A common refrain from the NRA and firearms advocates is: “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.” On whatever side of the gun debate you personally stand, I can think of no single statement that better embodies the importance that gun advocates place on their personal ownership of firearms. You will find similar statements often made by chefs about their personal set of knives, or by a mechanic about his favorite brand of snap-on tools. All of these statements are really just a simple way to express the massive importance these professionals place on their tools of the trade. Companies may soon see these statements made about the mobile handsets that their professionals use all day and often into the night.
Knowledge workers – The right device for the right job
When a tool is crucial to your work, people tend to form a bond with it as they learn the nuances and tricks within that tool. All this experience with the given tool makes the professional better at their job. Despite my fiancée’s encouragements to sign up for Top Chef, a professional chef will out-cook me even when forced to use my low quality knives, range, and cookware – but the chef isn’t going to be happy about it, and productivity will no doubt decrease.
I believe that knowledge workers are no different than these chefs and mechanics that swear by a given tool. I am most comfortable in the iOS environment, having worked for Apple in the past and having used Apple devices since I was 12. Others I know have used a BlackBerry since day one and swear by it. Still more are firmly attached to Android or Windows Mobile devices. None of these platforms is necessarily better than another – what matters is what the professional is most comfortable and most productive with.
Winning top talent with BYOD
If you want the top people, you need to treat them like they are the best. A restaurant would never think to tell a professional chef that his or her knives aren’t compatible with their cutting boards. In a world of Web-based applications and simple development kits allowing cross-platform development of mobile apps, there are no excuses for forcing your employees to use tools that they find inferior.
Will a top job candidate tell you no simply because you force them to use a BlackBerry? Probably not, but it is already becoming a factor for consideration in many potential hires. And even if a candidate does start working for you, why waste the time of top talent by squabbling over their desired mobile platform? IT may try to scare executives with security issues, but that’s why Mobile Device Management exists.
While the world isn’t there yet, I could certainly see myself at a job interview asking if I will be able to use my preferred mobile device(s) on the job. I would also use the company’s response as a tie-breaker if I was unsure about which position to take.
To avoid being caught behind the curve, you need to work to be ahead of it. In business, the company with the best people usually wins. Don’t lose over something as silly as forcing everyone to use the same smartphone.