Next time you go into a Walmart store, you may notice an employee staring at her cellphone. But she's not goofing off: The employee will probably be checking inventory or reviewing sales data.

That's because Walmart just announced that it will now let employees use their own cell phones for work, according to Business Insider. Plus, the company will provide employees discounts on their phone bills.

The change came in response to feedback from employees that they preferred to use their phones rather than store-issued devices to access information or perform certain tasks. Employees who volunteer for the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program will download Walmart apps, so that once they clock in, they can check inventory and prices, scan products, review sales data and accomplish other tasks. 

"With BYOD, associates have tools that enable them to do the best job possible, right in their pockets," Brock McKeel, Walmart's senior director of digital operations, told Business Insider.

Since Walmart is the world's largest private employer (with 2.3 million associates), this is big news. Until now, Walmart forbade employees from bringing phones onto the sales floor. But now the company joins the trend of companies encouraging workers to carry their phones:

What does this mean for employee communication?

In our increasingly mobile world, expectations about receiving information have changed. People want the freedom to receive important news any time, any place--and mobile devices deliver that freedom.

That means your internal communication program must include a mobile strategy.

Start by understanding employees' needs and preferences. Conduct focus groups to ask employees:

  • How often do you use your mobile device?
  • Would you use a personal mobile phone or tablet to access company content?
  • How would you read corporate emails, access the intranet or use an app?  
  • What topics do you think are best delivered on a mobile device?

Then once you decide on your mobile approach, you need to rethink content. Those long intranet articles and expansive copy don't work on a phone. So you need to create content that fits the screen:

  • Focus on what matters most. You don't have space for multiple messages; choose the most important one.
  • Invest in the subject line and headline. They work as a hook to catch busy employees. So they have to be attention-getting and brief: Aim for no more than 55 characters.
  • Make it visual. Another way to cut back on copy and keep readers interested is by adding compelling visuals to your intranet content, such as an intriguing photo, a simple chart or an infographic.  
  • Chunk copy instead of building blocky text.Even the largest smartphones have smaller screens than laptops, so dense content is hard to absorb. Break copy up into digestible bites by using subheads, bullet points and yes, numbered lists.
  • Make content self-contained. Smartphone users will scroll, but they don't want to jump back and forth between email and an intrante site or separate document. So shape relevant content into compact screen-sized bundles.
  • Carefully choose key words. When looking for something online, mobile users are most likely to start with search. In every mobile format, select words that best resonate with employees.
  • Take out your scissors and cut, cut--then cut some more. As digital experts Nielsen Norman Group advise, "(Even) short is too long for mobile." Make copy as brief as you possibly can.

Published on: Oct 30, 2018