You need to hire someone. So after surviving the excruciating process of culling through hundreds of resumes written by people with only the flimsiest grip on English grammar, and then sitting through interviews mostly with people who don’t seem to understand you are trying to run a professional business, you wind up offering the job to a fresh-out-of-college kid. And she could not be more excited about getting her career started. In fact, before the ink is dry on her offer letter, she whips out her iPad, sends out a Tweet, posts her new position on her Facebook page, and sends out a Yammer blast all without breaking a sweat. Looking back, that should have been a clue, but it slipped right past you at the time.
Fast forward to the following Monday when this bright new bundle of energy is ready to get started. She shows up right on time, you take her around the office and introduce her to her new co-workers, show her how to work the coffee machine and where the bathrooms are. Now properly oriented, you walk her to her cubicle and show her the new laptop you so thoughtfully set up for her, as well as her new Cisco VoIP phone complete with a 28-page user guide. And that’s when it happens. The moment we all dread, when we suddenly realize the next generation has added a chapter to their book that doesn’t appear in yours.
“What do I need a laptop and a phone for?” your new charge says with a look of profound puzzlement on her just recently-pimple-free face. “I’ve got my own iPad.”
Believe it or not, this sort of thing is happening more and more every day, everywhere. In most circles, the trend is referred to as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and although only a few years old, it is one of the most rapidly growing alternative work concepts there is. Years ago, when this idea first popped up, the practice was referred to as “hoteling.” No assigned place to work. You show up, find a spot to hunker down, and that was that. But in those early days, the concept was ahead of the technology needed to support such an idea and the early adopters were rare.
Now, with wireless devices and wireless networks, as well as the DAS systems needed to provide wireless cellular coverage wherever someone may be, becoming commonplace, and the old concept of Hoteling has morphed into “Free Seating” and “Agile Work Environments,” thanks largely to $400-an-hour workplace strategy consultants. And the college kids these days get it. You see, they have grown so accustomed to working wherever they happen to find themselves on a given day using their own devices to get their classwork done. And now that they are entering the workplace, they cannot fathom why they would not be able to use their same device for all their work.
They want to access their files wherever they are, share information with their peers, text, phone, Skype, all from the highly-personalized device they know and love. In fact, recent studies show many graduates find the notion of being issued a company provided device so old school that many of the brightest and most talented view firms that don’t support BYOD as stodgy and socially repugnant. And who wants to work for a company that’s socially repugnant, right?
Fine, then. You can’t buck evolution. So you decide to support BYOD. But like most things that start out simple, a BYOD strategy does not stay simple very long. For example, assume this new hire is an outside salesperson, and pretty soon, your clients get accustomed to calling her on her cell phone. And then the unthinkable happens: she quits and goes to work for your competitor. If your clients have grown accustomed to calling your ex-rep on her cell phone, now what? Who owns that phone number? If you think you do, think again.
And there are other issues. What happens when an employee loses their beloved device, or maybe has it stolen? If whoever now has that device can get access to the company network, they can also get access to your data bases, client lists, pricing sheets, and so on. And then what about troubleshooting a connectivity issue? Do your employees call your internal help desk, or the employee’s service provider, or maybe the warranty or service desk for their device? And on top of all this, case law is not yet in place that clearly establishes whose data on that device belongs to whom.
So with all these in mind, IT departments are now starting to establish policies to address these, among other issues. And who is helping with all these? You guessed it: $400-an-hour consultants.
Today, on a global basis, only about 20 percent of employees have a formal BYOD policy. But that number is growing, and growing fast. If this subject hasn’t come up in your organization yet, it will. And the sooner you start planning for it, the better positioned you will be to handle it. After all, you don’t want to find yourself thoughtfully handing your next new employee a laptop and telephone user guide just to have her, or him, look at you like you have a third eye.