Today’s telecommunications technology enables businesses to deploy their mobile workforce in more creative, more efficient ways. Field workers of all types, whether service technicians, plumbers or auditors, can do their jobs while still staying in touch with the office and accessing the expertise of their colleagues when they need it.
For these types of field workers, their office is the front seat of their car or truck. They’re an indispensable part of many businesses, and often the first line of communication between the company and its customers.
Managing these workers involves more than scheduling their time and tracking their hours. Like those in the office, they need to be engaged. After all, research shows that engaged employees are more productive and more profitable. But maintaining high engagement can be tricky when you mainly communicate with workers by text, phone and email, rather than face to face.
Fortunately, the same technology you use to deploy your mobile workers can help you manage them. Consider these five ways to activate technology to keep your mobile workforce involved and connected.
1. Ensure Security
As mobile technology is integrated into more areas of businesses, security and privacy risks increase. That means security should always be your top priority.
Vet vendors to ensure the ones you work with guarantee that your information is secure and offer options for virus protection. Do your due diligence: Check out the security protocols they use and make sure they’re appropriate for mobile technology.
Training comes into play here, as well. Your workers should understand the difference between what’s necessary for business and what’s appropriate for personal use. That usually means not using their business devices for personal matters, and vice versa.
Employee engagement is ultimately all about communications. People want to know what’s going on to feel like they're a part of a larger team.
Use email newsletters to notify employees about new hires, big wins, company events or new policies. Set up a private blog to share announcements, your thoughts on the state of the business or to spotlight an individual’s exceptional performance.
And remember, communications is a two-way street. Encourage employees to use mobile tech to reach out to you. With messaging applications like Slack, workers can quickly connect when they have questions about a job or need quick answers to handle a customer service problem. Those same apps can be used to ping other workers who have the expertise required to wrap up a particular project.
Whatever you do, don’t hide behind the technology. Make time to speak to employees face-to-face on a regular basis. Schedule video calls. Encourage them to visit the office for informal check-ins. Those hallway conversations you have with in-office staff are important to making employees feel cared about. Mobile workers need the same kind of connection.
3. Set Expectations
Create and distribute clear policies that detail how and when mobile workers should communicate with the office. Leaving it to chance is a surefire way to lose touch with your people and miss out on intelligence about customers, products and the market.
Set up weekly conference calls that involve all staff, whether they’re in the office or in the field. Send out the agenda ahead of time, so everyone has an idea of what will be discussed and what their role in the discussion will be. Also, consider requiring your mobile workers to check in with you via text or phone call every day, even if it’s just to touch base.
However, you can’t set expectations without providing the information employees need to meet them. Provide training for everyone, but keep mobile workers top of mind when you do. When setting up sessions in the office, for instance, consider what timing and location is most convenient for your field workforce.
4. Provide a Consumer-Like Experience
Employees expect to use the same fast, convenient devices at work that they do at home. Saddling them with slow or clunky tools will both frustrate them and make their job more difficult.
Many telecommunication companies offer cloud-based solutions that let you to set up a private mobile app. That helps field workers easily communicate throughout the company in a secure and consistent way, no matter where they’re located or what device they’re using.
5. Optimize Scheduling
The location technology on mobile devices allows companies to schedule workers on the fly, so they can be directed to their next assignment even as new requests come in or priorities change.
These same tools allow you to monitor a worker’s status and location. Not only does that let you prepare customers for delays, it provides a clear picture of field conditions such as traffic, road closures or street conditions that can help you in scheduling future assignments.
Mobile technology offers your company flexibility and closer communications. But always remember that employees in the field shouldn’t be out of mind just because they’re out of sight. Like their colleagues in the office, they need to be managed. The same devices you provide to help them work will allow you to manage them effectively, as well.