Many industries rely on younger generations as their frontline employees, particularly retail and hospitality. In the past, that meant managers were tasked with the challenge of effectively reaching them. “We don’t even speak the same language, and they don’t care,” was a common lament, true or not.
But, we have the tools we need now. The emergence of mobile as a workplace tool has completely disrupted this generation gap. Employee apps, internal social networks, or mobile-first portals offer an effective bridge between management and frontline employees. Still, there’s always a how to the what; crafting a mobile use (BYOD) policy without compromising your organization’s need for security and compliance, will be key to success in this new reality.
Leveraging the New Status Quo
There’s no question that the digital generation is used to accessing everything and everyone in the palm of their hand: 92% of adults age 18-29 have a smartphone, according to recent Pew Research. In a research study conducted by Nudge Rewards, it was found that Millennials spend an average of 100 minutes of every workday on their smartphones. They’re not just checking Instagram during that time, they’re accessing information and engaging with their work. That kind of productive behavior needs to be encouraged and leveraged through transparent policies and guidelines.
Millennial employees want to be aware of what their brand is striving for and what headquarters expect of them. Yet, only 19% believe that customer service is key to company success, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial survey. For retail and hospitality industries, in which frontline employees often come from younger generations, there’s a huge problem with that statistic.
Your frontline employees need to be knowledgeable about your brand vision, organizational goals, and tactical items like in-market promotions or new product launches. If you were to take a quick poll across your frontline teams, you may soon discover that there’s a huge disconnect - and that they may not be as well informed as they need to be. The quickest and easiest way to fix that? Communicating critical information to them through their own devices.
If you want to build trust and engagement in a workforce that’s used to functioning via mobile, it’s a smart strategy to craft a clear BYOD policy. Engagement and behavior are close cousins, and leveraging your employees’ attachment to their own device enables them to stay fast, stay connected, have easy access to information, and communicate the way they’re used to — which in your workplace, means they’ll be able to do a better job.
Getting started with BYOD
The specific processes and policies around BYOD need to match the needs and functions of your organization. Mobile has an immediacy that facilitates high-touch communication and responsive management as it engages, motivates, and unites frontline employees. To ensure your employees are using mobile to the best of their advantage while at work, you’ll want to include the following in your BYOD policy:
- Acceptable use – outline times and use cases that are acceptable for using personal devices while at work.
- Devices and support – provide details on accepted devices, and any support that will be given (e.g. connectivity and WiFi)
- Reimbursement – will you or will you not be providing reimbursement for usage, cost of the device, plan overages, etc.? This factor is completely dependent on your company culture, incentive programs, and the extent to which your frontline will be using mobile at work.
- Security – outline any extra security and privacy precautions that will need to be taken by employees who are using personal devices for work purposes.
- Risk & liability – explain any disclaimers or risks that employees will assume full responsibility for in using their own devices at work.
Craft a BYOD policy that’s based on risk, security, management, IT and legal all working together, and you’ve got a way to enable your younger employees to perform even better as well as supporting the myriad needs of your company.
BYOD, check. Now what?
Your BYOD policy is in place and now you have the channel to effectively reach the next generation of employees – but what about the strategies for communicating with them effectively? Here are three tips for building effective strategies to engage your younger workforce:
1. Make Communications Brief. No matter whose device they’re using, frontline employees spend a mere 2 minutes a day on corporate communications — they’re busy. Be sure to fit communications within that short window and into that brief attention span. To do so, try to keep critical messages short, interactive, and actionable.
2. Make It Personal. Communicating with your frontline employees should be a two-way dialogue. There’s incredible value in sourcing ideas and feedback from your frontline teams - going the extra mile and recognizing them for their contribution and hard work will pay off in the long run. By treating your teams as groups of individuals, and not a collective unit, you will be able to effectively engage your teams to act on behalf of the brand.
3. Tailor it to Your Brand. Frontline means front line: the employees who deal with your products and your customers are your brand ambassadors. Optimize that position, and make their job easier, by empowering them to easily convey company brand, values, and message. That way, they don’t have to adlib or improvise in a pinch, and can confidently represent the company culture. With a mobile workplace tool, they can quickly message a manager to find out the answer a customer’s question, or look it up themselves.
Next steps? Make sure you solicit feedback from your frontline employees on how both your BYOD policy and your communications are working from their perspective. Bringing them into the process is another way to drive their engagement. Don’t be surprised when they’ll translate that sense of alignment back to the floor and your customers.