Mobile Looms, Yet HR Lags

Mobile devices abound. The vast majority of your workforce has at least a cellphone if not a smartphone, with tablet ownership continuing to rise.

Studies show that 80 percent of workers have their device next to them for about 75 percent of the work day. The proliferation of the trend presents a challenge to HR: Should employee-owned devices be able to access work-related functions?

The term coined around this question is “bring your own device.” And based on a recent survey of human resources executives I conducted, not all BYOD policies are created equal.

According to the survey, roughly a third of companies have a policy on BYOD allowing employees access with their own device, another third have a policy that expressly prohibits access and the remaining third have no policy at all.

What’s more, other findings from my mobility survey show that HR isn’t seeing the value of mobile access to HR functions, whether by employee-owned or company-issued devices.

Sure, some HR executives see the value of mobile-enabled recruiting and open enrollment, but by and large, the greater possibilities of mobility are still not widely recognized.

I urge HR to consider the following mobile-use cases, as in my view they hold the potential for improving the employee experience.

General employee self-service via mobile can reduce the number of calls into HR call centers, especially in industries where employees don’t have ready access to a computer. The majority of HR systems and services suppliers offer this capability.

Time and labor capture via mobile is on the rise. Kronos, a workforce management firm, and others have added mobile to the mix. This is of particular use for workers who travel to different work sites during the day.

Workforce scheduling, like time and labor, finds strong use in mobile. Managers can use mobile to post open shifts, and employees can bid on those shifts from wherever they are.

Manager actions shouldn’t have to wait until they have computer and Internet access. Managers on the go are able to approve open requisitions, time-off requests, salary adjustments and other quick action items from mobile devices. Many HR vendors offer this capability.

New employee onboarding can be improved by mobile enablement — think of quick, mobile-optimized courses for new employee orientation.

Just-in-time training delivered via mobile can improve productivity by keeping employees on the right course when “how-to” questions arise. While long-form training via mobile isn’t ideal, short pieces can boost productivity.

Managers and employees may not always be in the same location. Modern performance management is moving to a more frequent, if not persistent, form. Mobile access allows for frequent performance check-ins, leading to better communication.

Employers encourage employees to take direct deposit for payroll and to go paperless for pay advice forms. Payroll providers like ADP offer mobile access to pay statements and time-off balances, among other self-service functions. This cuts down the call volume to payroll while saving money on forms processing and handling.

Besides the typical mobile-enabled recruiting functions, such as candidate job application, vendors like HireVue and Montage are offering video interviewing via mobile.

It’s time to think about having a BYOD policy if you don’t have one already — or review the one you have if it prohibits all access. There are good reasons for having a policy that, at a minimum, allows employees mobile access to HR-related functions as demonstrated by the many use cases laid out here.

At the same time, it’s important that the rules of the road be made clear. Overuse by employees can be as problematic as disallowing mobile access altogether. For instance, off-hour use of mobile for core work activities can bring into question whether allowing hourly employees to do so leads to unpaid overtime.

Your workers have the devices and they expect to use them, and if the right self-service use cases are made available, it can save you money and enhance the employee experience.

Lisa Rowan is the vice president of HR, talent and learning research at research firm IDC. She can be reached at