The Mobile Workforce: Optimizing Your Workplace for Better Business Outcomes
Today’s work climate has shifted to better serve customers when and where they want to be served. The rise of the mobile workforce over the past few years has been a direct result of two critical factors: increased customer expectations and a workforce that demands more flexible work arrangements.
Although the projected number of mobile workers in the United States in 2020 and 2024 is expected to increase from 78.5 million to 93.5 million, many organizations are still adapting to managing mobile workers effectively. It’s no longer sufficient to manage mobile workers through the same methods and tools used for desk-based workers. As the mobile workforce landscape continues to grow, organizations that fail to adapt their strategies to better support and empower their mobile workers will likely struggle to remain competitive.
To get it right, organizations need an operational understanding of the mobile workforce, the unique challenges they may face, and how a mobile workforce management (MWM) solution can help them solve some of those challenges.
What is the Mobile Workforce?
The mobile workforce refers to the employees who are engaged in any type of work that occurs outside of the traditional office setting. These workers are generally connected through use of mobile technology (e.g. computers, smartphones, etc.) and use these devices to interact with partners, customers, suppliers, colleagues, and more.
The mobile workforce falls under the larger umbrella of the deskless workforce, which is estimated to make up 80% of global workers. While the deskless workforce includes a broader range of non-desk-based jobs, mobile workers travel between multiple locations throughout a typical work day.
There are a variety of industries and occupations that employ the mobile workforce, like home healthcare, utilities, and construction. This might include field service technicians, independent contractors, home healthcare providers, delivery workers, field sales representatives, and traveling consultants.
Benefits of a Mobile Workforce
More and more companies have begun to recognize the value of a customer-centric approach, and have thus started leveraging a mobile workforce to secure their competitive place in the service economy. Organizations with a successful mobile workforce benefit in a variety of key ways, including:
- Increased cost efficiency – A mobile workforce enables teams to allocate jobs to reduce the cost of service while maximizing the utilization of field resources. With the right tools, a mobile workforce can help increase visibility across your entire operation. This allows you to streamline and reduce non-revenue generating activities to cut excess costs and be more resilient against economic fluctuations. Plus, your business can better identify new opportunities to decrease overhead costs while providing the best customer experience possible.
- Increased facetime and feedback from customer base – Speaking of the customer experience, what better way to ensure your clients are met with the best service possible than by sending workers to interact with them face-to-face? Customers can see worker expertise, company commitment to excellence, and the business’s desire to constantly improve firsthand. Plus, they can provide real-time feedback that not only contributes to a higher NPS but also enables your team to make meaningful improvements to the customer experience and broader operations, too.
- Greater employee satisfaction – The workforce is changing, and by 2030, 75% of the U.S. workforce will be millennials. These incoming employees are from a generation that highly values the benefits offered by flexible working practices; and since mobile work is often less rigid and static than traditional office-based roles, it can lead to happier, more satisfied employees. With a mobile workforce (backed by powerful management tools), organizations can offer a healthier work-life balance to their workers. Plus, they can send their mobile employees to complete jobs that are fully aligned with their unique skills and expertise, which makes for a more fulfilling employee experience.
- Decreased operational expenses – By shifting the ways in which your organization delivers its products and services, you can also eliminate some of the overhead costs associated with traditional, office-based work. Fewer desk-based employees means that your business likely won’t require a large office space, which drives down operational costs. Plus, since a successful mobile workforce operates using mobile-based tools, your team can also reduce the expenses otherwise used for paper-based processes and documentation.
Challenges of Mobile Work
Of course, sending teams of employees to work onsite with customers is a delicate balance of risk and reward, particularly if you don’t have the right tools and processes to ensure success. Conducting mobile work and managing the mobile workforce are both unique, ongoing tasks that often bring about significant challenges, including:
- Communication – While desk-based workers have the luxury of leaning over their cubicle walls or meeting up at the watercooler to interact, mobile workers are far more limited in their communication methods. They struggle to keep one another abreast of updates, questions, or concerns because they have to toggle between myriad apps (e.g. email, Slack, text messages, phone calls, etc.) to interact. It’s frustrating, time-consuming, and leads to costly miscommunications. Plus, it hinders mobile workers’ abilities to do their jobs; and their managers’ abilities to measure their progress and performance.
- Scheduling and appointments – In certain industries, the complexity of scheduling multiple appointments at customer or patient sites is simply too much for the organization’s processes and tools to handle. Getting the right mobile worker to the right job at the right time (based on qualifications, certifications, work in progress, proximity, and more) proves too difficult to manage without the proper workforce management strategy. There are countless moving parts involved in making sure employees arrive on time and fully prepared to complete the job the first time around—and failure to do so can negatively impact the customer and employee experience, brand loyalty, and, ultimately, revenue.
- Integrating technology across departments – In order to truly thrive, a mobile workforce needs to be backed by systems that talk to one another. Unfortunately, many businesses have failed to prioritize integrating their technology across departments, so their teams must still contend with disconnected systems that cause data silos and operational inefficiencies. Managing, scheduling, dispatching, routing, and measuring the performance of a mobile workforce (and how it contributes to the business’s broader goals and outcomes) is incredibly difficult if your teams use disparate tools to do so. Not only do disconnected technologies slow down the whole operation, but they also create visibility barriers that inhibit intelligent, data-backed business decisions.
