These days, our smartphones are essential to our lives – both personal and professional.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of employees in the U.S. used their personal cell phones for work, with as many as 65% giving out personal cell phone numbers to clients or customers, according to Forbes.
“You would expect that number to be much higher now,” said Ben Ross, Client Success Manager for MindForge. Prior to joining MindForge, Ross served as a safety professional for several companies, including Pepper Construction Group. Developed with the help of industry leaders, MindForge supports frontline workers by delivering important jobsite updates and organization-specific content directly to their mobile devices.
“After the pandemic, people became much more used to using their personal devices for work with so many remote or hybrid,” continued Ross.
The pandemic created a BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – culture for many workplaces. While the practice of having employees use their own devices is becoming more commonplace, it’s also created some challenges – mainly from employees who would prefer not to utilize their personal cell phones.
“In the end, it’s all about how you communicate with tradesmen or current employees about the idea of using cell phones,” said Ross, who said it’s important to illustrate the benefits they will see as individuals. Ross shared the following tips:
“Anytime you have a new hire, have a very pointed conversation about the technology and why you ask them to be a part of it,” said Ross. “How it can help eliminate hassles – use specific examples from your past jobsites or projects.”
“Communication is always an issue,” Ross said. “So often, we hear from tradespersons that if they had only learned about issues or had the opportunity to share their concerns or updates that delay or the mistake may not have happened. The front-line team asks for more communication – now they have it.”
As long as the team members are not in a state or part of a union that requires compensation in return for using a personal device, conversations can center around benefits. “Before apps like MindForge, folks often had to travel in for training. With commute times, your training will take much longer. However, with MindForge, frontline workers can finish complete a training during lunch or during a quick break. When someone travels in for training, they won’t be paid for that time, or for the gas,” said Ross. “With an app like MindForge, you’re actually saving money.”
Be transparent about costs – in the case of the MindForge application, downloading it is free. “I’ve known team members who did not pay for unlimited data and were concerned about that,” said Ross. “So there’s a few options. At most job trailers, there is WiFi. So videos or training can be accessed at the trailers and will not cost any of their data.” Also, Ross pointed to tests that had been conducted to identify costs related to data usage – it came up to less concerns than three pennies a week.”
“Many tradespeople come from a world where – in many companies historically – they were taken advantage of,” said Ross. “There’s not a lot of trust with some of these people because there is a history of them having to stand up for themselves. If you understand that mindset, that helps you with approaching them.” Ross recommends sharing that these measures are being implemented to keep the front-line workers in the loop and part of the communication. “Be vulnerable and say: ‘We are trying to get better, and we need your help.’ Let them know this is for them. It may be a difficult sell, but it will be a step.”
It’s also helpful, Ross said, to understand how to manage requests around personal devices when working with unions. They key is to focus on a request, not a mandate – as union workers are allowed to use personal mobile devices if they choose to.
As the culture around mobile phone usage has changed – and it has become more affordable and convenient – many have found it to be an essential part of their work.
“Again, it goes back to communicating the benefits,” said Ross. “Highlight how it will help them to make this decision. For example, it will be so much easier for people to learn about inclement weather.”
Regardless, Ross sees a time where there will be little resistance to using personal devices.
“Forward thinking, progressive companies are understanding that rather than asking employees to keep their phone in their vehicle or lunch box that they should actually ask people to keep their device accessible because it actually keeps people informed and helps them get updates,” Ross said. “It really is the next step.”