If you’re a mountaineer and you want the ultimate challenge, you climb Mount Everest. If you’re in the military - you join the SAS. But for a business manager - you take charge of a team of mobile workers.
Because it doesn’t matter how many business management books you’ve read or how many business gurus you’ve listened to, nothing can match the gritty real-world experience of managing a mobile workforce.
What makes it such a challenge is having to maintain control of a disparate bunch of mobile workers who’ll be spending the majority of their time out on the road - delivering goods and services.
And if that’s not tough enough - the skills a manager of mobile workers requires are constantly evolving as technology continues to transform the way we work.
What makes a great mobile workforce manager?
- Be open to new technology
- Manage change carefully
- Find ways to motivate mobile workers
- Keep focused on the bigger picture
- Be a master of communications
Be open to new technology
If you’re not currently using digital methods to manage your mobile workers, it’s likely that you soon will be. Digital technology has fundamentally changed the way companies are able to manage and monitor mobile workers.
These changes provide tremendous benefits - allowing employee movements to be tracked in real time via GPS. But getting the most out of these tools requires a corresponding change in management mindset.
It means being prepared to move away from the rigid structures and traditional work methods of the past and to explore the flexible and reactive processes that data processes provide.
Manage change carefully
Being open to change isn’t enough - it’s also about the way you handle it. It’s understanding how different generations of workers are likely to react to new methods being introduced.
Tech savvy young employees are likely to take to a digital system with ease but for more senior workers, it may be the cause of fears and frustration.
A good manager will make sure any changes are properly managed, with training and good communications helping to get everybody on board and minimising disruption.
See 5 tips for tackling the generation gap during a digital switchover.
Find ways to motivate mobile workers
Motivating mobile workers and keeping up morale can be really difficult. With employees spending so much time on the road, it allows frustrations and resentments to build which are off the management ‘radar’.
It means that managers of mobile workers have to make an extra special effort to ensure employee performance. It could be scheduling regular feedback meetings, providing bonuses and incentives or just making sure you always acknowledge good work.
The positive effects of a motivated workforce will can stifle a business ripple throughout an organisation - better customer/client relations, decreased absenteeism and a general boost to mobile workforce productivity.
Keep focused on the bigger picture
One of the benefits of the ongoing move towards digital management is the fast, accurate and quantifiable data the tools provide. They allow the movements and actions of mobile workers to be monitored in ways which were previously impossible.
It provides a mobile workforce manager with the opportunity to take a step back and not feel the need to ‘firefight’ day-to-day problems. It allows a more strategic approach with the tools needed to explore more effective ways of working.
With more accurate information on how well your team’s performing, you can start to work out which management strategies are delivering the best results.
Be a master of communications
If there’s one skill a mobile workforce manager really needs to nail, it’s communication. It’s being able to connect with a team of mobile workers who spend most of their time out on the road.
That’s something that’s hard to achieve when the people you’re managing are so dispersed but there are now more ways than ever to maintain good communications.
And the trick is to find the best form of communication for each situation - whether it’s face-to-face meetings, messages via a digital management system, an email newsletter or a mobile call.