A Roadmap for Managing Mobile and Out-of-Office Workforces

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If there’s one universal challenge business leaders have all faced in recent years, it’s their ability to adapt to change.

The advent, maturation and broad embrace of cloud computing and the proliferation of mobile devices have fundamentally altered the business landscape. Organizations today are more agile and flexible than ever before, as “adapting to change” has moved from the conceptual into the operational phase.

Much of this change is reflected in the composition of today’s decentralized workforce. The tools to support mobile communications and in-the-cloud workflow have been in place for some time. Today, company policy and attitudes have caught up, as workforce flexibility has become a major business imperative.

Employees working out of the office will hit 26% by 2015

Indeed, more organizations are turning to distributed mobile labor for a number of reasons — from freeing them from the conventional constraints of time zones and work schedules, allowing work to be done 24/7, to shifting resources to better manage budgets and more easily deploy resources regardless of geographical location.

Industry analyst IDC divides the mobile/remote workforce into three categories:

  • Office-based mobile workers;
  • Non-office-based mobile field workers; and,
  • Home-based mobile workers.

While there’s a huge amount of variety in all three categories, a significant number of industries rely on distributed labor — including construction, health care, building services and maintenance, hospitality and entertainment, retail, manufacturing, staffing, and energy, to name a few.

By 2015, the percentage of employees who will spend at least one day out of the office will grow to over 26 percent, according to the Work Design Collaborative.

The increasingly mobile workforce makes time and labor management an immediate and growing challenge. Keeping up with a mobile distributed labor workforce requires flexible and scalable technology designed to adapt to today’s business and workforce needs. Companies require more than time tracking — they need deeper and broader visibility into an increasingly complex, hard-to- manage workforce, from insights into employee performance to the ability to build budgets.

How to “ground” a mobile management solution

The decentralized nature of a distributed labor force makes a uniform approach to time and attendance a business necessity and a real challenge.

Within any company, diverse functional areas — from Human Resources to Payroll, and Operations to the CFO — need a solution that is not only flexible and scalable, but also delivers information and data in a manner that allows each to make critical business decision that impact the bottom line. At the same time, a time and labor management solution needs to serve the demands of a distributed workforce working under different circumstances, in different environments and locations.

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Going forward, a best-of-breed solution can “future proof” your organization for the trends that will impact workforce management, specifically distributed labor, in the years ahead.

  • Seamlessly aggregate data from all types of collection modes and deliver the information in an easy to understand format. Regardless of where an employee punches in, the data needs to be collectively tied together. Aggregated data allows managers and supervisors to better manage labor from a cost-savings perspective.
  • Address unique payroll rules and effectively manage compliance. The solution needs to account for federal and state wage and hour laws, as well as union contracts. The ability to generate a precise, detailed audit trail that can support compliance, wage and hour disputes, and internal benchmarking and tracking is critical.
  • Provide analytical data reporting from the system once time and attendance is merged into the payroll process. This helps managers and supervisors set and adjust schedules and compare staff count to payroll to determine the most effective ways to deploy labor.
  • Include GPS functionality to ensure security, accuracy, and compliance. This feature naturally lends itself to mobile time, attendance, and location tracking. GPS can capture, track, and verify where the employee punched in and provide a time stamp on the server to detect and avoid time theft and unauthorized changes.
  • Handle data off-line and function without cell service or Internet connectivity. The solution should be able to collect data offline, save it, and relay it once connectivity is restored.
  • Deliver data in real time so managers can make time and labor management changes on the fly, as well as utilize the device for multiple functions beyond time and attendance — such as email, presentations, payroll, and communication.
  • Issue real-time alerts when thresholds such as budgets and overtime are being reached, or flag instances when employees have punched in outside the authorized work area or have failed to punch in.
  • Facilitate use as an employee self-service portal. Value added features such as self-service reduces labor costs for both supervisors and employees. Employees can access time punch confirmation in real time and easily access information on accrued time off and work schedules, or submit time-off requests and receive instant approval. On a business level, self-service reduces time and resource demands on Human Resources and Payroll, while encouraging employee accountability and responsibility for their time, attendance, and scheduling.
  • Provide administrative functionality. While mobile solutions offer flexibility and accessibility for distributed labor, supervisors can utilize mobile solutions, such as tablets, when they are “on the road.” A tablet can deliver real-time information and serve as tool to manage and process payroll, monitor overages, or track budgets regardless of location. Transparent budgeting tools can also be applied to help manage or reallocate resources.

Time management to workforce optimization

When the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act was deferred to 2015, many companies decided to shift their focus from “head count” issues to what they considered more immediate workforce concerns (though prudent organizations are implementing tools now to “game plan” potential scenarios if/when the employer mandate takes effect). But today’s distributed mobile workforce makes efficient management an immediate and growing challenge.

Indeed, the challenges require more than traditional tracking a fragmented, decentralized workforce. They require a configurable solution built around a host of best-of-breed criteria, including: centralized deployment with the ability to serve all locations, accurately track and manage labor expenses in real-time, integrate with ERP/HRIS, facilitate compliance, and guard against unauthorized changes.

Just as we’ve moved from preparing for change to managing change — which is to say, managing distributed workforces — organizations now need to think about “optimizing” distributed workforces.

Optimizing distributed workforces goes beyond time and labor management, and extends to monitoring tasks, tracking transportation and managing work orders.

In sum, it’s about giving organizations visibility into an ever-shifting landscape, enabling them to better evaluate the performance of individuals and “virtualized” business units, and more accurately correlate budgets based on real-time workforce data.

Michelle Lanter Smith brings 20 plus years of leadership to her role as Vice President of Marketing at EPAY Systems. She previously served as CEO of Hi-Impact Marketing & Sales Solutions, an integrated marketing agency, and as Chief Strategist at Brillante Multicultural Marketing Group, a multi-cultural marketing and PR agency. She got her start as an IBM Marketing Manager.

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