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When I think about mobile and HR — I don’t automatically think mobile recruiting. While I think that stuff is really cool and innovative, the truth is that, that as an individual, I’m not thinking about applying for jobs or networking while I’m standing in line at the grocery store trying to pass the time. I’m an HR pro, but I’m an end user too, so I like to put that hat and imagine “what ifs.” When I think about mobile in HR I think about something a bit simpler. Benefit cards. Even though I’m an HR person I always forget my card, and since I work in HR no one else on my plan ever has their either — so on appointment days I have to wait by the phone for “the call” to pass over group number and ID numbers. I know I’m not the only one — because I get calls from employees (and their spouses or college kids) all the time with the same requests. I’ve finally resorted to taking a photo of my card so that I have the image of it on my phone. That’s me getting creative. There is a much bigger picture, think about questions and situations just like this example that could be solved with mobile apps.
There are two things to potentially solve for in the example. One, providing information to employees, and more importantly, their qualified dependents WHEN they need it. Things such as health and welfare information is a good example to start with. The second is, finding ways to answer questions of employees (and I like to throw in dependents) on demand. They are actually two different problems, but they impact the same group of people.
Solving for the Timing of Information
Mobile is not just about what you can do on your phone or tablet — its really a description of us. People are moving and digesting information so fast, we literally need to find ways to get information at people’s fingertips. We give people lots of information … but mobile can allow us to give information timely! Here’s the difference — giving someone a benefits card to put in their wallet to use when they might go to the doctor vs. letting people retrieve their benefit card when they need it at the doctors. People pay attention to things when they have to — when things apply to them, when they need them. Staying along the benefits theme, I bet all of us go over benefit plans on the first day. Now raise your hand if you find yourself explaining those same plans to people 3, 4, or even 5 times over the next year. Its not that people don’t want to understand or that they aren’t smart enough to understand how the plan works — many people want to take in what applies to them right then in that moment.
If you talk about maternity benefits and the employee is not expecting, its not likely that they are going to hold onto that information for a time when they do need it. I’m starting to digress, but what I want to connect is that mobile is a way of getting information to people when they need it, instead of asking them to hold on to it for when they might need it. Its really a different way of approaching information and communication. However, in order to pull it off, you’ve got to have some great systems and processes in order to do it — and it must be easy, convenient, and timely for employees (and their dependents) to consume. I know that I’m using benefits as the example, but swap out benefits for goal setting, performance management, corrective action, pay checks, tax forms — and you’ll see that there is a much broader application for this.
Solving for How you Communicate
So all of you might not be up for a major (or not so major) technology project — but if you’re not today, I hope that you will start thinking that way for a longer term strategy. Let’s talk about the second point that we can solve for with mobile — how employees engage with you as an HR person. Many of you probably have some kind of HR call center or a point person who people can call for HR questions. What makes a call center or a call line successful and attractive is that people can call in and get their questions answered or more information. Doctors, employees government agencies, children, spouses, potential candidates — anyone can call in. Mobile could change the way that you communicate with people. It opens up texts, IMs, and even video. You’re probably thinking, “duh, Andrea.. all things you can do from any mobile phone….,” and I’d agree with you and then ask you, how many of your organizations are effectively using other channels? Mobile apps could change the “when” and “how’ you communicate with your employees — and it could even change where your HR staff who supports these functions sit and their schedules. That last one is particularly important to those of you who have 24x7x365 operations.
You don’t have to solve for both of these with mobile — but I think that as HR professionals we should acknowledge that this is how so many of our employees are used to interacting with the world in general — we can leverage that and apply it to HR information and processes.
What are your thoughts on how mobile apps could further the timing of communications with your employees? What trends do you see that you’d like to see further developed or try?