Managing remote employees effectively is the biggest concern for U.S. executives who supervise mobile workers, according to a survey by Runzheimer International, a provider of workforce mobility programs including virtual office, telecommuting and relocation services.
Employee satisfaction and competitive advantage, along with cost savings, were ranked as the top benefits gained with a mobile workforce, according to the Mobile Workforce Survey report, for which Runzheimer polled executives—director-level and above—from a range of businesses across the U.S.
Mobile Workforce: Concerns and Benefits
Executives cited their biggest concerns about managing mobile workers as:
Employee management, supervision and productivity 46%
Measurement of program success 20%
Rising costs 10%
Employee satisfaction 9%
Too difficult to manage program 8%
Executives cited the most important benefits of having a mobile workforce as:
Employee satisfaction 26%
Competitive advantage 25%
Cost savings 22%
Corporate agility 16%
Source: Runzheimer International.
Respondents said that mobile device use and business travel are the fastest-growing components of their mobile workforce programs, while virtual office/telecommuting followed with steady growth.
The survey indicated a need for companies to tighten management of mobile workforce programs. For example, most survey respondents (60 percent) believed their companies are managing mobile workforce programs effectively but did not necessarily have measurement mechanisms in place. Less than half (43 percent) had formal, centralized processes for managing their mobile workforce, while even fewer:
- Tracked costs (33 percent).
- Used best practices and benchmarks (31 percent).
- Had centralized mobile workforce management programs in one department (27 percent).
- Measured return on investment (7 percent).
"As organizations develop their corporate strategies, a detailed review of their mobile workforce programs should be on the agenda, including a close look at employee satisfaction, manager challenges and cost/return on investment," said Greg Harper, president of Runzheimer International.
"Corporations need to look more deeply at the infrastructure supporting their mobile workforce and truly assess if perceptions match the actual processes and metrics that are in place."
Opening lines of communication by asking employees and managers what they like or dislike about their remote workforce programs, and what changes would increase productivity, can go a long way toward improving employee retention and productivity, Harper advised.
Moreover, formalizing this process through an annual employee survey and benchmarking against competitors can provide critical insights. For example:
• An organization that gauges employee support for the travel program might discover a need to tighten policies and automate procedures to reduce time spent on administrative tasks.
• Benchmarking might reveal that direct spending is 20 percent higher than is typical, indicating that the organization should revisit its reimbursement policy.
Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.