Mobile Workforce Management – Steering Your Business Into the Future

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Imagine driving down a road that never ends, at a constant speed, with no brakes. Now imagine the same, but with no windshield or dashboard, i.e. no visibility. Suppose your livelihood depended on how well you were able to keep the car on the road, knowing it was full of twists and turns. Would you like that job?

It sounds absurd to be asked to attempt such a thing, but each day, we ask our managers to keep labor budgets and productivity on track while complying with laws and policies, yet we give them limited visibility and minimal tools for making decisions that will help them stay on track.

Now imagine you are back on that road, only you can see out the windshield once an hour for five minutes. Would you perform better? Probably not. What if you had unlimited visibility?

Providing your managers with a completely mobile Workforce Management solution is like giving them just that –the information and tools to check the road and course correct whenever they want to, quickly and easily. Without it, they are constrained by their ability to get to a computer, and will get off track as a result.

Providing Foresight, Not Only Hindsight

Mobile workforce management allows a better approach, one in which minor changes have only minor consequences, and where the fluidity of the management process can turn unforeseen changes into opportunities, rather than impediments.

According to an IDC study, the U.S. mobile worker population will grow at a steady rate over to 105.4 million mobile workers in 2020. By then, IDC expects mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce. Now is the time to develop a workforce management strategy that is suited for the workforce of the future.

With real time visibility into labor hours, overtime, absences and infractions, managers become aware of potential issues when they occur, sometimes even before they become a problem. Having the information in the same place where they can take action is essential. Mobile analytics for managers is different than traditional executive-level dashboards. Managerial analytics look at shorter time spans, and are designed to highlight the most pressing, actionable problems. When these insights can be connected to the timecards, schedules and people records that need to be adjusted to control costs and maintain productivity, all in one mobile solution, it can be game-changing.

A More Human Touch

People are more than numbers. Unless we manage that way, we will continue to struggle with employee engagement, productivity and turnover. According to American Staffing Association, by 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. The Millennial worker is hyper-connected. They also expect more flexibility and anticipate changing jobs more frequently, which means most organizations will have a mix of full-time, part-time, contract, and agency talent that turns over more often. How will organizations adapt?

Workforce management systems have a lot of valuable and important personal information about your people. Let's start with their names and pictures. It's true, managers in high-turnover, fast-paced businesses sometimes don't know people's names, let alone details such as how long they've been in their job, that they just returned from maternity leave, that they are late for their break, they may be willing to work late, they just requested time off for bereavement or that they are getting burnt out.

With this information in hand, while out on the floor, managers can take a moment to ask how a new mother is doing, cover for someone while they take a needed break, fill some extra hours with someone that could use a little extra money, console someone in a time of need and yes, just simply call them by their name.

Steer the Business

Optimizing schedules to have the right people in the right place at the right time is essential. But the schedule is living and dynamic. As shifts and days go on, situations arise where the schedule needs to change, and change quickly. In order to maintain an optimal state, managers need to stay connected to what's happening – such as tardiness, absences, overtime situations, and more. Then they need to frequently and regularly make adjustments. This is a much more efficient and reliable way to optimize the workforce than to go blindly through the day, and then expect to make adjustments between shifts or after hours to course correct. By then, you may be too far off track.

With a well-designed scheduling solution, managers can let employees flag themselves as interested in suddenly available shifts. Modern, mobile-first interface design means that seeing the schedule and organizing coverage is easy, fast and convenient. And should someone be unexpectedly absent, managers are immediately made aware, and can quickly fill the open shift from practically anywhere. When deployed correctly, modern technology can make the workforce management system and schedule a nerve center for the business, facilitating efficient communication between individuals and managers across areas of the business, so staying on track is a collaborative, real-time and ongoing effort.

It Takes Commitment to Change a Standard

If the business's goal is to have a thriving mobile component to its workforce management practices, then it's important to start early with new hires. If possible, onboarding should include conversations with employees about reporting their time, communicating their availability and preferences, checking their shifts, requesting time off and checking PTO balances via mobile devices. If organizations are using GPS technology to enforce clocking in or out at a specific location, make it clear what those boundaries are. Additional conversations should take place with managers to be clear about the expectations for responsibilities such as improved employee communications, timely schedule maintenance and timecard approval, and the use of mobile to stay connected throughout the day.

How to Get the Most out of Mobile Workforce Management

In principle, the best industries for mobile workforce management are those where each person on a shift performs a crucial role that must be filled for the whole business to function at peak efficiency, and lax scheduling can greatly impact productivity. There are a lot of options out there, so unless you plan to distribute dedicated devices to every employee, make sure to pick a software solution that's supported by every major mobile platform.

Also, make sure to educate employees on all that the service can do for them. For example, let them know that they can pitch in with things like self-tagging for willingness to work late, or that they can check their PTO balance without having to contact HR. Not only does this alleviate the pressure on HR to handle every minor detail, but it gives employees more influence in the scheduling process. That's how cloud-based solutions can actually help to make people feel they're getting more personal attention from their employer.

Of course, as convenient as modern cloud scheduling solutions can be, they don't completely negate the need for physical meetings and in-person consultations. If used to their potential, they can make those communications stronger, become a natural part of your people skills, and be just what a business needs to stay on track and performing as one.