HR Insights 8 min

Meet Your People Where They Are: Tapping into the Mobile Revolution

June 4, 2019

Are you capitalizing on the mobile revolution, or are you getting left behind?

Today’s workforce is using mobile technology to reshape the way they do business and how they relate to their employers. Organizations that recognize this trend can use it to their advantage and build a competitive moat.

By meeting your people where they are and creating opportunities they care about, you can better engage modern workers while preparing for the economy of tomorrow.

Let’s explore how quickly modern technology has taken root, the ways this technology is affecting workers, and how businesses can leverage these changes to better compete in an increasingly digital world.

The Mobile Revolution

At this point, mobile technology is nearly universal. Deloitte Insights pegs mobile phone penetration at over 90 percent for nearly every developed country. Smartphones aren’t far behind at 80 percent. To quote Deloitte’s report:

“Walk down any street, enter any restaurant, sit on any bus, and you are sure to find at least 9 out of 10 people on their mobile phone. Whether it’s for texting, surfing the Internet, or watching a favorite show, the mobile device is now a fixture of modern living.”

10 years ago, mobile penetration was hovering at about 68 percent. 15 years ago, it was just over 27 percent. Such explosive growth has led to sweeping consequences for our society and economy. Mobile technology is transforming the way we live, work, and communicate.

Entirely new business models have become possible in the wake of this mobile revolution. The on-demand model, for example, is almost entirely a byproduct of mobile technology and could not survive without it. On-demand workers are constantly in the field and on the go. They connect with their companies and their customers through their phones. Without the infrastructure created by widespread mobile adoption, companies like Uber, Lyft, and Wag simply wouldn’t exist.

Did you know? Telecommuting has grown by 115 percent in the past decade.

Mobile technology is also affecting human behavior. Kids growing up in this modern, mobile world are notably different than their forebears. They comprise a new, hyperconnected, “always-on generation,” that has never known a world without smartphones. According to an Elon University article, members of this generation are “nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who count on the Internet as their external brain and who approach problems in a different way from their elders.”

“There is no doubt that brains are being rewired,” says Danah Boyd of Microsoft Research.

Technology is affecting us. It’s influencing how we do business, how we connect with one another, and even how we think.

The Millennial Mindset

Today’s young workers are of a different breed than their predecessors. The “always-on generation” mentioned above has never lived in a disconnected world. Millennials, who make up the largest generation in the workforce, are also unique.

Millennials didn’t grow up before or after the internet, they grew up alongside it. No other generation—past, present, or future—can ever claim the same.

Millennials were coming of age just as household computers became commonplace (about 36 percent of US households had a computer by the year 1997, rising to over 86 percent by 2015). They had front-row seats as mobile phones took over the world. They were the first ones to use platforms like Facebook and, as such, theirs is the first generation to have grappled with the implications of social media.

The millennial generation is different. They’re pioneers shaping a new working world. Millennial workers care about different things than previous generations and they expect different things from the companies they work for.

Effectively recruiting and managing millennials, then, means understanding what they value and then making the necessary adjustments to accommodate those values. Tori Fica offers some great insight into what exactly those values are:

  • Fair compensation
  • Development opportunities
  • Frequent feedback
  • Meaning and purpose
  • Positive relationships

Today’s workforce is not the same as yesterday’s. Companies need to adapt to meet the needs of millennials and of future “always-on” generations.

Millennial employees got you like *mindblown emoji*? Check out our series on managing millennials.

Where Work Happens

Modern workers don’t just care about different things, they have a fundamentally different relationship with work. They work at different times, use different devices, and desire different dynamics with their employers.

Let’s dig into some numbers. The below statistics paint a picture of where and how work is happening today:

The workforce is shifting away from the traditional, on-site, 9-to-5 employer-employee relationship. Mobile technology makes it easy to do work anywhere at any time, a fact that more and more people are taking advantage of. Many workers aren’t even pursuing traditional salaried jobs, choosing on-demand or freelance work instead.

Deloitte Insights reports that just 42 percent of companies are primarily made up of salaried employees. They offer a great analysis of the shifts happening in the modern workforce:

“The traditional employer-employee relationship is being replaced by the emergence of a diverse workforce ecosystem—a varied portfolio of workers, talent networks, gig workers, and service providers that offers employers flexibility, capabilities, and the potential for exploring different economic models in sourcing talent.”

