The Modern Mobile Workforce: How to Retain Top Talent


With its promise of convenience and choice, an employee-centric mobile strategy is vital for attracting and keeping top talent. “Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work,” says Bryan Bassett, Research Analyst, Mobile Enterprise Device Solutions at IDC. Here’s how to give the people what they want while keeping the C-suite happy with optimized device security and management.

As you formulate your enterprise mobility strategy, it’s easy to focus on practical concerns such as security and application management. But to get the most out your initiatives, consider the why as well as the how. Remember that mobility not only supports maximum productivity for your team (which is attractive to management) by letting them access resources wherever their jobs take them, but it’s also convenient and considered a cornerstone of a modern workforce (which is attractive to employees). The stakes are high: According to IDC, the U.S. mobile worker population is expected to grow from 96.2 million in 2015 to 105.4 million in 2020, when mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total workforce.

Employee Wish List: Maximum Choice and Convenience

People want to work how, where, and when they want, with access to the information and resources that will help them most. Given that mobile devices enable them to do all that and more, it’s easy to see why a desktop computer isn’t as appealing as a shiny new cell phone. Top talent is interested in:

Their favorite devices. Aside from the productivity boost, there’s an undeniable cool factor to using the cutting-edge mobile device of your choice—it’s arguably replaced fancy business cards as a status symbol. Enterprises can offer choices by allowing BYOD, but if management prefers the control and security of managed devices, you can still support a range of platforms. Manufacturers update their products constantly (for example Apple added new enterprise management features to iOS 9) —so even if your executive team hasn’t supported a phone or a tablet before, you can often make a case for change. It’s also worthwhile to poll employees occasionally about their preferred devices.

Good user experience. Mobile email access is just the beginning—people want access to all the resources and apps they need to do their jobs. Coordinate IT and services offerings in a mobile-first approach to make sure your staff has a mobile option for everything. If your employees could conceivably do all their work from a mobile device, you’ve earned an A here.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s not sufficient just to offer an app—that app must be easy enough to use that it supports productivity and adoption. Making usability part of the mobile development process helps ensure that you create reliable, responsive, user-friendly apps. A bonus of this approach: If employees want to use your mobile apps, it means they are less likely to download a similar but less secure third-party program.

When developing apps and services, consider what a “mobile-only” employee would need—and when. This kind of contextual information delivery is what Forrester Research calls “mobile moments” (read the report). Encourage your developers to use this approach whenever they can.

Easy, useful communication. Communication and context can work together to add value. For example, you can use application-to-person (A2P) SMS messaging, which makes self-service tasks easier. With A2P messaging, certain events can trigger an app to deliver personalized welcome texts, timesheet reminders, benefits program enrollment information, and so on.

Providing employees with social media and other informal communication options, such as a chat room that’s always open, helps them stay in touch and feel included in company culture, even if they rarely set foot in an office. Easier knowledge transfer is another benefit here—sending an instant message or private message to a colleague can help answer questions quickly.

Management Wish List: Maximum Security and Efficiency

Companies must provide a variety of mobile devices for employees, and they have options for how to do this. Many choose BYOD because of its simplicity, and some of those pay stipends to offset part of their employees’ monthly bills. Other enterprises find the up-front and hidden costs of BYOD too high, so they opt for corporate-owned, user-enabled (COPE) devices or corporate-owned and -enabled devices. No matter which policy you choose, it’s possible to have a mobile strategy structured for employee convenience on their end and maximum security on your end. Successful approaches include:

Secure development. If you plan to add mobile apps, you may decide to expose corporate data to third-party developers through APIs and see what kind of innovative offerings they can create. You can be selective and open up only the necessary parts of your back-end systems, keeping your corporate data and IP protected. Stipulate up front with outside developers that they must put security features in place in any apps they make for you.

Internal monitoring. You can find out how employees use your apps, which apps they use, and what they use them for by turning to managed mobile services, such as a mobile device management (MDM) or mobile application management (MAM) solution. Mobility is all about the present moment, so it helps to know what the landscape looks like—if you understand which apps are being used and for what purposes, it helps you tailor your approach to security and contextual information delivery.

Competing for top talent will always be a challenge, but an employee-centric mobile strategy can go a long way toward keeping your workforce happy and productive.

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