more-arw search

The Difficulty of Managing a Mobile Workforce

Company leaders sometimes have concerns about managing virtual workers.

As smartphones, tablets and constant internet connections become increasingly present in workers' everyday lives, more are choosing to work remotely and rarely head into the office. While this can allow businesses to cut costs and see increases in worker productivity and career satisfaction, it can also present some challenges for management teams unaccustomed to handling virtual workers. 

The number of employees working remotely is on the rise. Forbes reported there are already 1.3 billion mobile workers today and that number is only expected to increase as businesses are hiring more workers who request flexible schedules. In fact, the same data indicated more than half of Fortune 500 executives anticipate their remote workforces will multiply within the next three years. 

Difficulties of managing a mobile workforce 
Just because mobile teams are expanding doesn't mean corporate higher-ups know how to manage them. A whitepaper released by PI Worldwide indicated managers may have a difficult time effectively leading virtual workers. Mobile employees often have a hard time developing a "shared sense of purpose," working cohesively and having a positive group experience and typically over-rely on electronic communication such as text messages and emails, all challenges it's important for managers to help fix. Managers have concerns about their virtual teams, including implementing effective communication strategies, making group decisions easier and better managing company deadlines. 

"The most successful virtual teams are led by managers who understand what motivates and drives performance at the individual and team levels, assigning people to tasks in line with their natural behavioral styles," said Nancy Martini, president and CEO of PI Worldwide. "Managers who apply behavioral insights produce teams that function with stronger working relationships, communicate more effectively and deliver on the team's collective goals."

Better managing virtual employees 
It's important to ensure your company is best utilizing its remote workers and ensuring they have the most positive working experiences possible. After all, talented employees who aren't satisfied with a firm's mobile management may jump ship and leave a firm scrambling to find and train new workers.

Realize face-to-face reviews and meetings can be beneficial. While one of the draws of mobile employment is the ability to work from anywhere, remote workers may feel more connected if they can be in the office occasionally. Requesting teams come in for employee performance reviews, project meetings and other critical tasks can help workers reconnect with team members and remain satisfied with their positions. This can also help to reduce their reliance on digital communication tools and encourage them to reach out to their teams via telephone or in-person meetings, which can in turn foster increased productivity and ensure all team members are on the same page.

Make expectations clear. If your mobile teams are getting started on a new project, it's important to ensure your expectations are clear. Workers who aren't in the office may not be up to speed on updates like those who are onsite, so it's critical to provide them with all the necessary information, updates and deadlines to ensure goals are met. Sometimes it can be helpful to use performance management tools to guarantee workers are on track and sticking to a set schedule.

Be prepared with a backup plan. Having an emergency plan is essential if many of your projects are being worked on off-site. Miscommunication happens, especially if your workers aren't in the office every day. Think up a way to ensure that even if something happens and an employee isn't able to complete a task it can still be done in a timely fashion.

Products and Companies: