Workforce mobilisation isn’t just a trend. It’s the future
Urbanise’s SAURABH JAIN reveals why it’s time for facility managers to embrace workforce mobilisation if they want to increase productivity, finances and talent retention into the future.
Technology is constantly redefining the way we both live and work. In many ways it has brought the two closer together. We use messaging apps to remain connected with friends and colleagues alike at all hours of the day. We can travel to all corners of the world knowing that a temporary office is only a hot-desk away.
Another trend that has come to redefine the relationship between the life and work is mobile work. According to extensive research conducted over the last few years, a mobile workforce is very much the workforce of the future. A predicted 1.87 billion workers – 42.5 percent of the global workforce – are expected to go mobile by 2022.
Most of these will be office workers – people whose job more or less exists on a computer – most, but certainly not all. By implementing the right technology and strategies, those who operate in the built environment can also go mobile and bring the benefits of this rapidly rising trend to their work.
What it means
To understand the benefits of a mobile workforce, we must first understand what one is and how it differs from a traditional workforce.
We’ll start with one of the most common time-consuming tasks: allocation of duties. Facility managers often oversee a broad variety of workers across different locations. Each individual has their unique skills, capabilities and availabilities. With all these complex factors in mind, a manager will pick up a pen and paper and delegate the day’s list of tasks between them, only stopping when they think that each worker has enough jobs to keep them busy for the day. Every morning, the workers arrive, pick up their list of duties and head out to site.
The time, resources and materials wasted by such redundant processes are staggering. A mobile workforce does away with all that. By applying cutting-edge technology that is able to manage the many aspects of daily operations with limited human interaction, facility managers can redefine their workforce to make it more efficient and productive while cutting down costs. No longer will facility managers need to put important work aside to deal with administrative tasks. No longer will employees have to spend every morning finding out what duties they have been allocated. Instead, they can head straight to the job site and get to work.
I often compare the mobile work revolution to the transport services revolution of the last decade. Once, consumers would call a taxi service, provide their details, then stand by the road hoping their driver arrives on time; now they just book through an app like Uber. All it takes is a couple of touches on a screen and the entire process is taken care of. Superficially, the two services may appear to deliver the same results – a vehicle that will take consumers from point A to point B – but anyone who has used both can tell you there’s a fundamental difference. This difference is the reason so few people still use taxis.
How it works
Smartphone apps serve as a primary touch point for a mobile workforce, but it’s the technology that exists on the backend that makes digital transformation viable.
Through the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, task management is being fully automated. As an example, a building user may drop something on the carpet, creating a stain they can’t remove. The user can take a photo of the stain using the app. This photo is analysed by the AI, which recognises it as an image of a carpet stain. The AI uses geolocation data to determine where that user is in the building, accesses contact details for the internal or external technician it determines most capable of providing a solution and issues a work request.
Not only does this save the facility manager the time traditionally wasted manually handling the issue, but by being able to track the process, users are provided transparency which, when lacking, can often result in unnecessary conflict.
Transparency lies at the heart of a mobile workforce. From detailed analytics and asset histories that are populated automatically to the ability to monitor employee efficiency down to the minute, the technology that underpins a mobile workforce provides unprecedented insight into a facility. The result is a 10 to 15 percent boost in worker productivity, increased capability to detect or predict issues across an asset and an up to 75 percent reduction in administrative work.
Why it matters
The benefits to a facility’s finances and productivity are clear. For many facility managers these are reason enough to transition to a mobile workforce. Yet there is one other important factor to be considered: the human factor.
According to Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends study, which collated data received from more than 7500 professionals from 21 industries and 44 countries, 51 percent of employees want more flexible working arrangements. For key employee groups such as working parents, flexible work arrangements are the most important factor in a job. Yes, more important than salary. As the most talented employees come to feel this way as well, it will be up to employers to cater to their needs in order to retain them.
A mobile workforce is the most obvious and efficient way facility managers will be able to provide for those needs without interrupting daily operations. In fact, flexible work arrangements have been shown to increase productivity and trust in a mobile workforce. After all, a worker who feels accommodated isn’t going to get lazy in their work – especially when their work is being traced digitally.
In short, workforce mobilisation isn’t just a trend. It’s the future for facility managers who want to increase productivity, finances and talent retention into the future.
Saurabh Jain is the CEO and executive director of Urbanise.