Smart Device Policies: If HR Doesn’t Insist on Them, Nobody Else Will

Last week I got a call from a telemarketer.

I field dozens of calls from salespeople and potential business partners every week, so this in itself wasn’t an exciting occurrence.

What was interesting, however, was the complete misalignment between the centralized IT purchasing services the gentleman on the phone wanted me to invest in, and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies I promote to my team.

This got me thinking. Not about BYOD in and of itself — I’m a fan, and its benefits have been covered extensively, including most recently here on TLNT by Michelle Smith — but rather about who is responsible for advocating for it.

Insisting on BYOD

What if as the CEO, I had found myself persuaded by that telemarketer to scrap our BYOD policy? Or what if I had opposed BYOD to begin with?

In a traditional business, hardware purchasing decisions are largely left in the hands of an operations, IT, procurement, or related department. But in a social and mobile world, devices are more than just technology, aren’t they? Indeed, more than half of people would rather lose their wallet than their phone.

If our cell phones are so vital to our lifestyles and senses of self, do the very devices we use not all at once become a system of engagement, an employment perk, and a compelling recruiting tool?

When it comes down to it, should HR be the one to insist on BYOD?

Stay ahead or fall behind?

HR’s role as an effective strategic partner means anticipating future workforce trends, and making sure that your organization has the policies and procedures in place to continue to thrive. BYOD — despite its limitations — isn’t going away, so it’s HR’s job to prepare for it.

The latest generation of employees expects to have access to their mobile device 24/7, including while they’re on the job. You may find that they tolerate carrying two devices, but they’re not happy about it. So why start off on the wrong foot?

Even if IT or purchasing resists, HR needs to wade through the wants and needs of (potentially petty) company politics, and insist on the policies that make most sense strategically. If this means shaking things up a little bit, then so be it.

Ultimately, the price of devices has dropped remarkably, security has never been better, employees have never been more informed, and there are only a handful of market leaders.

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If you can support both Windows and Mac PC environments, you can support iOS, Blackberry, and Android personal devices, too. If necessary, download some of the tech support requirements onto your employees’ service providers. That’s what they’re there for.

Alignment and economics trump everything

On the other hand, maybe you can’t support inter-operability on a half-dozen different mobile devices and operating systems. Keeping all of your IT needs in-house guarantees that when there’s a problem, you know who’s in charge of fixing it.

Perhaps more importantly, economies of scale mean that a centralized purchaser can get better device and service pricing schemes than any individual employee. Compare that to when your employees are expected to do the shopping and front the cost of their devices: as a group, you could end up spending way more than you need to.

Finally, don’t forget about the minority of employees who don’t own and aren’t interested in owning their own device. Do you provision equipment for these employees, but not the rest? Do you insist they incur a significant expense they wouldn’t otherwise undertake? The simplest solution is to keep purchasing in-house.

A battle worth fighting

BYOD is important, but it might not necessarily be your top priority. That’s okay. When developing your HR plan, consider where BYOD falls into the grander scheme of social HR for your business.

If your IT and executive leadership are receptive to social HR, use that as a platform to push for BYOD. But if they’re hesitant on social HR yet receptive to BYOD, start with BYOD and work your way up from there.

In the end, HR DOES need to insist on BYOD. You can’t afford not to.

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