The best way to get someone to truly invest in new tech is to encourage them to use it for personal needs, and it looks like HarperCollins is taking that to heart.
Earlier this year the UK branch of HarperCollins started a new program to provide interest-free loans to its staff. The loan, which is capped at £500, can be used to buy a laptop, tablet, or some other mobile device. The loan can be repaid over a 1 year period via payroll deductions.
35 employees from the publishing firm's 900 UK staff have signed up since the scheme was launched in May, and it will be open to the rest of the staff for the rest of the year. John Athanasiou, HR director at HarperCollins, said: "If you look at our strategy of trying to upskill people in the digital space, it is allowing employees to explore it in their own time. The whole [transformation] going on in publishing is about technological changes."
The value of this program should be obvious, but given some recent events in digital publishing, that may not be the case.
By making sure its employees use these new devices, HarperCollins is putting them in a position to better understand their customers, both in how they use digital content now and how they might want to use it. This program will likely show a return in terms of improved quality in HC content as well as potentially new product niches.
And at the very least it will prevent HC from an embarrassing faux pas like B&N Chairman Len Riggio and his now famous statement that he doesn't use his Nook.
Speaking of which, how well do you think he understands that part of his business, given that he refuses to use it?
That's not a flippant question; B&N appears to have been caught out in the ongoing market transition away from ereaders and to tablets and other mobile devices, leaving them in a less then enviable position of having to sell off their ereaders at whatever they can get for them (hence the BOGO sales). B&n continues to commit more resources to the development of the Nook ereader (Nook Glow, for example), and that might not have happened had the senior management understood the market better.