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In the war for talent companies will stop at nothing to attract and keep good staff. Giving employees the freedom to use their own smartphone or tablet on the job can be an extra selling point. However, at imec it’s also often a practical necessity.
The subject of ‘Bring your own device’ is new terrain for most companies at the moment. However, at imec this is hardly the case. That has to do with the business model applied by this research center. In addition to their own employees, there are many industrial residents at work at imec. These are employees of the companies for whom imec carries out research, who come and join the relevant project teams in Leuven. “These employees are not on our payroll,” notes Paul Vandeloo, Vice-President ICT at imec. “When they bring a laptop with them, it is usually one from their own employer.” imec offers these employees connectivity, so that they can access the imec network as well as their employer’s network. imec offers its own employees a standard PC, with all of the accompanying support. Some may also receive a smartphone.
Increasing tablet use
However, there is currently more to the story. The advent of the tablet is accelerating these trends noticeably. In recent months, imec registered the presence of 400 tablets and smartphones. This represents some 20 percent of the end users. “Tablet users want access, first of all to e-mail, calendar and contacts,” says Paul Vandeloo. “They receive the connection they need for this via the public wireless network. In addition, we provide the necessary guidelines so that they can adjust their device settings.” In the meantime, imec is looking into how the use of the tablet can be further expanded, including for consulting the intranet and for using specific company applications. “In this sense, it is having a considerable impact on ICT. The greater the diversity of devices and operating systems, the more pressure that comes to bear on the security and the more complex it becomes to manage.”
In practice, imec notices that all employees across the board (including managers, scientists and other profiles) are starting to use the tablet. The openness of the ICT Department towards ‘Bring your own device’ is in this way being felt by the HR Department. “The competition in our sector is exceptionally high,” explains HR Director Lisbeth Decneut. “Not only with other research centers, but also with companies that carry out research and development for new products and applications.” The war to attract the most talented employees is probably more intense here than in other sectors, certainly because it is an international phenomenon. imec has 71 different nationalities among its employees. But even in times of economic crisis, the demand for engineers and researchers remains greater than the supply. “’Bring your own device’ is indispensable in this context,” points out Lisbeth Decneut. “It’s not the reason why someone chooses imec, but it’s simply a basic precondition that has to be a part of the package you are offering as an employer.”
The subject of ‘Bring your own device’ is often associated with Generation Y. Smartphones and tablets are an important part of their day-to-day world. Lisbeth Decneut: “We are taking that day-to-day world into account, for example by communicating and recruiting via Facebook and LinkedIn, or by offering tools such as Yammer, which supports collaboration between colleagues.” imec understands that the expectations of the digital native are often played out where HR and ICT intersect. Thus, among other things, the research center is building a platform for unified communications. This platform is able to offer the employees from Generation Y the tools that they are using outside of work as well, such as videochat and document sharing. Paul Vandeloo: “HR and ICT regularly consult one another about such matters. We have a joint steering committee in which we hope to be able to optimally align the business and ICT in this area.”
imec conducts research in the area of nano-electronics and nanotechnology. The research center, with headquarters in Leuven, has a staff of almost 2,000, including ±600 industrial residents and guest researchers. Research by imec is applied in areas such as health care, smart electronics, renewable energy and transport.
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