People are the often referred to as the most valuable asset any company has, but they also represent one of the greatest costs. Beyond the basic taxes, insurance subsidies and countless other expenses a company incurs on behalf of its employees, there’s still the cost of training and equipping that employee.
After you’ve armed that new college grad with a shiny new – OK, refurbished – laptop and devoted resources and personnel to training him for the position, he should be ready to shine for your company. But if it turns out that he isn’t quite the right fit or he decides to move on quickly, you’re back at square one.
Further, training employees to deal with the ins and outs of your business doesn’t stop after the first performance review. It is and should be an ongoing process that follows that employee throughout the vertical and horizontal levels of the company.
To increase efficiency and boost bottom lines, the business community is increasingly turning to the devices already found in the pockets and purses of millions of Americans – the Internet-connected smartphone or tablet.
Smartphones provide tremendous amounts of knowledge by allowing users to access information from nearly anywhere at any time. Tablets provide the same benefits, albeit with a screen that’s typically friendlier to the eyes.
A prime example is the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, who recently substituted 120 tablets for the team’s old binders, giving the players better access to more information, including team calendars, nutritional information and film from previous games.
When United-Continental Airlines purchased 11,000 iPads for its pilots to replace in-flight manuals, the company cited increased efficiency in accessing flight material. The estimated 326,000 gallons of fuel savings due to decreased weight onboard doesn’t hurt either.
Not every organisation has the capacity to dole out hundreds or even thousands of devices to employees. They may not need to.
According to a recent study by the eLearning Guild, more than 70 per cent of Americans already use their personal phones for work purposes. But perhaps the most compelling statistic is that a whopping 92 per cent of organisations surveyed said they know their employees are using their own devices in the workplace.
The numbers show that companies are catching on. A recent Citrix Systems survey noted that 44 per cent of companies already have a bring-your-own-device policy in place; another 50 per cent plan to have policies in place by mid-2013.
Despite a high correlation between mobile learning and market performance, ASTD surveys have found that only about one in five organisations currently uses some type of mobile learning for employees, but nearly half of those who don’t are considering putting plans in place.
More and more organisations are using mobile technology in innovative ways that are unique to their specific line of business. A roving salesman no longer needs to operate entirely solo in the field; in a moment’s notice, he can call on a network of experts linked through his company’s app. Instead of calling a drug information centre, a pharmacist can reference drug interactions straight from a smartphone or tablet. Even after seeing these astonishing numbers and real-world success stories, many companies have created prohibitive policies regarding personal technology at the work site, restricting how employees are able to use their phones or tablets. Although workday distractions aren’t a concern to be taken lightly, devices are often extremely underutilized when it comes to helping employees get things accomplished on the job.
An employee already uses her phone’s camera to take a picture of a colleague at the office party, but she could be using it to look up company policy or technical reference documents. A construction worker uses his phone’s GPS function to find the closest Starbucks while on location, but he could be using it to better route supply trucks to the work site. A sales employee already uses his phone’s media player to listen to music while on the road, but he could be using it to learn the company’s sales process by listening to a podcast featuring tips and objection-handling suggestions.
As with any such initiative, the goal for mobile learning in the workplace is to help the bottom line. Better training means a shorter learning curve for employees, shortening the time it takes until they can contribute. Constant access to necessary information increases productivity, which should bring a boost in revenue. Depending on the type of business, mobile learning can help increase production, decrease customer service response time and decrease returned product rates. The direct ROI is measurable and has been evidenced in mobile learning organisations across many industries.
Secondary benefits include competitive advantages like enhanced reputation and an improved marketing presence, but perhaps most important is increased employee satisfaction or morale, as anyone who’s ever been made to sit in front of an all-day training video can attest. People genuinely like using their devices. And because much of the hardware is being provided by the employees themselves, up-front costs to the company can be minimal.
As millions of Americans continue to purchase smart mobile devices and bring them to work, companies with the right policies and mobile learning technologies will continue to benefit – even if their employees are 250-lb. linebackers.
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