to-byod-or-to-not-byodIf there’s one time where talent management practitioners actually get the chance to achieve actual alignment on organizational vision and values (key determinants in employee engagement and job satisfaction) it’s employee training and development.

While HR and talent leaders face a well publicized engagement crisis, employee training might well be the most effective solution for not only solving the engagement epidemic, but also a critical strategy in cultivating internal expertise and the professional development your people want – and your business needs.

Training and Engagement: Two Sides of the Same Coin

A recent Gallup poll found only 13% of workers worldwide are really engaged at work, which means that fully 87% (give or take a few percentage points for margin of error) or all workers are, fundamentally, flight risks.  Or at least a drain on your business morale and bottom line; that same Gallup survey showed that organizations with engaged workforces outperform their less engaged counterparts by up to 202%. That’s a pretty compelling business case – and should serve as a wakeup call for employers everywhere.

Largely lost in the engagement discussion, however, is a surprising, but often overlooked, finding: the fact that training opportunities and employee engagement (not to mention productivity and job satisfaction, among other key HCM measures) are directly correlated. According to the ASTD, 65% of respondents cited the quality or availability of training and development as positively impacting their personal engagement levels, leading the list of factors influencing employee engagement by a wide margin.

That’s why there’s never been a better time than now to invest in developing and delivering quality employee training programs geared towards developing your employees of today into the workers you’ll need tomorrow. But with budgets stretched thin, workforces increasingly decentralized across markets and geographies, and limited resources allocated to employee training, finding new opportunities for development and distributing training content can present a daunting challenge for many employers.

The good news is, there’s a good chance that there’s an app for that – or at least, a way to make training more accessible, and effective, for workers worldwide.

To BYOD or Not To BYOD: The HCM Question

BYODBring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and procedures have caught on, using smart phones as a smart solution for cost savings and way to maximize the explosion in mobile technologies while minimizing dedicated internal resources or pricy, proprietary platforms. That’s why it’s critical to consider the pros and cons of adopting the same BYOD technology already in use in so many other HCM functions for employee training, too.

Consider that in 2015, the number of mobile devices all around the world will have grown to over 2 billion, ABI reports. The ubiquity, utility and applicability of mobile devices are not only necessary in our culture, but present an opportunity to take employee training to the next level in terms of quality, innovation and employee adoption.

BYOD, of course, has very vocal critics, whose main talking points are, by now, well worn, focusing primarily on the perceived absence of security often erroneously associated with mobile devices – not to mention the perception that these devices can be an on-the-job distraction preempting employees from doing their jobs.

Additionally, a recent California court ruling mandated that any employer requiring BYOD policies in the state is required to compensate their employees for the associated costs, setting a precedent which will likely erode some of the savings that have traditionally been a tradeoff at most employers implementing BYOD.

While the concerns and criticisms levied at BYOD in the workplace have varying degrees of merit, the truth is that if employed correctly, when it comes to training and retaining top talent, BYOD just might be worth the risk to realize real ROI – and real results on your employee training investment.

Here are a few tips on how to use BYOD in employee training.

Beyond the Buzzword: What’s So Great About BYOD, Anyway:?

blue-coat-byod-infographic_10830781First off, the good news about BYOD is that almost everyone, in fact, already has their own device to begin with.  90% of Americans currently use a cell phone for accessing data like text messages and e-mail, according to PewResearch; that same poll found that 58% of those Americans have a smartphone, a number that’s disproportionately higher for working age adults.

The general population is constantly connected and always on, and whether or not your company has a policy in place on staying plugged in at work, it’s relatively irrelevant – workers will just have to be more creative or covert about mobile device usage on the job.

The truth is, the case of access to information anywhere, at any time, means that even the most technophobic Luddites at your company (HR excluded, of course) are already utilizing smartphones and mobile technologies in their daily lives.  Which is why employee training acts as an ideal extension of the BYOD trend, an ideal mechanism for getting employees engaged, educated and edified.

Of course, that’s not to say using BYOD for employee training isn’t without risks.

Sharing documents or storing data on a personal device can breach NDA and non-compete agreements already in force; additionally, these confidentiality issues are compounded by the imposition of yet another on-the-job distraction from the work you hired your workers to do (as if the internet and social networks weren’t enough).

But like with any risk, the potential exists for those risks to be outweighed by the rewards and return on investment many companies are already realizing, early adopters who already utilizing BYOD are taking their training to the next level – and staying a step ahead of the competition.

Implementing BYOD: Best Practices for Employee Training

byod securityForget expensive implementation consultants or costly customer support subscriptions; the good news is, there’s a good chance employees already know how to use, and have a certain level of comfort with, their personal devices.

