What is Mobile Workforce Management?
Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) is the process of managing deskless or frontline workers who aren’t bound to an office to complete their work. Historically, MWM has focused on the frontline worker. But the workforce is changing, and so has the scope of MWM. As more companies embrace remote or hybrid work models, more employees count as mobile workers.
What is a Mobile Workforce?
Before you can even think about managing the mobile workforce, you have to understand who they are. These employees have unique pain points, needs, and expectations at work, so they can’t be treated like their deskbound counterparts.
So, who are they?
Mobile workers are employees that do not sit at a desk for work and aren’t bound to just one location. They are your truckers, hospitality employees, plant workers, security guards, and so on. And they make up the majority of the global workforce, clocking in at 1.87 billion people.
Historically, a disproportionate amount of technology and resources are given to deskbound workers. Because most of their focus and resources go towards deskbound and not mobile workers, communicators continue to list the mobile workforce as an audience they struggle to reach.
But the tech revolution is here, and there are now so many workforce management (MWM) solutions out there, it’s hard to know which one you need. But more on that later.
What Are the Benefits of Enabling Mobile Work?
Before we get into the challenges of managing a mobile workforce, let’s talk about why it’s important to enable mobile work in the first place.
Mobile workers aren’t just frontline workers anymore. They’re remote workers too. And as more of the workforce isn’t working from an office, we need more mobile technology to enable their success.
An IBM study found that companies that embraced mobile work and adopted digital tech to support that work saw a:
- 67% productivity bump
- 53% higher employee engagement
- 43% revenue growth
Not to mention…mobile work saves money on office space and has such a positive effect on the employee experience that customer service improves right along with it.
What is Mobile Workforce Management (MWM)?
So…what really is MWM?
Essentially, mobile workforce management is the process of managing employees who do not work in an office. It consists of tools and systems intended to support mobile work, taking into consideration the unique challenges that deskless, remote, or frontline workers experience.
The range of tools out there that exist to help you manage a mobile workforce is vast. They cover everything from employee comms (that’s us!) to ops-focused activities like scheduling and payroll (but we integrate with these systems if you’re looking for a one-stop-tool).
What Are the Challenges of Managing Mobile Workers?
Not having the right technology to connect and communicate with mobile workers creates big challenges.
- Added pressure falls on people managers. It’s an age-old problem, isn’t it? Not all managers are great at communicating and leading people. We think this comes down to major gaps in training and ongoing comms support.
- You have to train people on new tools. The truth is, not everyone is a digital native who can pick up just about any tech and be an ace at it. You do need to invest the right time into training people on the new tool. Training should be a key part of your rollout plan to implement a good change management strategy.
- Mobile employees have different needs than deskbound workers. To successfully reach and support this key group, you will need to do your due diligence in getting to know this employee group and building out their persona.
Why is Mobile Workforce Management Important?
MWM is such an important topic right now for a few key reasons:
- Employee Engagement. Over the last few years, employee engagement has become one of the most talked-about workplace concepts. Specifically, why it’s so low and what happens when you achieve a highly engaged workforce. This metric is so important (but so elusive) that it’s become its own category of MWM tool.
- Employee Experience. This is linked to employee engagement but isn’t the same. EX is starting to have its moment, specifically in HR and Comms circles. And that’s because employee experience is a holistic look at what it’s like to work somewhere. As opposed to engagement, which is a byproduct of the experience. To fix engagement, you have to start with the experience. So, you’ll see a lot of companies focusing on strategies and tools that work on managing EX.
- Frontline Workers. Frontline workers make up 80% of the global workforce. That is a huge amount of people that need access to tools and comms who can’t be reached by traditional channels. Therefore, MWM often focuses on overcoming challenges that face this group.
- Remote Work. It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic drastically shifted the way we work…and where we work. And with the number of companies embracing remote or hybrid work cultures, they’re going to need technology to keep up with the changing needs of these employees. We anticipate that this, along with better ways to support frontline teams, will be the main focus of workforce management in the next few years.
Why is Communication Key to Managing a Mobile Workforce?
