The Impact of the Mobile Workforce on HR

If the baby boomers retiring left, right and center aren’t enough to convince you that today’s business environment is undergoing rapid change, take a look at all the new technology you have that you didn’t use 15 years ago. The modern workforce is fundamentally different.

Mobility is the name of the game. The mutant offspring of the telecommuters of decades past, today’s mobile workforce is an internet-native, connected 24/7 by their smartphones, and empowered by budget airlines to fill in any gap. Only a hardheaded pundit would deny that the future will hold more home-offices, more smartphones, more instant messaging, more teleconferencing, shorter employee tenures, and more frequent re-locations. The end result is the ever-more-common scenario where many organizations’ offices are only ever partially occupied with employees, even when 100% or more of their space has been allocated to workers.

man with mobile productivity tools

Technology empowers the mobile workforce. Flickr/Steve Garfield

The mobile workforce offers many benefits in terms of improved efficiency and productivity. Take, for instance, the enhanced organizational agility and level of service offered by mobile workforces, since they can easily deploy employees to handle any urgent on-the-ground situation more quickly and at less expense. For human resource personnel, it’s an opportunity to offer the flexible lifestyles and task diversity that highly talented employees have always wanted, leading to happier workers and thus higher retention rates.

Technological advancements have made working from home or on the go easier than ever. In large enterprise, this can mean secure phone and internet connections along with a company-owned device with pre-installed monitoring software and cloud services. In smaller businesses, it can mean personal laptops on kitchen tables with a neighbor’s Wi-Fi connection. Despite these improvements, most organizations have few formal policies or guidelines surrounding the mobile workforce. It tends to be either explicitly forbidden or completely unregulated.

Although many organizations have yet to embrace the idea of a mobile workforce, those that have fully institutionalized it praise its unique and positive contributions in easing HR management. Employees welcome the option, but it’s necessary for HR departments to take steps to ensure a cohesive company regardless of whether employees interact in the office. In order to be successful in the midst of all this separation, HR should develop strategic plans that include tactics and logistics that keep the team focused on company objectives, while still offering places for interaction, recognition, and feedback.

Another key component for the success of any program that allows for flexible working environments is to ensure that the program conforms to the normal company infrastructure. If your in-office employees use a certain service, your mobile employees should have access to it too. Pilot programs can help you make sure that everything is normalized, and a healthy culture of feedback will take care of the rest.

The transition from traditional office stations to a mobile workforce is not a matter of “if,” but of “when.” Getting there takes considerable input from all of your departments, with HR and operations taking on the bulk of the planning and implementation. But in the end, if you work hard and are the first one there, you’ll have that much more of a leg-up on your competition.

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