(Don’t) Ban Smartphones at Work
Are mobile devices a huge drain on employee productivity or a beneficial tool that improves performance?
They’re both, which creates a dilemma for managers.
Smartphone bans are becoming more common in workplaces, but there are many compelling arguments for a more balanced approach.
Smartphones can be highly distracting, true … but they are also pretty useful and highly capable pocket-sized assistants.
Smartphones can actually improve productivity
No, really. Here’s how.
Faster responses to urgent issues
When employees are easier to reach, colleagues can get quick answers to urgent questions via text message. Employees can chat with experts inside and outside the company, get up-to-the-minute product info and data from colleagues in other departments or locations, and track down the missing details needed for critical or time-sensitive reports.
No more voice-mail tag or waiting until you can find a coworker to ask that key question in person; texting is even faster than email! It can also cut out messengers — executive assistants or receptionists — who might slow down communication or even introduce misunderstandings.
The reality of today’s digital, screen-obsessed society is that families connect using their smartphones. Parents who cannot access their smartphones during a long workday may worry that they’ll miss a crucial communication from a child or a child’s school or daycare. Same goes for employees with elderly parents or other real-life obligations. Spouses who can’t communicate quickly may also worry about missing an important message.
All this worry is … a distraction at work, reducing employees’ focus, hurting their performance and degrading productivity. Many employees will surreptitiously check their phones or take extra breaks, further eroding both performance and morale.
Smartphones can serve as tiny personal assistants, helping employees take notes at meetings or schedule meetings and conference calls, enabling them to quickly find information that answers a question — and so much more. Sure, they can use other tools to accomplish these tasks. But people use their phones all the time in their non-work lives to do these things. They’re more comfortable — and therefore more efficient — getting stuff done using their phones.
Easy access to training
Mobile-first microlearning platforms like OttoLearn meet learners where they are most at home: on their smartphone.
Of course, workers can use a laptop or desktop computer for their training. But they are far more likely to whip out their phones and do a few minutes of microlearning while they are on hold or waiting for their lunch order. That’s because any time they have a few minutes of downtime, employees are going to fill it by doing something on their phone. They can open Instagram … or do their microlearning. Which would you prefer?
Don’t go nuclear
Rather than consider the nuclear option of an all-out ban on smartphones at work, treat your employees like the professional adults they are. The balanced option is a well-considered smartphone use policy.
Reasonable limits — not bans
For safety reasons, banning smartphone use on factory floors, in warehouses, in retail settings, or for employees who are driving is a no-brainer. But even in those situations, it makes sense to allow — even encourage — beneficial use of smartphones during breaks or at the beginning or end of a shift, for training, or as a performance support tool. And employees can absolutely be expected to leave their phones behind or silence them during meetings and while serving customers — and to be mindful of the noise created by notifications and conversations in places where others are working.
Policies that limit personal use of smartphones or restrict the types of activities that are allowed on company time and company devices might be prudent. But this applies equally to non-smartphone use; your employees shouldn’t spend hours on personal calls using any device, for example; nor should they use company email accounts or internet access to send inappropriate messages of any sort.
Restricting or banning the use of smartphone video cameras at work is a sound approach to protecting all employees’ privacy. To protect the company, policies should also include guidelines on the types of conversations and information that can be accessed or discussed on a smartphone; but, again, this is merely a modern extension of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements that have been routine in many industries and companies for decades.
In addition to placing restrictions on employees’ smartphone use, your policies should provide them some benefits: Limit managers to texting or calling employees’ cellphones during working hours or in the case of a true emergency, for example. And don’t expect that, because workers can access work email and social media accounts 24x7 that they should do so.
Crucially, ensure that any restrictions are applied across the board and that all employees, from the management down, are held to the same standards.
Respect your people
The trick is knowing what to mandate and knowing when to trust employees’ judgment. You hired these people — and you trust them to make your company work. Treating employees with respect means letting them make their own choices — and holding them accountable for overstepping.
Rather than policing smartphone use, keep an eye on productivity. When smartphone use impairs an employee’s performance, or you notice that they’re distracted or frequently focused on their mobile devices, rather than on work or customers, call them on it. But don’t let fear get in the way of productive use of smartphones at work.
Access to knowledge or performance support tools
Achieving a worthwhile or meaningful goal
Achieving a reward — a grade, a badge, points, a prize
Receiving an unexpected reward
Contributing to improving a project or a product
Wanting to be perceived as a team player, wanting to be liked
Improving performance or effectiveness relative to own past performance
Improving performance or effectiveness relative to coworkers; “winning” or being the best
Knowing enough to avoid making mistakes and do better work
Losing status or levels within a gamified framework as the result of making a mistake
Feeling of completing a task, accomplishing a goal, finishing a project
Doing the “right” thing — following rules or norms, being ethical
Is the corporation’s compliance training program well designed?
Prosecutors will look at whether the training is designed to prevent and detect wrongdoing and whether management is enforcing the program by means of training, incentives and discipline.
Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith? In other words, is the program being implemented effectively?
