A Look at How BYOD Impacts Workplace Training – Insights from Lawrence I Lerner

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Recently, the Training Station blog reached out to several people to get their responses on how the increasing adoption of BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device” to work) is affecting employee training programs and strategy.

Some of the questions posed looked at the various risks involved – both security and beyond – in company adoption of BYOD policies, as well as the benefits to corporate training programs, and where we see the future heading over the next few years.

The blog will include a series of posts on this topic in the coming weeks, including individual interviews, as well different questions that use BYOD influence as their starting point.  Please make sure to keep an eye out for them.

To start off, a bit of background.

Though it’s increasing, BYOD has been around for a few years.  A few years back, Blackberry devices were either given by the employer directly, or allowed in the workplace.  Yet that was before the explosion of iPhones, Android smartphones, and a dizzying variety of tablet computers.  The popularity of these new devices, and the demand of workers to have a smartphone that was not a Blackberry, made employers come to a decision to allow those traditionally “consumer” devices not only into the workplace, but allow them to access company software.

The line between corporate and personal mobile devices in the workplace has been blurring ever since. There are already 1 billion smartphone users around the world, with 1.3 billion smartphone and tablet sales expected in 2013.  Training Zone recently cited independent research which suggests nearly 10 million employees in the UK will be using personal devices in the workplace by 2016.  In the United States, numbers are even greater.

Findings from a study conducted by Dell released in January of this year show that approximately 70% of companies believe BYOD can improve their work processes and help them work better in the future, while an estimated 59% believe they would be at a competitive disadvantage without BYOD.

Avanade’s (a Microsoft, Accenture joint venture company) most recent research campaign also addressed BYOD, and the consumerization of IT. Avanade surveyed a group of C-level executives, business unit leaders, and IT decision makers, and found that more than one-third of businesses (35 percent) report “training for all employees” as the top investment in the next 12 months to better support consumer technologies in the workplace.

Yet BYOD policies, as attractive and as sensible as they are, do bring security and other risks.  Full adoption rates of BYOD policies have been slow to come, and there is clearly some apprehension.  The Training Station blog will look more in depth at the issue of security in BYOD, specifically how it relates to learning, in an upcoming post.

To get us started, one of the first people I spoke with on the BYOD impact on training is Lawrence I Lerner, President of LLBC – A Global Change Agent.  Last summer, he released an e-book, ‘Facebook for Your Business,’ based on research he collected about how individuals and businesses use social media and other technologies. He also recently participated in an expert panel on ‘The Future of Workplace Learning” where he discussed BYOD and new techniques for teaching.

Here are some of his thoughts below.

Training Station: At a basic level, how do you think what people are calling the “consumerization of IT” – the increasing use of consumer devices in business environments to access company software – is impacting corporate training?  How can and should managers react to BYOD?

Lawrence I Lerner: BYOD or (Bring Your Own X – this will soon encompass certain software (Google Docs, Office, other productivity software and more!)) forces managers in the enterprise to raise their game. BYOD makes you change your training and engagement strategy. The focus shifts to providing a common infrastructure for the devices and learning techniques. It’s a little like the reality shows where professional athletes are taken out of their comfort zone to compete in a new sport. The basic skills and familiarity is there but the execution is changing. This creates some difficulty but in some ways frees the trainer to focus on other things.

TS: We all know that training sessions, in the traditional classroom setting, take of time and money.  We now live more and more in a mobile world.   

LL: Yes, absolutely. A key trend that people will want to pay attention to right now is the increasing portability of technology.  No longer are we tethered to our desk, we now carry computer capabilities in our telephones, our tablets, and even the most popular tablet, the iPad, now has the iPad Mini, so it’s getting smaller and more portable.   The trend extrapolated out over the next 10-15 years, maybe even less, is toward wearable computers.  So that we won’t have to access a database through typing, but rather speech-to-command, language process is becoming much more recognized, natural language processing is becoming more capable seemingly each passing month, and I think that when computer access to learning technology are available via an earring, a wristwatch or even a shoulder clip, it will be much more readily accessible to be able to access different tools or reinforce knowledge that’s need to be able to perform a particular task or job.

TS: What about the dangers here? How can learning executives overcome the fears of BYOD – security and otherwise – in their organizations?  What other reasons are there for the slow adoption rate  of mobile device into learning strategies?

LL: There is a dark and light side to these trends.  Corporate information and security policies must take an evolutionary approach to how data is consumed. More confidential data and information can be consumed widely.  There are reasonable, simple fixes that require a broader perspective.  Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer has taken a slightly different approach. The light side is that quality of life can improve.  Americans work longer hours and give up more of their personal time (evenings, weekends, vacations, parenting) than any other population. These changes have the opportunity to enable knowledge workers and free some of the mundane time used in learning new or rigid corporate systems.

So – how does your company’s BYOD policy impact learning?  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog