Whether businesses like it or not, employees use their personal devices at work. Bring-your-own device (BYOD) is a reality.
The temptation that personal devices such as smartphones and tablets represent is just too great to resist. No efficient employee under deadline will wait for IT approval when the tools they need to do their job are already sitting there in their pocket. Likewise, it is hard for the average employee to use a clunky enterprise solution when a simpler, more easily understood consumer solution is already ready and waiting.
There are many reasons why employees reach for their personal devices at work, but the result is the same: employees adopt BYOD practices regardless of company policy. That’s why nearly three-quarters of organizations worldwide have an official BYOD policy or are developing one, according to Tech Pro Research. Better to set the policy that allows the emergence of shadow IT.
Not all BYOD programs are created equal, however. Many exist but are not adopted. The reason: Businesses forget that BYOD is a partnership with employees, not something they can mandate and force on them by fiat.
It is one thing to define office hours; it is another thing entirely to tell employees what they can do with their personal property. Since employees always can use their personal devices for work without company approval, businesses must take a softer approach that works with employees instead of dictating to them.
Here are five keys to making your BYOD program stronger by partnering with employees.
1. Educate Your Workforce on BYOD
Most people don’t understand the necessity of good security. They may understand that their iPhone needs a passcode, and that lost devices pose a security threat. All but the tech-minded will not fully understand the dangers of unencrypted communications, however, or how sketchy apps installed outside of the major app stores pose a malware risk when it comes to Android devices.
The first step is showing employees why there is a need for BYOD policy, and being transparent about what the business is doing about the problem and how BYOD protects both employees and the company. Get buy-in for why BYOD matters.
2. Make BYOD Adoption Easy
Even if employees recognize the need for BYOD policy, they may not embrace it if the policy is complex are clunky. BYOD programs must mirror the native computing experience as much as possible, and be simple enough that employees can understand it and adopt the policy without much trouble.
This means an easy onboarding process, ideally one where employees can enroll and un-enroll themselves. It means a short official BYOD policy; for instance, virtualization software developer, Citrix, uses a BYOD policy that includes 10 rules and is a single page in length.
Easy BYOD adoption also means that the software a company asks employees to use for security reasons should be straightforward and not complex.
“The bottom line is that people don’t regularly use software or services that are complex,” Agora.io founder Tony Zhao has noted. “The app revolution flourished partially because these apps were easier to use than desktop software. BYOD must be similarly easy, everything from secure messaging to document sharing.”
3. Respect Employee Privacy
Management consultants such as Capgemini lay great stress on developing BYOD policy that safeguards employee data first and foremost.
Low BYOD adoption rates largely come from a perceived lack of privacy for the end user; nobody wants their boss spying on them. Businesses that want BYOD partnership with employees must clearly show what BYOD policy and technology exposes to the company and how personal data is kept private.
Craft fair BYOD policy with employee privacy in mind, and make sure employees know their personal data is safe.
4. Set Limits
Best practices go a long way toward securing corporate data in a BYOD environment. It is nearly impossible for a company to completely fence off its data, so helping employees make good security decisions is a cornerstone of a successful BYOD program. Setting limits is a part of that.
While a narrow list of allowed applications and devices might be too restrictive, a more flexible and cooperative approach usually is acceptable to employees. You might ask that employees only share spreadsheets through a secure cloud service, for instance, instead of mailing them naked in unsecure email. Or you might request that all business-related real-time communications take place through a secure connection like that offered by Agora.io’s WebRTC API, not an unsecure video chat channel.
If you guide employees toward good security instead of tightly restricting access, your BYOD program ultimately will be more successful.
5. Give Employees Something in Return
What’s in it for the employee? That’s a question you should ask when making your BYOD program. Employees already have personal devices and the means to use them at work, so there must be a compelling reason why they would want to adopt the company’s BYOD program.
There are many ways that businesses can deliver employee value through BYOD. A good BYOD program could deliver cost savings for employees such as company financed airport wifi. It could give employees access they might not otherwise get, like apps or data they can’t get on their own. A BYOD program could offer employees an easier work life by cutting down on hours in the office or time spent on a particular task. Companies also should think about perks they could offer in conjunction with BYOD adoption.
These are but five of the ways that businesses can craft a better BYOD program, one that gets significant employee buy-in and adoption.
Personal devices will be used at work whether the business likes it or not. So best that you build a BYOD program that employees embrace, not one that encourages shadow IT.