How to Manage the Challenges of a Mobile Workforce

Workforce mobility is a central part of the field service industry. But relying on a mobile workforce can bring a number of challenges.

Communication, tracking productivity, determining liability, and eliminating security threats are all challenges that need to be overcome. But just what are the main challenges when it comes to managing a mobile workforce, and how can these be solved?

5 Mobile Workforce Challenges… And How to Overcome Them

1. Communication

One of the biggest challenges that workforce mobility brings is in terms of communication, both horizontally and vertically. It’s quite straightforward to communicate with desk-based workers in an office environment – after all, you usually know where each member of staff will be and when. It can be much more difficult to communicate with mobile workers when they are spread across multiple, diffuse locations. Reaching them – as well as ensuring that they can access any information you refer to – is a major challenge.

Mobile apps provide the solution to this communication problem. Not only do field workers need to be communicated at the outset of a task, they’ll also need ongoing updates throughout jobs. Mobile workforce management software allows for updates and resources to be shared in real-time. This allows field service engineers to keep any call centres updated if customers cancel unexpectedly, for example, improving the overall two-way stream of communication between staff.

2. Productivity

Similar to the issue of communication, tracking productivity can also be problematic when workers aren’t physically present in an office environment. Some workers may be less productive when they’re not under surveillance. But, at the same time, they also need to be given the tools and resources in order to complete jobs efficiently.
Policies and guidelines are crucial here, as is the proper level of training for field engineers. Time management, for example, is a skill like any other that needs training to perfect.

Beyond corporate guidelines and training, software has proven to be key in tracking – and improving – mobile workforce productivity. You’ll need a solution that incorporates both real-time visibility and collaborative resource management. Software and other mobile apps can help to ensure that central databases are updated when field workers complete jobs, as well as making sure that all staff – whether in the call centre or on-site – have access to the same information about workflows. Features such as these make tracking mobile productivity simple.

3. Liability

Due to the flexibility and mobility of field service, it can sometimes be unclear where your liability as a employer lies if something goes wrong. Mobile workers too need to understand when they are acting as a company representative and how their conduct should reflect this. If accidents happen when field engineers are on-site, are their adequate policies in place to deal with the ramifications?

The best solution to this challenge is to have clear and concise policies and guidelines addressing employer-sanctioned activities, as well as rules around acceptable on-site and off-site activities.

4. Security

A mobile workforce can be a security risk. When workers are completing jobs outside the office environment, there is an increased risk of leaving sensitive documents in public view or accidentally allowing access to restricted software and systems. Furthermore, if the software and apps provided to field service engineers aren’t easily allowing them to complete their jobs effectively and these workers download other apps instead, this can lead to even more severe problems, such as ransomware risks.

It’s therefore crucial that any mobile worker management software is efficient and secure. The mobile app should offer full functionality, so that engineers don’t require third-party solutions. In terms of security, the software should be encrypted, with access levels controlled internally, and adhere to data protection requirements. Cloud-based software, in addition, has the benefit of protecting against data loss and allowing access to a full audit trail if there is a security breach.

5. Software

While software can overcome many of the challenges of a mobile workforce, mobile apps themselves are a further challenge. Software isn’t a “golden bullet” solution if it doesn’t function well.

When choosing a mobile workforce management system, mobile solutions should be assessed separately from desktop software. Effective mobile software needs to be easy-to-use, both in terms of the way it looks (the right sized fonts, a clear graphical interface) and the way it functions (limited to the key functions that field service engineers need).
Oneserve specialise in mobile workforce management software that helps field service businesses throughout the UK increase profitability by solving many of the issues that a mobile workforce can bring. For more information, request a free software demonstration here.