While the range of tools that exist for MWM is somewhat large, we’d argue that one of the first things you need to get in place is a solid comms solution.
Most frontline workers don’t have email or Intranet access. Many managers need access to critical talking points, real-time updates, and ongoing training. And they can’t easily coach their teams and use materials if everything is stored behind a firewall on an intranet or as printed material in a binder.
For us, the secret is in the name: mobile workforce management. Mobile devices are the key—and since 97% of U.S. adults own a smartphone (Pew Research), the infrastructure is already there. You just need to tap into it.
What Are Mobile Workforce Management Tools?
MWM tools and systems all revolve around supporting mobile work and the mobile worker. Because office workers have different access to tools and different needs from mobile workers, these technologies accommodate for the challenges specific to working from anywhere or not working at a computer.
But the collection of tools that fall under the mobile workforce management system is vast. They include:
- Scheduling tools
- Training and development
- Employee communication
- And more.
What Are Popular MWM Tools?
There are a few main buckets of management tools for the mobile workforce. We’re going to focus on three, but keep in mind that with integrations, there are multiple ways to find the right fit for your company’s needs.
Type 1: Employee Engagement.
If you’ve ever sent out an employee engagement survey, you know how critical they are in terms of driving engagement and performance. Employee engagement tools can help build trust, improve collaboration with peers, and share insight into how team agility is changing. While collecting employee sentiment is a great first step, actually utilizing MWM engagement software to mobilize insights can help promote great company culture.
Type 2: All About Ops.
When operational aspects of a business are improved, the results can be substantial. Some benefits might include location tracking, real-time capacity tracking for businesses with multiple locations, or increased productivity. If you have a large mobile workforce, you know how important it is to have seamless schedules, and the right field team management tool can help you make decisions based on data.
Type 3: Communication.
From the corporate office to the frontline, it’s key for companies to communicate company-wide messaging to the entire workforce. Communication is vital to productivity, conflict resolution, onboarding, and training, and is a core component of the entire employee experience. So, when it comes to managing a dispersed workforce, establishing lines of communication that can reach employees when and where they need it is key.
Successful MWM communication apps allow comms teams to segment targeted messaging depending on user groups, provide transparency into analytics so you can measure the value of messages, and send push notifications for high-priority messages that require employee activation. Great MWM tools also feature document repositories so you can ensure your frontline workers always have access to the latest data sheet or company information.
How Can theEMPLOYEEapp Help Manage a Mobile Workforce?
80% of the global workforce doesn’t sit at a desk or have access to intranets or email. As a result, these dispersed employees often miss important announcements from their employers, causing them to feel disconnected and unimportant. This ultimately leads to lower engagement.
With theEMPLOYEEapp, your company can reduce that friction by providing a tool that can be used across different types of devices, including mobile, tablet, and desktop. Since 85% of adults in the United States own a smartphone, utilizing a tool like theEMPLOYEEapp is a no-brainer. Employee engagement is a critical part of retention, job satisfaction, job performance, and increased earnings for your business (Holmes Report). When you have the right workforce management strategy and comms tool in place, you engage all your employees.
Mobile Workforce Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a mobile workforce? This is when your employees are not bound by a central location. This would include factory workers, hospital staff, hotel employees, truckers, etc. They may also be called a deskless, frontline, or dispersed workforce. They may be those displaced and working remotely due to COVID-19.
- What are some best practices for communicating with a mobile workforce? You have to meet your employees where they are, which for this workforce isn’t behind a desk. Mobile apps are great tools for the mobile workforce because we’re already accustomed to getting information on our smartphones. We always recommend crafting messages best suited to the medium, which includes:
- Shorter pieces of written copy
- More video and audio messages
- Localizing of messaging by enabling executive
- Field or line manager comms
- How is mobile technology altering workplace communication? Historically, deskless or mobile workers have not had the same access to messages and resources that office workers do. Mobile technology has enabled companies to reach these employees through their mobile phones and BYOD (bring your own device) structures. This technology is also enabling a different way of communicating than traditional internal comms platforms like Intranets and Email. Mobile messaging is more accessible, appeals to all generations, and is ideal for multimedia content, suiting more learning styles.