Your mobile learning questions, answered

The use of mobile devices on the frontlines has been getting a lot of attention lately, thanks to a recent announcement by Walmart. Last month, they debuted Me@Walmart, an in-house app that puts everything associates need in the palm of their hands, including timesheets, inventory management and a Siri-like feature called “Ask Sam.” And they upped the ante by providing brand new smartphones to 740,000 associates free of charge. 

Even before Walmart’s announcement, adoption of mobile learning has been gaining momentum. The appetite is there from employees: 84% say they’d like to access training and communication on their personal devices. We observed a sharp spike in mobile learning on the Axonify platform over the past year, too. In fact, during a three month period in 2020, 77 percent of Axonify training sessions were completed on mobile devices. 

The pressures of the pandemic highlighted the need for organizations to reach their frontline with consistent updates and information in real time. Pulling people into a huddle or getting everyone to use the same shared computer was no longer an appealing option. And when employees were furloughed, a mobile device was the most practical way to reach them with timely updates and messages of encouragement.

This has more organizations thinking seriously about making the leap into mobile learning, whether that’s by following Walmart’s lead and providing smartphones or implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. 

Why adopt a mobile device policy on the frontline? 

Most organizations are motivated to pursue a mobile device policy for the same reasons we all abandoned car phones back in the 90’s in favour of cell phones: more convenience and flexibility

With mobile learning, employees can quickly receive updates, do a few minutes of training to boost their knowledge and consult resources and job aids in the flow of work. That means when they have a question, they can answer it in the moment, without leaving the floor to use a backroom computer or track down a colleague to help. 

Other reasons to move to mobile include: 

“Axonify was a huge opportunity for the organization to make that leap into using mobile devices, and shift away from some old ways of thinking that ‘I can’t trust an employee to have a phone on the sales floor,’” said Jessica Gasser, VP of Human Resources, Retail Operations at Wakefern Food Corporation, speaking at our recent AxoniCom GROCERY event. “It really was a very powerful moment for the organization to provide that connection for our associates and make it easy for them.”

Get the right learning content out quickly in the moments that matter, with a mobile experience employees will love.

At the end of the day, mobile learning leads to better employee experience and better customer experience. But making it happen in your organization remains a daunting task. 

Based on our experience working with frontline employers across the globe, here are some of your biggest mobile learning questions, answered. 

Q. How can I control when employees use (and don’t use) their mobile devices? 

Critical to a successful implementation of mobile learning in the workplace is putting clear parameters around the use of mobile devices. Make sure the expectations are very clear about when employees should be using devices and, just as importantly, when they should not. 

A simple way to do that is to use a disclaimer. This is typically a box that pops up on the mobile learning app login screen outlining the rules of use, not unlike the Terms and Conditions we’re used to seeing on personal apps. 

By checking that box, hitting “I Accept” or logging in, employees agree to the statement and can be held accountable to that, keeping everyone on the same page. 

Q. How do we deal with the security risks of mobile devices? 

Stolen data, malware, hacks—oh my! Security is an important consideration in your frontline mobile learning initiative. The risks can be mitigated by developing a formal policy in conjunction with your IT team. Some tactics that organizations use are: 

  • Implementing single sign on, so employees can log in with the same credentials to your mobile learning app as other workplace systems
  • Using a mobile device management system to govern and monitor device use 
  • Setting up “geofencing,” a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area, so employees can only access company data while they’re within the store or warehouse
  • Restricting access to mobile learning apps to your specific wifi network, so employees can’t access the app away from the workplace

Q. What if employees don’t want to use their mobile devices on the job? 

The last thing you want is for employees to perceive your mobile learning initiative as just a way to offload costs onto individual employees. Transparent communications are important to allay fears of surveillance, demonstrate commitment to employees’ privacy and share the excitement about how mobile devices will empower employees at work. 

Make sure employees aren’t forced to accrue additional costs to use their own or a corporate-provided device at work. You can do this by providing a stipend to cover additional data usage or ensuring they can do everything they need on the corporate wifi.

Finally, make sure you offer alternatives, whether that’s a backroom computer, handheld device or other common device, so all employees can access the information they need in a way they’re comfortable accessing it.  

If this all sounds like a lot of work, this stat might put things in perspective: Implemented effectively, BYOD creates an annual average value of $1,650 per employee, according to Cisco Consulting Services. Those savings, plus the boost to employee and customer experience, are reason enough to put in the legwork to make mobile learning a reality on your frontline. 

Keep reading for more on how to move training from the classroom to the smartphone.

Lindsay Windover-Kroes has spent her career writing in the tech and education sectors. She’s passionate about helping others do their best work, from the head office to the frontlines.

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