Prosecutors are expected to directly investigate whether a program is merely a “paper program” or a sincere effort. Evidence of a company-wide commitment to ethics and compliance, promoted by senior and middle management, is needed.
Does the corporation’s compliance training program work in practice?
Good intentions and training don’t count if they don’t work; in assessing whether the program “works in practice,” prosecutors will look at how the suspected misconduct was detected, what the company’s investigation process is and how the company is trying to correct the problem.
Microlearning delivers small, narrowly focused bits of information.
Adaptive microlearning tailors that content to each learner’s knowledge gaps and learning goals, ensuring the training is relevant.
Continuous adaptive microlearning conditions each learner to engage with relevant training every day — for just a few minutes.
Read More Burning Questions
Learning experience platforms
Virtual and augmented reality
Consulting more deeply with the business
Developing the L&D function
When people have a question or don’t know how to do something, what do they do?
Whip out a smartphone and look for information. What they don’t do is sign up for a 1-hour seminar.
Microlearning brings corporate eLearning into the modern paradigm. Microlearning describes eLearning content that is:
- Narrowly focused
- Available on demand
- Mobile-first or mobile-friendly
It must answer a question, meet an immediate need, or help the learner solve a problem.
In the City of BigTown, there was held a conference,
One of training professionals — those making a difference.
A difference to company ROI by delivering training,
From many perspectives — like Manufacturing.
And, too, there were call centers, colleges, corporate sectors,
Each chiming in about outcomes and metrics.
All shipped their training through an LMS platform,
But were desperately seeking true training reform.
One was Antonio, who hated the manuals —
For his product revisions and updates, they were annual.
Plus his printing costs? Oh, they were crazy!
And he truly believed that franchisors were hazy.
None knew how to train in an effective way,
"There’s too much to read, to do!” they’d all say.
For there were many levels of training to assign,
From the top at head office, down to those on the front-line.
Trainers Helen and Abinash nodded, “We agree!”
Said Feng, "Paper and handbooks? Just another dead tree.
On the job, not everyone will have the info they need,
Because the content changes and updates they never did read.
They never learned the content added along the way
That may apply to their region or division today.
Plus, in the field with team members in many locations,
Mobile-first training would make a stronger foundation!”
Said Sales trainer Jane of her PDFs stored online,
“They’re rarely revisited after onboarding time.
I need content delivered in snack-sized bites,
And the ability to test them until they get it right.”
Ursula chimed in, "Onboarding’s a pain for new hires,
With most feeling like their hair is on fire!
Plus, promoted reps must refresh what they know
To be properly prepared to perform their new role."
"I deal with compliance," sighed Manal the Banker.
Abinash nodded, Frank turned to thank her,
For she’d raised the ugliest concern of them all —
That certifications aren’t based on year-long recall.
“To maintain the standards and follow each rule,
We need more than one test that comes out of the blue.
When it comes to things like health & safety, it's a game-changer
Because if their training is lacking, they could be in danger.”
Continuing he asked, “Could training be location-specific?
As learners move through the plant, alerts would be terrific!”
Helen asked who used traditional classroom training
Combined with online to keep interest from waning.
Did they have workshops, seminars, or events,
The kind that take workers away from their desk?
"They learn at that moment, then likely forget —
is there a way to get long-term retainment?”
Rachel had been quiet, she’d said not a word,
When suddenly she leaned in so her voice would be heard.
"We solved these concerns after ditching binders and books —
We use daily drip training and our learners are hooked!
When we update our content, it gets to them faster,
And metrics and KPIs reveal the content 'masters.'
We use OttoLearn for microlearning and we’ve been thrilled,
for all of our training needs — and more — are fulfilled."
So ends our tale of the nine trainers complaining
about the problems they had delivering training.
Training that mattered, with metrics and firm ROI,
Based on data analysis of prime KPIs.
Many problems they shared, with no clear resolution,
Found Agile Microlearning with Otto was the solution!
Microlearning both adaptive and agile saved them from disaster,
Making trainers and trainees learn happily ever after!
- Combining the question and activity tabs
- New WYSIWYG editor which is “inline” with the text
- Ability to include media (images, video, audio) within activities (question, answers and feedback)
- Icons to indicate correct answer, position locking, whether or not the answer is visible to learners (active), and override feedback
- Learner password reset
- Streamlined data entry into the content studio, by being able to quickly add
- Numerous small updates and bug fixes
- Check out our most recent updates and add yourself to be automatically notified when we push updates
- Super easy to understand
- Very predictable cost, if you have a specific number of users (eg: employees)
- Doesn’t differentiate between users that have different volumes.
- Have to purchase seats for your maximum number of users.
(Typically the number of users that log in during a month)
- You don’t need a license for every specific user, you can often only license half of your users (since perhaps only half ever log in during a month)
- Typically there is a large cost for going over your licensed number of users, which can be incredibly expensive (eg: 5-10x more than your licensed cost)
- You often have to “play games” as an administrator, not wanting to do a mass course enrollment if you have only have your users licensed in a month
What It Means
Why It Matters
An algorithm determines each learner’s knowledge gaps and feeds them practice activities to close those gaps.
