Mark Morrell talks about the potential of mobile devices.
People have always been outside of the office space – think of sales representatives or engineers visiting customers to either repair or install something… However, mobile technology now enables you to get messages out to them quickly – something 30 that wasn’t possible in the past. This doesn’t only affect remote workers or employees who travel a lot: work is increasingly shifting towards mobile devices.
By ‘mobile devices’, I mean laptops, tablets and smartphones – and most of the time, a combination of them. Employees are using this technology in their everyday life and they expect to be able to do the same at work. In the future, they won’t be stepping in an office the majority of the time.
They will be moving around. The traditional situation where employees were using a desktop and ‘consuming’ communications during specific hours of the day is over. Increasingly, they will want to share things anytime, anywhere, and to be updated instantaneously. They will work with mobile devices whether in the office or not, and sometimes with their personal devices – ‘Bring your own devices’ initiatives are on the rise. So there’s a whole new audience out there that internal communicators need to get to know; they sometimes feel left behind or threatened by it.
Obviously, there are some issues and risks that need addressing. But overall, I believe the benefits outweigh them. Reputation Some years ago, if an organisation was in the news for any reason, the communications team had to wait until the next day to start rolling out an official answer. By the time the message got to employees in the field, it was often too late. Customers had already formed an opinion on the matter. With mobile technology, you suddenly have the ability to send real-time messages. You can share the corporate view of any media coverage very quickly – either through text, e-mail or any other sort of digital channel. So instead of hearing the news from the press and even from customers, frontline employees hear it first-hand from you and are able to share a more balanced view with customers.
One of my clients – a mobile phone operator – has implemented a system that equips its shop staff with mobile technology and turns assistants into market researchers, routing real-time insights and data back as well as fast track issues or feedback. So if a customer brings up an issue with a new product, or if an employee comes up with an idea of how to improve client service, they can feed that back to a central team quickly using their mobile. As with this example, retailers will empower frontline staff with smart, mobile services to transform not only the shop assistant’s work but the way customers experience shopping in stores. Although the return on investment may be difficult to measure in terms of bottom line, the impact on employee engagement is significant: you feel far better engaged when you know you can quickly influence something.
With mobile devices, applications are quickly emerging as an essential communication channel. Interestingly, surveys indicate that most of the time, calls or texts are not what people use their smartphones for. They use them for many other things, including apps. Apps enable people to find and submit information very quickly. It’s incredible the amount of time you can spend in large organisations trying to find out who you need to reach out to and how. With an app, you just have to press the submit button and your request will go through to whoever is able to act upon it.
We have reached a tipping point where more mobile devices were sold than traditional desktop PCs in 2012. In the coming years, I expect that more companies will copy the iTunes model and make a library of apps available to their employees to help them work and collaborate more effectively. Employees will start to expect to be able to use their own mobile device for work as well as organising their personal life, which will be a challenge for people in IT and Security. As well as being able to receive communications and respond instantly by liking, sharing, or commenting on it, employees will find it easy to start discussions, raise their own views, and enrich the existing communications channels by using their mobile devices. Internal communications will be 24/7 with mobile access driving this trend.
Sometimes a team or a few individuals have seen the benefits and are developing things in a rather fragmented manner. In the coming years, organisations will have to build a proper mobile strategy. This strategy needs to align with what the organisation’s goals are, have a clear governance framework setting out roles and responsibilities, and have as its first priority to create a great mobile user experience that encourages people to use their mobile devices to help with their work, stay better informed and engaged, and to be more productive. Which brings me to my key point: most organisations still lack a sense of direction.
This is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication – the professional journal published by Gatehouse. Subscribe now at http://www.gatehousegroup.co.uk/joic