That means saying goodbye to the common problems associated with HR technology adoption; you won’t have to figure out user errors, report bugs or overcome hurdles like enterprise security or configuring a solution across markets or business units.

It’s the workplace equivalent of plug and play, and by letting employees use the tools they already put to work at work, you’ll overcome one of the biggest barriers for user adoption while cutting the ramp-up time associated with many HR technologies.

It’s also a trend that’s too powerful for even the most controlling of HR leaders to try to combat.

According to ShoreTel, citing Gartner survey data, by 2018 approximately 70% of professional work done on a mobile phone will be done on a personal device, an explosive growth that represents a unique opportunity to make training more accessible, user friendly and compelling.  Forget those stock sexual harassment videos or clunky LMS modules like “time management skills” that are, if anything, a waste of everyone’s time.

With BYOD, you’ll be able to turn employee training from a lecture to a conversation by making content interactive, engaging and interesting. From dedicated apps provided by traditional LMS and HCM providers, extending extant systems and syllabuses, to a new ecosystem of collaborative training tactics like MOOCs and online learning communities, BYOD is already evolving the way we learn, personally and professionally.  As any kindergartner or developmental psychologist will tell you, outcomes such as knowledge retention and ability to apply theory to practice increase exponentially when learning and fun overlap.

Additional BYOD employee training benefits include the ability to instantly send and receive course related materials, enabling collaboration between trainees, increasing interaction with facilitators and other participants, and, most important, creating the flexibility and portability to access training materials, messages and notes directly on the job, even if those workers are remote or geographically disbursed.

Furthermore, stop worrying about security so much – there’s a plethora of software and solutions specifically developed for dealing with (and capitalizing on) the BYOD phenomenon; many of these emerging technologies also make it easier to separate personal and business usage on a single device by itemizing out documents, activities and interactions.  These tools also make reimbursement mandates like California’s more easily enforceable and effective, and allow for IT departments to manage security on personal devices without accessing personal information.

One of the leading tools in this space, the BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Management, makes BYOD training readily available and trackable while also adding a layer of security and control, as these solutions are managed directly by the company’s tech department; even if the device is the user’s property, not all the data on it has to be with these emerging, effective mobile security solutions.

BYOD Training: A Lesson Plan for Learning Success

EmployeeTrainingProgramTraditional workplaces haven’t evolved very much; the nature of work remains stagnant even if new technologies and tools have changed the way we do that work.  The way that traditional employee training is administered, similarly, seems stuck sometime in a bygone age of rote memorization, long attention spans and lots of listening to pedantic, pedestrian and often patronizing instruction.

But as we all know by now, education experts have repeatedly proven that each of us has a distinct learning style for retaining and applying the information we’re taught.  While the instructor-led, lecture-based format remains undoubtedly the easiest for employers to administer, truth is, it’s likely not the most effective way to encourage engagement, particularly given the diffuse ways your employees like to learn.

While learning styles are different, however, your workforce shares (statistically speaking), a common desire to learn, develop and advance professionally.  That makes learning a powerful motivator  not only for training employees, but retaining them, too.

Training Industry cites a National Research Business Institute study saying that 23 percent of employees leave an organization because of the lack of development opportunities and training.

These and other studies prove that people have the intrinsic desire for self-improvement and personal development; by implementing BYOD in your employee training, you can transform what often feels like another excruciating HR exercise into a hands-on, learner directed experience with meaningful material – and measurable results on employee performance.

The best way to do this is to ensure that all assessments, content and training materials are digitally accessible during every step of the learning process; another common strategy worth testing is that of the “reverse classroom.”  With BYOD employee training, employers can deliver content and assign prep work or required reading on these devices prior to actually meeting for more conventional, in-person training; this can also be used for tracking progress during and after the course is complete. That means less time spent actually reviewing and rehashing material and more time providing insights, support and personalized value to your employee population, even if you’re allocating the same amount of time for training.

The key to this lesson plan is that BYOD policies and mobile technologies are here to stay, whether or not HR is ready.  The critical question is: how can your organization best be prepared and equipped to handle the evolution in learning technologies?  The truth is, BYOD employee training has real ROI and a measurable impact on retention, engagement and productivity.

The opportunity to leverage these new training tactics is the rare chance for HR to earn a little extra credit, for once – and BYOD represents a pretty easy A.

By Matt Charney

Matt serves as Chief Content Officer and Global Thought Leadership Head for Allegis Global Solutions and is a partner for RecruitingDaily the industry leading online publication for Recruiting and HR Tech. With a unique background that includes HR, blogging and social media, Matt Charney is a key influencer in recruiting and a self-described “kick-butt marketing and communications professional.”