- Accountability – Without the right tools for understanding mobile workers’ progress and location in the field, managers are left in the dark. They can’t see where their teams are, what they’re tasked with doing, and when they’re scheduled to be at various locations—which is risky both in terms of quality of service and worker safety. When something goes wrong, they struggle to find the source of the issue. Plus, employees often disengage from their work (and their customers) when they don’t feel their efforts are accurately recognized by their employer.
What is Mobile Workforce Management?
Because of the potential advantages a mobile workforce offers, companies are sometimes tempted to deploy mobile workers to customer sites without tweaking their existing management strategies. But if an organization values quality of service, customer and employee experiences, and operational efficiency (and it certainly should), then it should first carefully consider the ways in which managing a traditional workforce differs from managing a mobile workforce.
While simple productivity, communication, time-tracking, and CRM tools are usually sufficient for a desk-based workforce, properly supporting mobile workers is a whole different ball game. Managers need sophisticated tools and processes that enable them to understand what’s going on in the field in real time. They need complete visibility into what their mobile teams are doing, where they are, and where they’re going next. And they need deep data that helps them measure their objectives in comparison to actual worker performance.
Mobile workers need technology that eliminates communication and data silos between the back office and their current locations so they can get their jobs done as seamlessly as possible. They also need processes that are streamlined to help them work as efficiently and productively as possible—and instant access to all the resources they need to succeed.
That’s where mobile workforce management (MWM) comes in. MWM refers to the processes, software, tools, applications, and related services an organization uses to manage workers outside of the office. The overarching aim of MWM is to better support and empower mobile workers to deliver high-quality service every time; and to help the business better understand what’s working, what’s not, and where they can make significant operational improvements to boost their bottom line.
Mobile workforce management solutions are purposefully built to help organizations reach these distinct goals. Modern solutions offer tools for scheduling, dispatching, availability management, location tracking, real-time notifications, field documentation and data collection, and more to ensure mobile workers are always fully connected to both the back office and their customers.
If your organization has a mobile workforce or is considering leveraging one to better serve their customers’ needs, you likely need powerful technologies that take the complexities of mobile work into account; and help you to evaluate and improve upon your existing processes. With a MWM solution, your business is well-equipped to overcome the notable challenges that today’s mobile workers (and their managers) face.
How to Choose a Mobile Workforce Management Solution
Finding a solution that fully supports the needs and objectives of your mobile workforce requires careful consideration. Not all systems are built equally, so as you evaluate your options, be sure to look for one that has these critical features and functionalities:
- Tools for availability management and location tracking – Sending multiple workers to multiple client sites multiple times a day can become a time-consuming, burdensome, error-laden task if managers and staff schedulers don’t have total transparency into resource details. A strong MWM solution enables them to quickly and easily see who’s available and when (whether they’re full-time, part-time, contractors, or a mix of the three) for improved workforce planning. Real-time availability management and location tracking tools help back office employees understand exactly who is where, what they’re doing, and where they’re headed next—which enhances worker safety and accountability, too.
- Scheduling and dispatching tools – Instead of using outdated, inefficient, manual scheduling methods (e.g. spreadsheets, whiteboards, online calendars, etc.), teams that use intelligent MWM have complete visibility to build and modify smarter schedules. The right solution equips teams with deep knowledge around worker availability versus customer demand, and offers a single, user-friendly interface for creating fully optimized schedules. Some tools even automate the scheduling and dispatching process, enabling staff schedulers to instantly match mobile workers to jobs based on qualifications, locations, preferences, availability, and more. Schedules built on real-time data take the guesswork out of the equation; so schedulers can spend more time on higher-value tasks, and mobile workers can serve more customers throughout the day.
- Data collection and field documentation capabilities – Modern organizations understand just how essential robust, reliable data is to the success of their operation. Without it, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to make intelligent decisions regarding workflows, labor, spend, business strategies, and more. Powerful MWM solutions enable mobile workers to easily collect data from the field—like customer information, time of arrival, and time of job completion—then instantly share it with other systems of record. With the help of real-time, centralized data, your team can better estimate capacity and more accurately set appointment arrival times. For example, you can integrate these solutions with your payment system to accurately pay contractors for time spent on jobs. Over time, your business can use these insights to make decisions that improve efficiency, customer service, and profitability.
- Tools to enable communication – Effective, streamlined communication is a must for organizations with mobile workforce—but traditional collaboration tools won’t cut it. Mobile workers need centralized, mobile-first tools that enable them to instantly interact with the back-office, schedulers, and even customers. Robust MWM platforms help mobile workers eliminate the time-consuming, frustrating need to switch between various tools to complete the work and communicate with others. They provide a single, easy-to-use platform on which mobile workers can access and modify their schedules, collect field data, and send and receive updates and notifications to their colleagues and customers. With the right tools, mobile employees can easily stay abreast of changes as they occur, so they never miss a beat. Plus, they can update clients with accurate arrival times with the push of a button, which elevates the customer experience. This leads to happier, more prepared workers and customers who know your company values their time, too.
Optimize Your Workplace for Deskless Productivity
While leveraging a mobile workforce certainly isn’t a viable option for every organization, those that fit the bill should consider how it would impact their employees, customers, and bottom line. But without the right tools for support, managing a mobile workforce can become an inefficient, burdensome, and costly endeavor.
Skedulo’s Deskless Productivity Cloud helps businesses optimize their mobile workforce operation for greater efficiency and quality of service. With intelligent tools for deskless workforce management, job matching, scheduling and dispatching, employee engagement, field data collection, communication, and more, Skedulo can enable your company to implement a highly-productive mobile workforce that’s ready to delight customers where they are.