What is mobile workforce management?

A complete guide to mobile workforce management for those managing newly remote and hybrid teams, as well as more traditional mobile workforces.

What we'll cover

If you’re new to mobile workforce management, you’re not alone. 

Before the pandemic, just 6% of the employed workforce worked from home. Now, 74% of US companies are either operating on a hybrid working model or plan to do so in the future. Businesses that previously did not need mobile workforce management strategies are now rapidly trying to figure out what works when your team is scattered across multiple locations. 

If that’s you, don’t panic. With the right tools and approach, it’s possible to run an effective mobile workplace, without compromising on productivity. Here’s how. 

What is mobile workforce management?

IBM defines a mobile workforce as “a group of employees that isn’t bound by a central physical location. Instead, the employees are connected by various types of mobile technology: computers, smartphones and other mobile devices.”

This includes – but isn’t limited to – remote desk-based teams who might have worked in a centralized office pre-pandemic. It could also include: 

  • Community healthcare teams who visit outpatients during working hours
  • Drivers – whether for public transport, taxi or private logistics fleets
  • Traveling sales teams, who spend part of their time visiting clients, conferences and trade shows
  • Teams of engineers, tradespeople or contractors who attend different clients each day 

Mobile workforce management is simply the process of managing these teams so that they’re as effective, efficient and engaged as possible. The three ‘e’s, if you like. 

The differences between the mobile and the standard workforce

Traditionally, a ‘standard workforce’ is based on physical location. You might have an office HQ that your employees commute to each day or a manufacturing plant that needs to be manned 24/7, for example. 

Thanks to the wave of remote and mobile working brought on by COVID-19, things aren’t as clean-cut as they once were. Mobile workforce management is now a major consideration for desk-based teams as well as more traditionally mobile workforces. 

In terms of how you approach managing your teams, this means: 

  • You’ll need to use mobile workforce management software to run your team effectively
  • You’ll need to be mindful of differences across time zones when scheduling calls or arranging deadlines

The principles of good management still hold. A transparent and fair approach to managing your team is still a great foundation to work from – you just might have to incorporate a couple of extra tools for maximum effect!

The benefits of mobile workforce management

The benefits of a strong management strategy remain the same across both mobile and traditional workforces: 

  • Increased productivity: teams get more done in the same amount of time
  • Improved visibility: managers provide insights into how your business works day to day
  • Improved customer experience: good managerial support allows your employees to offer a great customer experience through building skills and retaining talent
  • Improved employee engagement: employees feel supported by management and engage more with the business as a result

Mobile workforce management specifically – when done right – offers two key benefits besides. 

Firstly, you’re no longer bound by geographic location when hiring. This opens up a vastly wider talent pool that you can draw from – especially useful at a time when competition for new employees is at an all-time high

Secondly, flexible working is a hugely attractive benefit to offer new and existing employees. Nearly all (97%) respondents in Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work survey said they wanted to work remotely at least part of the time for the rest of their career. 

Alt text: Bar graph showing preferences of State of Remote Work 2022 respondents on working remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their career. 97% answered ‘yes’, 3% answered ‘no’.

Source: buffer.com

Trends and challenges shaping mobile workforce management 

Some of your employees are onsite. Some of them are remote or on the move. How do you collaborate in such a seemingly fragmented team? 

This has been one of the major issues about mobile workforce management in the post-COVID era. Whilst the majority of businesses want to implement some sort of hybrid working arrangement, 63% of employees say that their company has not made any major changes to make this easier. 

If your working model has changed, your processes need to change too. 

One trend that’s becoming increasingly popular is a remote-first approach to work. This means that you run your entire team as if fully remote, by having all meetings via video conferencing software, for example.

The result is that everyone feels included and can interact on the same level – you remove the awkward atmosphere created by having some people meeting in person with others phoning in via a conferencing system. 

Manage your mobile workforce

Getting started on mobile workforce management? Here are some tips. 

Use the right software

Mobile workforce management is 100% reliant on using technology to communicate and collaborate, so having the right tools can make all the difference! An employee app to help you get messages across is essential, and you should also invest in a strong project management tool (e.g. Trello, Asana, Basecamp) at a minimum.

There are many different types of mobile workforce management software that you can use to make managing your teams easier. We’ve included a guide at the end of this article to help you get started. 

Check in…but don’t micromanage

Daily check-ins are a must when your team is on the move or scattered across different locations. It’s all too easy for these to slip into micromanagement if you frame them wrong. 

By all means ask for updates, but avoid listing ‘must-do’ tasks or demanding constant micro-updates on progress. Instead, ask if there’s anything you could be doing to support your employee, or if there’s anything they need assistance with. Check-ins are as much about offering support as they are about task updates. 

Constant communication, not necessarily on topic

How much of your traditional office chat was work based? Inane office chatter – pets, the kids, weather, vacation plans – actually serves a valuable purpose in team bonding and making social connections across the company. 

Use channels on your messaging app to provide a virtual space for this. You’ll find your team works better together as a result. Your remote and mobile workers start to feel more like a part of the wider organization, and engage more as a result. 

Mobile workforce management software

Employee apps and mobile intranet (e.g. Blink)

Mobile-first employee apps are vital for day-to-day communication between team members as well as employee recognition, networking and engagement. ‘Mobile first’ is a must here – if your employees don’t have 24/7 access to a desktop, you need to be able to spread key messages via smartphone. 

Project management tools (e.g. Trello, Asana, Basecamp)

Provide a single point of reference for tasks and deadlines with an online project management tool. Choose from a variety of project views to suit your team, with automated notifications and reminders when a deadline is approaching. 

Remote collaboration tools (e.g. Google Docs, Miro, Microsoft Teams)

Unlock your team’s creativity with a range of collaboration tools. Video conferencing is an absolute must-have, as is some form of collaborative document tool – Google Docs is by far the most intuitive here. For visual projects, virtual whiteboard tools are a particularly handy tool for online collaboration. 

Mobile scheduling tool (e.g. Deputy, RotaCloud, Blink)

If your teams work in shifts, rota management is a must. Mobile rota management and scheduling apps save you hours by automating this process, and your employees will get instant updates if the rota changes. Eliminate misunderstandings and never be accidentally short staffed again!

Performance management software (e.g. Engagedly, Reviewsnap, Talent Guard) 

Performance management is as important in a mobile setting as it is in a traditional work environment. Give your managers the tools to give feedback, run appraisals, manage employee goals and more with an extensive performance management solution. 

A few final thoughts on mobile workforce management

Mobile workforce management doesn’t have to be a huge departure from your existing management strategy. Open communication, respect and approachability will get you some of the way there on their own.  

It does, however, mean that you need to support employees across more than one different location though. And this means that finding the tech that works for you is essential in keeping everything running smoothly. 

Spend time thinking about your requirements here, and don’t rush into any purchases, no matter how urgent they may seem. Being locked into an unsuitable contract will cause a lot more damage in the long term than waiting to find the right software for you. 

Blink is an employee app that helps you manage your mobile workforce. Book your free demo here.

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