Give all employees an iPOD

National Semiconductor recently decided to give all of their employees an iPod, according to their press release:

Our employees were vital contributors to our most successful year in National’s 47-year history, and we wanted to equip them with the tools to help us create more value for our customers

This is pretty original,  I’ve heard of companies giving their employees similar gifts for great performance, but never the whole workforce.  It seemed to me a pretty bold move, especially when you consider how they plan to use the iPods, once all their employees have them:

We’re looking for new and more effective ways to communicate with our employees — and the iPods will help us do both,” said Brian L. Halla, National’s chairman and CEO.

I got more insights from a Podcast by Podtech:

National Semiconductor announced Monday it’s just given every one of its 8,500 employees a 30GB video iPod. But employees won’t just be catching up on soaps or rocking out at work. Jeff Weir, the company’s director of Worldwide PR, said the company will be podcasting corporate messages, product information and the like – right into its employees’ earbuds.

I really liked this idea,  I think the iPod could a great corporate communications channel and this certainly seems to the the vision of the company as I listened to the podcast, however I was a little disappointed the more I heard:

  1. There was a lot of focus on the delivery of broadcast quality training and corporate communications, produced professionally from a studio,  this ruled out a lot of potential content
  2. The idea of letting individuals within the business podcast was not being considered
  3. The idea of routinely recording audio and web conferences and making them available had not been considered
  4. The idea of ad-hoc communication via podcasts, for example letting managers podcast weekly status reports etc was not on the agenda
  5. Microsoft channel 9 type video blogging that would increase cross company awareness had not been considered

Overall it seemed an opportunity missed and many of these additional use cases could have been achieved just by providing managers with an iPod and an external microphone.  Even so it seemed that National Semiconductor would have generated a lot of goodwill with it’s employees and that’s worth a lot right, wrong:

  1. Even though National spun the iPods as a reward to the employees, those leaving the company were asked for them back, which generated a lot of negative press
  2. It seems that a lot of employees didn’t seem to understand the importance of the iPod as a necessary part of the new way of doing business at National and decided to give their iPods away or sell them on eBay,  as soon as you can no longer assume everyone has an iPod it’s value is reduced.

Would I have done the same?  Not on reflection, instead I would have given every employee a Windows Mobile 5 Phone (assuming they were a Microsoft Exchange user), and a 2GB SD card and a USB cable for work and home.  I would have also made it clear that it was a company tool, that they had to use until they left the company at which point they could keep it.  That way I would have:

  1. provided everyone with a platform for mobile email, calendar and applications
  2. reduced my phone handset costs
  3. still provided a great platform for podcasts
  4. not had the problems with people leaving, because they could take it with them

Although I guess I would have created myself another problem – who picked up the bill for the mobile data usage!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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