Personal Mobile Devices at Work: Impact and Implications on HR

Gary Lee, Global Head of Leadership and Organizational Development, Sivantos Group

Gary Lee, Global Head of Leadership and Organizational Development, Sivantos Group

If you walk around the streets of Shanghai, Tokyo or Singapore today, it is not uncommon to see passers-by glued to their smartphones. From staying constantly connected to one social network to getting around from place to place, personal mobile devices have become an extension of a person’s lifestyle 24/7. According to, it is estimated the number of smartphone users will grow to around 2.5 billion in 2019 with China, the most populous country in the world, leading the smartphone industry. Around 50 percent of the Chinese population is projected to own a smartphone by 2020.

The exponential growth of personal mobile devices globally has transformed the way employees work in organizations today. Here are three key areas human resources (HR) has transformed to cater to the new ways of working:


With the war for talents raging on, organizations must do more to ensure that they capture a bigger catchment area of potential job seekers. It is no secret that many employees including those who are highly engaged in most organizations are keeping their options open for the next big opportunity. They might be on LinkedIn, a job search portal or company job board ‘researching’ during their lunch break or free time. Understanding the constraints of viewing content on personal mobile devices, HR should keep their job descriptions simple to read, job search functions easy to use and information on employee value proposition (EVP) visually appealing as much as possible. Large corporate videos should be avoided as an engaging media clip that lags on a mobile device does more harm than good. Applying for jobs on mobile should be as simple as attaching a resume from one’s personal cloud storage or sending an email without having to go through an elaborate form filling exercise that takes eons to complete.

"The increased usage of personal mobile devices at the workplace has big implications on how HR manages the workforce and policies around it"


To sustain and improve employee performance today, organizations must rethink how work is done. In the past, productivity was measured based on the number of hours worked, meaning employees were rewarded based on their working hours and traditional technology also mandated that workers had to be ‘chained’ to their desks to get work done. Today’s workforce is always connected, and work can be done through emails, enterprise cloud solutions and messenger applications which can be accessed through mobile devices. This requires a mindset shift for managers when it comes to measuring employee performance. HR has to deploy initiatives to educate managers on how to manage flexible working arrangements and focus on performance driven by tangible outputs rather than time taken.

From an employee’s perspective, HR has to address three employee concerns to increase performance:

1. Are the enterprise solutions compatible with their mobile devices?

2. Will their manager be able to measure their work performance remotely?

3. Will they get reimbursement for their personal mobile device plans if they utilize it for work?

If HR is able to answer YES to all three questions, it will radically change the way managers work with their direct reports to provide continuous feedback, track performance and communicate to get work done.


Besides compensation and benefits, employees are driven by the opportunities to grow with the organization. From HR’s perspective, this means giving employees timely relevant learning opportunities to perform well in their present tasks and prepare them for future growth. Face to face training is a luxury in some firms today as employees are hard pressed for time to deliver their outputs. As such, HR has adopted e-learning platforms to provide bite sized content for employees to develop themselves. Unfortunately, as many HR professionals would attest, the utilization rate can be measly if not implemented well. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when learning on personal mobile devices:

1. Lengthy text descriptions or videos: No learner has the patience to read through pages worth of content or sit through 30 minutes of someone talking on a video clip. Keep your content short. Anything that takes more than 3 minutes to learn is too long.

2. Too many login requests: An enlightenment I received from one of my business leaders was that access to learning must be seamless. If a learner has to retrieve his or her login username and password to access the learning portal every time the motivation to learn comes, you can be guaranteed that the learning motivation will die down very quickly. If learners can login using their phone login or single sign on, it will reduce the resistance to learn via mobile device.

3. Content format: Keeping in mind the constraints of a personal mobile device, the learning content must not require too much offline storage, data usage, be easily read without continuous scrolling and compatible with all mobile operating systems.

The increased usage of personal mobile devices at the workplace has big implications on how HR manages the workforce and policies around it. Allowing employees’ interaction with personal mobile devices during working hours and increasing work beyond official organization devices would be a step forward for employee productivity as organizations stand to benefit from cost savings (decreased device inventory, less depreciation costs) and greater employee engagement (more autonomy to use preferred mobile device).

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