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Should Small Businesses Upgrade Employees’ Smartphones?

by Jennifer Goforth Gregory on November 1st, 2012

As it is with consumers, many small businesses wonder with each new release of a smartphone if they should upgrade to the latest and greatest version. But instead of just the price or upgrade fee for a single phone, small businesses have the cost multiplied across their staff. In addition, owners run the risk of upsetting employees if some receive an upgrade and others don’t.

As with most things in business, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to smart phone upgrades. Here are three different strategies to consider:

1. Have a overall office policy for upgrades

Some businesses avoid controversy by having a set policy for upgrading employees’ cell phones across the board. Many will upgrade cell phones according to their provider’s allowances for discounted or free phones. By having a consistent policy for upgrades, employees know when to expect a new phone and that all employees receive phones at the same frequency. You will also reduce costs on cell phones because you will typically receive discounts by waiting to the next discounted upgrade. The downside is that by adhering to a strict schedule, your employees could lose productivity if a new feature is introduced that will enhance their performance.

2. Evaluate each phone and each upgrade separately

Another way to handle the issue is to evaluate each phone upgrade for every employee based on the features in the new phone and the tasks that the employee is required to perform. For example, if an employee routinely take pictures on their smartphone for work purposes, then the upgrade to the iPhone 5 might make sense due to the improved camera quality. Or the Passbook feature of iPhone 5 might help the productivity of an employee who spends most weekdays in airports and off-site client meetings.

The main benefit is that each dollar you spend on upgrades can hopefully translate directly into growing your business as opposed to your employees simply having the latest gadget. If a phone provides a useful but critical feature for an employee, you can wait until the next release and then purchase the previous version at a much reduced price. You may also be able to pass down gently used phones to other employees who only need basic features.

3. Use Technology Upgrades as an Incentive

If your employees place a high value on having the latest version of technology, then consider using smartphone upgrades as an incentive for employees. One way is to set sales or other measurable goals for employees, and by meeting the milestones the employee is then eligible for all phone upgrades. If you thoughtfully set goals, you may find that the money you spend on smartphone upgrades will pay back in spades with new customers and productivity.

How do you handle phone upgrades among your office staff? Tell us about your experience.

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience.

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