Efficiency. Learners learn the material faster because they spend less time on what they already know.
Learners can follow a scaffolded learner path or self-direct their learning.
Learners are inquisitive. We all Google for information when we need it, so why lock learners into a particular learning path?
Learners engage the most when they are allowed to deviate from a set path and explore available content.
At the end of the day, as long as each learner reaches their mastery goal, the particular path they took to reach there is unimportant.
Delivering content to the learner in smaller chunks.
Chunking content is important only if it is paired with the ability to search for and find specific content chunks “on demand” and the ability to consume just the chunks a learner needs. With these features, training doubles as a performance support.
Learning Experience (LX) Design
Using science and art to create experiences that help learners fulfill the learning outcomes they desire, in a user-centered and goal-directed way.1
Have you used Google? If so, then you have benefitted from Experience Design (XD): When you search for something, you rarely have to go past the first result.
With good XD, you don’t think about the design; it “just works.”
With poor XD, your learners will disengage. They’ll say they “don’t have time.” What they are really saying is that they “don’t have time for the poor experience.”
Typically, when used in relation to L&D, AI actually means “machine learning.”
Machine learning algorithms learn from data and “get smarter” over time.
Have you used Netflix or Amazon recommendations? They are based on machine learning.
The algorithms look at a ton of data, including your past choices and choices made by others who are similar to you, to make predictions as to what you will want to watch or buy.
In L&D, machine learning principles are being integrated in much the same way: to provide recommended content for a learner to consume.
This reduces the burden on training administrators to try to predict or guess what is relevant for each learner. It also provides a more personalized experience for each learner.
Imagine that you are a salesperson, and your training mix subtly and automatically shifts, based on the nature of opportunities in your sales pipeline. You are offered training only on available products that you have not already mastered. That would be a training program that is driven by machine learning.
An algorithm determines each learner’s knowledge gaps and feeds them practice activities to close those gaps.
Use learning analytics to make better decisions by converting data into insights.
The true value is not just in providing more data, more charts, and more graphs. The value is in leveraging AI to search for and surface insights that you’d never think to look for.
Combine the analytics from learners’ performance with key KPIs for the outcomes you desire, and have the analytics engine generate predictions such as, “Learners who reach mastery in the Objection Handling module will close 3.4 percent more deals.”
Now that’s actionable intel.
About a week before I began getting my Ottolearn Mastery Moments, I had a popup window from Adobe appear on my screen as I was working on another project, prompting me to update my version of Flash. We do use Flash, so like an idiot, I clicked on the popup and asked it to start the update—and only then noticed that the url was not an adobe address. Of course, I closed the popup window using the X in the upper corner, which didn’t solve anything. Our IT guys did the best they could for me, but my computer is still compromised, and is being replaced.
Fast forward to Ottolearn and your Online Security for Employees course. After completing several mastery moments, I have now learned what to do with popups like that. This morning, as I restarted my computer again, that same Adobe popup appeared and this time I was ready! I opened task manager and killed that little $%^&^ dead in its tracks.
I know the point of letting us try out OttoLearn as participants was for us to experience the power of this platform from the learner’s point of view. I can tell you that I personally am very grateful for the training you provided to me, and the fact that I was able to let others in my company know how to kill off those nasty virus-carrying popups. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s fun! And yes, I have a true feeling of accomplishment.
I can’t wait for the point at which we can talk more about developing courses for our clients.
New accounting rules
Workplace violence & harassment prevention
Framing a basement
Changing a tire
Retrieval practice is the key to retention.
Your brain wants to be as efficient as possible. Why would it try to encode information for long term storage if it thinks you don’t need it? You need to actually practice retrieving memories (information) in order to have your brain store it in long-term memory.
Spaced retrieval radically improves learning efficiency.
You not only need to practice retrieving information from memory, but you need to wait until you’re on the edge of forgetting it. This is why cramming is so ineffective at generating long-term retention.
Interleaved learning feels strange at first, but dramatically improves retention and skill.
Interleaved learning—mixing up material while learning and practicing, such as mixing up practice activities while learning WHMIS and supervisory skills, will improve your retention of both.
- Cost predictability. Each seat costs you $x/month
- Typically more expensive than a usage-based license
- Typically less expensive than a seats license
- Cost variability tempered by pre-purchasing usage credits that never expire and consume them over time
- Best possible quadrant for engagement
- Will overcome learning obstacles
- Will find a way to learn, even if materials are poor
- Won’t need nudging or incentives
- Text is great
- Can easily learn something
- May need to work up the energy to engage in low quality materials
- May procrastinate, so incentives can help motivate.
- Text is great
- Wants to learn
- Has little experience so can benefit from more instructional quality
- Greatest benefit of video and other rich media
- Worst possible quadrant
- May not have experience in the topic
- May not really care about it
- Will require a lot of motivation to see engagement
- Video can help