires to where they would pick up, sign for and be taught to use their company-issued Blackberries and standard IBM/Lenovo or some other common brand laptop. The IT department would issue these devices pre-configured, firewalled and tasked only for the purposes for which they were issued.

 

Dealing with newly-hired digital sophisticates

We can now forget that idyllic sort-of-recent past. Many people are into the world of information-carrying digital devices long before they set foot in as new employees. Most don’t see their phones and tablets as potential corporate digital tools, but as repositories of their music, their selfies, their videos and their links to social media and friends. So, we have the bright young freshly minted MBA who has had every iPhone made since she was 16 and is not ready to give hers up and take some gadget that IT hands her. Hey, I write memos to customers best while listening to my music on my MacBook!

From the employee perspective, the biggest concern is that BYOD practices could lead to a loss of employee privacy

Welcome to the age of bring your own device or BYOD. It an acronym seen by some as scarier for the IT department than for HR – after all, they will have to configure and manage whatever the new employees bring, or where BYOD isn’t permitted, to provide devices that the already digitally sophisticated new workforce will accept. As the website CIO.com wrote: “Forty-two percent of millennials are likely to quit a job if the technology they have available to them is substandard. Across most consumer demographics, but especially millennials, most people complain that the technology they have at ‘home’ is more modern and more valuable than the technology they have in the workplace.”  In other words, if the IT at work is below the standards of the technology at home, IT’s “failure” will see HR out-processing the unsatisfied and looking for replacements from, most likely, the same pool of digital sophisticates.

42% of millennials are likely to quit a job if the technology they have available to them is substandard

The article goes on to say that IT and HR will increasingly become allies and partners on the issues of how the IT resources that employees are given or bring themselves can improve both productivity (important for the whole organization) and employee satisfaction – a key issue for HR. Therefore, HR and IT together should look at following issues:

  1. How does a solution help make our employees more productive?
  2. How will a particular solution grow as the demands of our employees’ grow?
  3. How will a particular solution help us to attract and retain great talent?
  4. Will a particular solution engender trust or alienate employees in the workplace?

On the last point, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) last year wrote that employees, by allowing an IT department to manage the “work” part of their personal devices, could face privacy issues. “From the employee perspective, the biggest concern is that BYOD practices could lead to a loss of employee privacy. Workers may worry that their company will have inappropriate access to their financial and health data, as well as to their personal photographs, videos, contacts and other information—and that they could lose all that information if the company attempts to remove or “wipe” business information from the worker’s device, which typically happens after a person’s employment has concluded.”, the SHRM wrote in its online magazine.

Across most consumer demographics most people complain that the technology they have at ‘home’ is more modern and more valuable than the technology they have in the workplace

What this means is that HR should, perhaps as part of its HR software, have protocols for instructing IT to preserve the “private” sections of a device when the employee leaves, as well as arranging for the preservation of this data if the device is misplaced and “wiped” as a precaution. This is not easy. Some “digital natives” will come with their private devices already configured to save hitherto strictly personal data to “the cloud”.  It is in the employer’s interests that no sensitive company data end up there. Isn’t that an IT problem? Yes, but it will help if the HR software runs the new employee through a well-designed questionnaire to determine how the employee’s device will be configured and treated. Could this be complicated? Probably. New phones and tablets hit the market often, and how many “flavors” of Android were there when you last looked?

If the IT at work is below the standards of the technology at home, IT’s “failure” will see HR out-processing the unsatisfied and looking for replacements from, most likely, the same pool of digital sophisticates

BYOD is more than a “buzz word”. In the corporate world, it is moving from a buzz to a kind of roar heard not only by the IT and HR staff, but Legal as well (personal device partly controlled by the company used to post offensive material on social media – do the liability lawsuit math). To be sure, informing employees about the rules of good behavior on/offline, on and off company time has always been part of the HR task, but with BYOD it gets more complicated. It is no surprise that some industry commentators are going against the buzz, the roar or the tide of BYOD. As the often-iconoclastic IT website The Register (www.theregister.co.uk) wrote recently “BYOD sounds – sounded – like a great idea. But it opened a whole new world of complexity in terms of support and device management that had not been foreseen beforehand.” The article mentions the problem of overlapping device ownership and control and concludes that BYOD may not be the best idea, better to own and control the company’s devices.

BYOD sounds – sounded – like a great idea. But it opened a whole new world of complexity in terms of support and device management that had not been foreseen beforehand

“Owning the device brings back some much-needed control to proceedings: if you own the device you can be totally black-and-white about what users are allowed to do and what they’re not. If there’s an application update, it’s not their files that get wiped and if it is then their files shouldn’t have been on there in the first place,” The Register’s Dave Cartwright wrote.

Device use will always be an HR issue. With no BYOD, it may make the HR task somewhat easier. At the same time, it will present the challenge of telling potential employees that they will have to leave their favorite MacBook or Galaxy Note out of the office and take what the employer offers. At the end of the day, the decision to go with BYOD or not is for management as a whole.

 

Juris.