· 5 min read · Features

HR technology special 6/7: Mobile technology brings HR into the palm of your hand

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In one of the many satirical episodes of the cartoon show, The Simpsons, we see a fictional 1970s university IT class. The teacher, Professor Frink, has invented his own computer, which is so large it takes up most of the classroom.

The boffin tells the class: "Well, sure, the 'Frinkiac-7' looks impressive, but I predict that within 100 years, computers will be twice as powerful, 10,000 times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them."

He was right about the power part, but our mobile phones have become computers, getting ever smaller and more numerous.

In the UK, there are approximately 60 million people and 62.5 million mobile phones - or 1.8 mobile phones per UK adult.

And HR has exploited this by putting recruitment, learning and development, fleet technology and employee security onto mobile devices.

Here's a look at the state of the market in 2012.

Chelsea Apps Factory

"The pace of change in mobile technology is phenomenal," says Melville Carrie, MD at mobile apps creator, Chelsea Apps Factory, which is the driving force behind apps designed for blue chip companies, including CNBC, Vodafone, RBS, as well as The Telegraph and The Sun. "It is estimated there are 5,000,000 apps and the number is growing," says Carrie.

"Organisations are definitely shifting towards Apple technology, though, as it is easier to devise apps for one operating system. When the iPad came, it was easy for developers to make apps for and Apple products have better security provisions than Android apps. And some employers even have their own appstores now."

From an HR perspective, Carrie says the industry is "getting to grips" with apps and although suppliers are pitching development deals of between £10,000 and £200,000 to employers to create apps for them, this looks set to stabilise into a more uniform cost.

Last month, Chelsea Apps Factory launched an app for recruitment firm, Robert Walters.

Available free from Apple app store, the app has been designed to help potential recruits find roles and Robert Walters branches that are near their location at the time of search. Once jobseekers input their search criteria into the app, they receive a 'badge' on the icon on their screen every time a role is advertised that matches their specifications. It also allows users to interface with social networking site, LinkedIn, to send their profile CVs to recruiters.

The idea behind this is that by using LinkedIn as a base for the app, it will be spread virally, to attract more jobseekers.

Companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, are even beginning to develop their own content-management systems for mobile apps, to change the content once they launch.

"Maturation of the market could take 10 years," adds Carrie. "Most corporates don't have an app - employers are commissioning websites still and a lot are not ready to take the jump to mobile technology. It is only a matter of time, though, before [potential recruits] will be looking for employers' apps."

Autodesk: mix and match

Autodesk, a company that develops entertainment and engineering software, has made an unusual decision, when it comes to using mobile apps for recruitment.

"Our recruitment app is not just about the jobs," says Matthew Jeffery, head of EMEA talent acquisition and global talent brand at the company.

Speaking at the Talent Strategy Summit organised by Kelly OCG last month, he added: "The jobs part is incidental, so we have a mix of things in the app. It is about 'humanising the brand'. We have games there, GCI features and so on. If it were just about the jobs, why would passive job seekers want to re-visit? We wanted to engage people with the brand."

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)

The CSLA manages online recruitment for the public sector in Scotland. Dougie Shirlaw, digital projects director, has worked with technology provider Lumesse to create an Android version of its recruitment app.

"Councils don't want CVs from applicants and they don't want LinkedIn profiles," he explains. "They want people to fill in application forms. The app allows jobseekers to browse jobs wherever they are, share and download forms and apply when they get home." So far the iPhone app has been downloaded by 10,000 people.

"It's difficult to book in interview slots, but we are investigating using the app to organise this, putting the onus on the candidate, not the employer, so they are 'self managing' the process."

A&N: it's all on the cards

Media company A&N Media, part of DMTG, has launched a mobile video device that it plans to put in cards, as part of the onboarding process for new recruits.

Early ideas for content could mean employees can learn a bit about the workplace culture, see their workspaces, find out more about the colleagues sitting around them and learn about equality and diversity arrangements in organisations, before they start work there.

Augmented reality: trending now

Hold your mobile phone over an image and you can start to interact with this on your phone's screen. HR puts the practicalities of this seemingly space age innovation to Gerry Griffin, director of Skill-Pill M-Learning and a former director of the London Business School, to find out if it really can be of use to HR.

Is augmented reality primarily mobile?

Absolutely. Augmented reality lends itself perfectly to being primarily a mobile play.

Is augmented reality context-sensitive?

Yes. Augmented reality can be context-specific. If an employer is in the context of facing a challenge - for example, needing to have a difficult conversation with a colleague or needing to do a strategic client review - he or she can collect some content on their mobile. With augmented reality, this is definitely possible.

Can augmented reality add value to real world experience?

Yes. On the face of it, augmented reality ought to have a mobile learning application. It is on the go and it can add a layer of extra data information to what you are seeing. But still that is not good enough because crossing these three lines together still doesn't give you a rigorous business or learning application.

Augmented reality is terrific for marketing and gaming and my view is that all lines of sight are indicating that it ought to have a thorough-going business and learning application. It should utilise the fact that users and learners are on the go and that they are often in specific contexts in which they will need to use learning tools. With augmented reality, they can use their phone to enrich the interaction with external objects or their location.

There is extraordinary potential out there, but, like many things, we need to be measured in the way that we approach it. Ultimately, the tool has to drive value and learning, to help maintain stickiness of content and learning points, rather than just being a gimmick.

For more on augmented reality, visit www.bit.ly/yorLV9

Books worth browsing

The Mobile MBA

Author Jo Owen

Publisher Pearson

Cost £12.99

The Digital Diet

Author Daniel Sieberg

Publisher Souvenir Press

Cost £10.00

Organizations don't tweet, people do Author Euan Semple

Publisher Wiley

Cost £17.99

The Social Media MBA

Author Christopher Holloman

Publisher Wiley

Cost £16.99

HR's previous look at apps

Last December, HR took a look at some of the most popular apps: 'There's an app for that.' Browse what's hot and what's not at www.bit.ly/t7mvdE

Royal School of Artillery - mobile training

Royal Artillery (RA) is the combat arm that supplies the British Army's firepower. The RA operates in teams to locate the enemy, direct the attack - and fire guns, rockets and missiles. It uses digital communications to transmit orders.

Deployments, particularly in Afghanistan, have placed increased demands on the RA for key on-field communications skills and it is essential that the training establishment, the Royal School of Artillery (RSA) is able to deliver soldiers that meet training performance standards.

The complexity of commands used means the deterioration of post-training skills - 'fade' - is a real problem. Not understanding a command could be catastrophic.

Working with blended learning provider LINE Communications, the organisation set out to enhance the training provision and replace some of the classroom content with immersive exercises, delivered through a mobile device with wireless functionality; in this case, the iPad to take the training right to the place where it's needed.

The iPad allows the learners to take part in accurate on-field scenarios with multiple gun placements, compete or play alongside their peers in a variety of roles and practise anywhere in the barracks right up to the evening before a major operation.

By taking training as close as possible to the actual event, the organisation has reported that skills fade among soldiers has been reduced as a result.