Who Owns Your Mobile Workforce Strategy?

Telecommuting, remote work, distributed teams, flex, agile workforce – we still wrestle with what to call it, but more importantly, do we know who should own it? Is it the business – with needs to enable employees to be efficient and effective? Is it Human Resources (HR) – providing policy and procedures for flexible work arrangements?  Is it Real Estate (RE) – managing evolving needs of the business with space allocation and design? Or, is it technology (IT) – delivering the latest software and hardware to meet business needs while ensuring employees are working in a safe and secure cyber environment? A successful program requires a champion to lead the effort – from any department – as long as HR, RE, IT and the business are at the table. Cross-organizational teams deliver the most successful mobile workforce initiatives.

What Employees Want

Employees want to use the latest technology and have flexibility to work in a variety of settings depending upon the work at hand. Mobile tools and technologies have had a profound impact on how and where employees work. With BYOD and wireless internet enabling e-mail, IM, Facetime, and multiple productivity apps, employees are working when and where they want to – with our without  company approval. In the most recent Gallup State of the American Workplace, 37% of employees who would change jobs to have the ability to work where they want at least part of the time.


PWC reports in its Consumer Intelligence Series – Work-life 3.0: Understanding How We’ll Work Next: Employees want mobile and wearable technology at work, so employers are identifying opportunities in which these new technologies provide value to employees, business processes or strategic initiatives. In many cases, IT is challenged with providing this new technology, however, when and where it is used does not fall into the IT wheelhouse.

Real Estate

The era of the 9 to 5 hours in a seven by seven cubicle is dead. Whether from home, a dedicated workspace in the office, collaborative workspaces, conference rooms or on the road, employees want the freedom to choose where they’re going to work to balance with their personal life.  To address this, real estate leaders are seeking ways to achieve cost avoidance by reducing their real estate footprint and redesigning workspaces. Jordan Slater reported in Reoptimizer.com that one of the two or three most expensive aspects of any business is real estate.  Kylie Roth in Work Design Magazine explains: As utilization rates drop, the cost of real estate rises and the nature of work becomes increasingly group-based, companies are re-thinking the people-to-desk ratio, abandoning the one-to-one model in favor of a higher proportion of unassigned seating. Given the changes in how and where employees work, understanding how much office space is required becomes critical to keep business running efficiently within budget.

Human Resources

Traditionally, HR manages flexible work arrangements including job sharing, flextime and compressed work weeks under a flexible work policy. Avanade’s Bringing the Power of the Digital Workplace to Life underscores how HR should work alongside other departments within the business to ensure employees have the opportunity to customize their job role in accordance with new digital tools, skills and interests.  When Work Works Workflex and Telework Guide further outlines that: HR has two primary roles with regard to telework. The first is to determine whether telework can help make work “work” for all involved and, if so, to build a business case for using it. The second is to develop policies that ensure employees can maximize their success on and off the job while keeping the organization clear of any liability issues.

The Business

Business Leaders want to know how they can attract and retain top talent while meeting preferred mobile work styles of employees today. They want to know how to leverage collaborative technologies to strengthen distributed teams while addressing organization culture and mitigating risk. They want whatever it takes to keeps costs down and increase productivity and engagement which is correlated with a strong corporate culture. A recent PwC survey found 67% of Global CEOs predict that in five years, workplace talent will focus more on corporate culture and values than they do on pay.

Mobile and remote workforce initiatives can often happen in siloes, spearheaded by separate business units, overlooking the need to assemble a team of HR, IT and Real Estate leaders. Among the many issues of having an individual business unit create flex or mobile work initiatives include potential inconsistencies and lack of an integrated corporate policies to ensure a safe and secure workforce.  Companies that are most successful in designing and implementing a corporate-supported flexible and remote workforce apply an integrated strategic framework and roadmap to move through business transformation and change.  This roadmap, a mobile workforce maturity model, helps companies pinpoint where organization culture needs to evolve to embed change and how to leverage a cross-organizational team of HR, IT, CRE and Business leaders to make that happen.

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