6 Tips for Engaging the New Mobile Workforce

From the onset of the industrial revolution until sometime in the early days of the 21st century, business drove most technology innovation. That makes sense—industry has always had an incentive to develop new ways of making workers more productive. A technology usually began its life in the office before being adopted by consumers: think the PC. But with the advent of mobile, everything changed and, these days, consumer apps are inspiring the latest innovations in the workplace. Companies that either ignore or resist that new reality face an uphill battle.

  1. Know your employees

Mobile is not simply a set of devices that liberate workers from their desks, says Alan Lepofsky of Constellation Research, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, it’s “an entirely new way of working.” And, according to Lepofsky, it’s upending the way companies do business. Over the past decade, people have gotten used to apps for everything from shopping to messaging and, increasingly, they’re bringing those tools—and the expectations that accompany them—into the workplace. For example, each day, 82% percent of employees use an OTT (“over-the-top” products bypass traditional communications delivery systems) or freemium messaging app to chat with coworkers.

  1. Provide flexibility and support

Get to know your employees and their workstyles. Eighty-five percent of Millennials already own a smart phone. That may not seem like such a big deal until you consider that only 65% of the overall U.S. adult population is projected to have one by 2017. Earlier this year, Millennials overtook Generation X to become the largest contingent in the U.S. workforce. It’s a position they will occupy for decades to come. What does that mean for your company? A recent Redshift Research survey found that millennial workers consider “effective technology” the norm, yet 35% of workers say their company doesn’t provide them with the necessary tools to work from anywhere, at any time.

  1. Create policies and communication solutions

Finally, companies must adopt the tools and systems to keep their mobile workers informed and engaged, no matter where they are. Within a year, 46% of businesses plan to introduce internal social networking tools, while more than 60% say they’re going to make investments to improve their current solutions. Only 22% of companies surveyed plan to put money toward improving email. Consider that a harbinger of things to come. Messaging apps like Jive Chime are quickly displacing email as the communication method of choice for mobile companies and their on-the-go employees.

  1. Identify the people and jobs that will succeed remotely

Telework isn’t for everyone—or every position. While it may be necessary for a project manager to oversee onsite staff, salespeople often thrive outside of the confines of the office. Also, many companies face cultural challenges while developing a mobile infrastructure. For instance, mobile employees should be self-directed; while supervisors must understand that, with the right tools and processes, they needn’t cede authority to an offsite workforce. The Society for Human Research Management (SHRM) offers an online toolkit to assist companies in managing flexible work arrangements. A customizable sample PowerPoint presentation can help your supervisors get started.

A recent Knoll survey found that, in mobile workplaces, employees spend nearly half of their time away from their desks. Seventy-eight percent of companies in the Redshift survey either “use or would like to use tools to enable work place flexibility as a way to attract and retain top talent.” (Slightly more employees—79%—say that, if the option were taken away, they’d explore other job opportunities.) Currently, 75% of employees surveyed say their company “can access work information through a mobile device.” Twenty-seven percent wouldn’t even consider working for an employer that didn’t provide that access.

  1. Understand the importance of mobile solutions 

The rewards for embracing mobile can be significant. For example, 95% of employers say telework increases employee retention. It also improves job satisfaction, boosts productivity and increases collaboration. In addition, mobility reduces unscheduled absences (78% of employees who call in sick, aren’t), saves money on real estate (talent working from home cuts down on investments in brick and mortar) and eliminates unnecessary meetings.

  1. Seek ways to collaborate 

According to research firm, Global Workplace Analytics, “once telework technologies are in place, employees and contractors can work together without regard to logistics.” Enhancing collaboration was among the most important goals among more than 500 organizations surveyed in a recent Constellation Research report. “We really want to focus on the collaborative apps,” says Lepofsky. He believes that the number of organizations using those types of tools and solutions is going to “skyrocket” in the near future.

But mobile won’t mean anything to workers unless it helps them get their jobs done, says Lepofsky. By both learning the lessons of the past and keeping an eye toward the future, employers are increasingly introducing solutions similar to the ones people are already using in their consumer lives. You can expect that trend to continue because, after all, your employees already do.

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