This is the second installment of a three part blog on what resources employers should provide for technicians to help them succeed. We began talking about whether employers or employees should buy the materials and supplies to complete daily service jobs. If you’d like to read the first installment of the blog series, just click here. To recap the first blog post: employers need to give their techs everything needed to do their job safely and effectively, but the most important thing that any employer can provide is a safe working environment.
This installment of our blog series is going to delve into how companies manage electronic devices. In the current digital age, it seems like just about everything has an electronic component. (We know… our products like Field Nimble are making the need for electronic devices even more important in day-to-day business for small contractors.) That’s why we wanted to take an entire blog post just to talk about device management that can keep you and your employees protected. We’re going to cover a few different ways employees could access devices and how to protect your customer/contact information, while maintaining employee privacy when they’re not on the job.
Logistics of Devices
The theme of these blogs is to discuss what a company should provide for technicians to do their jobs and what a technician should provide for themselves. With things like uniforms and tools, the tech will probably not use them on their own time, and it will not affect the company if they decide to wear their uniform around the house. That is not the case with phones or tablets. Having a phone or tablet that is owned by the company, but used by a tech for personal calls, games/apps, taking photos or other activities can affect the company’s bottom line, and liability for different activities. Similarly, things become get murky when employees have all the phone numbers and addresses of clients on their personal devices; if they decide to leave for whatever reason, who is to say they will not use them to start their own business or sell them to a competitor? So let’s dive into how employers can manage employee use of company devices and digital information.
Option 1: Require Two Separate Devices
An easy solution to know what you can expect from your employee on company devices is to just provide a device and only allow them to use it while they are at work. They have a private phone or tablet they use for their personal life, and a company device they use on the job. You put expectations and written agreements into place clearly defining what the company device can be used for, and what it can not be used for. If the company owns the device and all the data on the device. You would maintain the right to review any activity or information the phone employer-owned device has stored.
Option 2: Shared Devices
Different ways you can address this is to supply each truck or team with a device, and have the devices kept at the office every night. With this approach, you would have a smaller investment in that you would not be providing each tech with a device, but with shared responsibility you would need clear agreements on what happens to lost, stolen, or broken devices. (If you haven’t noticed, that’s a theme… Have agreements so you and the techs know exactly how to handle the situation.) If you decide to have separate devices used just at work, you will want to make sure your techs understand you own ALL the data on that device, and they should not be using it recreationally if that is your expectation.
Option 3: Individual Devices
If employees aren’t sharing the devices, it means they each get their own! This can be more costly, but if an employee knows they are solely responsible for an item, they may take better care of it. Also, if you are a company that offers 24/7 emergency services, allowing the tech to have the device with them at all times can make it more reliable that you have all the data with the tech at all times. If you have flexible teams, it may make more sense to have each technician and selling technician have their own devices to keep jobs moving smoothly.
Option 4: Allowing Private use of Company Devices
If you give a mouse a cookie, it will ask for some milk… If you give a tech a tablet, they’ll ask to use it... or not ask, and still download Candy Crush. The question will just come up, and you need to be prepared to answer. If you already have an unlimited talk/data plan, you might want to offer the use of the company phone as a personal device as an added value benefit or perk of working for your company. If you’re already paying for it, why not let your techs feel like they’re getting a great deal and use it in their personal life! Now, this does not come without complications, which we will discuss soon. If you offer the use of the company phone for private enjoyment, the tech might decide to keep separate devices, but it would be their choice, and not a requirement on your end.
Option 5: Requesting Company use of Private Device
The “Bring-Your-Own-Device” or BYOD policy isn’t uncommon in companies, however it is harder to manage information as the employer. Even if “BYOD” isn’t your policy, a new technician starts and ask if they can just download the software onto their own device because they are more comfortable with their device. If your company only gives out iPads, but they don’t feel comfortable on the device, it may cause an added stress that can limit their ability to do a job to the best of their ability. If you allow techs to use their personal devices the way you regulate what they do with information after they leave your employment needs to be defined before they begin. So that brings us to the question of how to keep information separate on a company or private device. A very common reliable option is getting a Mobile Device Management (MDM) software for your devices.
How Mobile Device Management (MDM) Can Help
When there are many different MDM softwares available for your devices. Instead of going into which specific software you should buy, let’s explore what MDM is, and the different features that they can have. Basically to manage how a device is used (work vs. personal) you can put a “wall” in the software that limits the way users can access work information. MDM software puts extra security around the company information on a phone. Having your information secure on a phone isn’t just important for devices that are split between personal and company use; if a phone is lost, you want protection for your sensitive customer information. MDM software can offer the ability to lock phones, locate missing phones, or even wipe information from a remote setting.
MDM software can also limit how your employee uses a device in ways that directly affects your company. This means on the job, you can limit the location the device can be used during work hours, and you can make the ‘company’ side of the phone lock when the employee is not working. If your employees are hourly or non-exempt, and they check their work emails or communications when they’re at home after hours and qualify for overtime, maybe without even realizing it. Having clear agreements are a way to avoid this situation, but ultimately if you can lock a phone so that there is not an ability to check their work email, you are protecting yourself from surprise expenses later on.
In addition to making sure your corporate data is safe on the encrypted area of the phone by ensuring secure email, browsing, and apps, MDM software can offer more features. A major benefit is the ability to enforce policies when the phone is being used. Whatever your company policy is, you can have your MDM reflect that in how the devices are set up. There is VPN configuration, which basically is a layer of security that works kind of like a personal key into your company’s files or email that are stored online. There are other features that may be relevant to your company like only allowing pre-defined Wi-Fi access, or other security measures that may be relevant to your company.
When you are deciding which MDM to use at your company there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, make sure the solution keeps the environment safe for you and your workforce. Next, make sure it has all the features you need; does it regulate and monitor all the things you need it to for your company to run effectively? Another very important thing to consider is how long the onboarding process is, and how easy it is to add and remove devices. Especially if your company employs a BYOD policy, anytime an employee changes phones you will need to seamlessly remove their old phone from the network and link their new phone. Another feature is the ease of use for the administrator. If the reporting features are confusing and hard to engage with, you won’t want to have to sift through a cacophony of information just to answer a simple reporting question.
Overall, mobile devices and managing information will just become more relevant to every industry and every employee and employer. Getting a grasp on how you want to lead your business into the future now will be setting you up for success when electronics become entirely necessary. If you still don’t know where to start with deciding how to go forward with device management, contact an HR professional or lawyer who can walk through the legal protections you will want to consider when going forward.
We still have more ideas on how to divide employee and employer responsibilities, so make sure to check back to read our upcoming post about ongoing education.
Do you have specific areas that you would like covered about this topic? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org