This “workforce ecosystem” is opening new doors for businesses, but it’s also presenting new challenges. Is your business structured to effectively hire and onboard freelance or on-demand workers? Do you offer the kind of opportunities today’s workers care about? Are you using mobile tech to empower your employees?

Only by meeting workers where they are—by leveraging mobile technology to enable and enhance these non-traditional relationships—can businesses reap any benefit. Companies that adapt to accommodate this new workforce will gain a considerable advantage over those that do not.

Employees who work remotely some of the time show greater levels of engagement, and 35 percent of employees say they would change jobs to have flexible working locations.

Meet Them Where They Are

Disruption is happening everywhere and it’s not slowing down. Technology is changing, as are the people using it and the businesses that rely on those people. The traditional workforce is transforming into a “diverse workforce ecosystem,” which means you may need to adjust your business to accommodate new staffing strategies.

For some companies and industries, this could mean a fundamental change to their business model in favor of an “on-demand” model. For others, less dramatic changes may suffice. As more and more workers prefer less-traditional working relationships, you may need to increasingly rely on remote workers or “just-in-time” staff.

Just-in-time staffing is “a lean, fast-paced approach to recruitment…[that] is often a more cost-effective and flexible alternative to hiring a new, long-term employee and burdening the company with more labor than it needs,” says Peter Schroeder.

He identifies some benefits to this approach:

  • Efficiency: Stay lean, remove redundancies, and lower labor costs.
  • Speed: Bring on new staff in as little as 24-48 hours.
  • Risk reduction: Minimize the cost of replacing workers or reducing your workforce.
  • Agility: More easily adjust your workforce to meet your exact needs.

Adjusting your staffing model can also be a competitive advantage when recruiting new talent, as modern workers are increasingly drawn to remote working opportunities. According to Gallup, “employees who work remotely some of the time show greater levels of engagement, and 35 percent of employees say they would change jobs to have flexible working locations.”

Luckily, mobile technology is making a distributed workforce increasingly viable for many businesses. Some traditional roadblocks, such as onboarding and training remote workers, are becoming easier to overcome.

How much does it cost you to onboard a new employee?

Onboarding and training employees—even remote and freelance workers—is becoming more efficient and cost-effective thanks to online training and mobile learning methodologies.

Mobile learning makes it easy to deliver onboarding, professional development, and performance support programs to your workers wherever and whenever they need it. For many companies, mobile learning is effectively expanding their talent pool by making non-traditional employees a more viable option.

What’s more, the presence of an effective learning program can be a massive recruiting advantage among younger workers who care about professional development opportunities above all else.

Professional learning programs can help get talent in the door, and it can also help keep them there. According to LinkedIn, employees are 94 percent more likely to stay at a company that invests in their career.

Mobile learning can expand your viable workforce while helping you both attract and retain top talent. It’s also becoming easier to keep distributed employees connected and engaged with one another, a traditional roadblock to employing remote workers.

In her article “Building Community in the Virtual Workplace,” Jennifer Carpenter argues that working with distributed employees presents three unique challenges that a traditional, centralized workforce doesn’t face:

  • Informal social interaction: Companies must create “virtual water coolers” to facilitate social interaction among their employees and help them connect with one another.
  • Collaborative work: Businesses must find new ways of promoting collaboration by building “virtual teams,” rather than a mass of disconnected individuals.
  • Employer supervision: Managers must be flexible, adaptive, and open to change if they want to be successful in managing a distributed group of telecommuters.

Carpenter concludes that “Internet technology is not merely a communication device; it is also a very real space, replete with possibilities for social interaction.”

Mobile technology can help companies attract, train, and retain talent. But to be truly successful, businesses must develop full virtual communities and cultures that can thrive in this digital space.

Onward

Prepare your business to take advantage of the latest workforce trends, not to battle against them. Meet your people where they are, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of a more effective, engaged, and connected workforce that’s prepared to compete in the economy of tomorrow.

About the Author

Northpass is modern learning software that makes it easy for small and mid-sized businesses to create and deliver a world-class training program. Get new employees up to speed faster with content about your policies and practices. Ensure compliance with courses from our catalog of e-learning titles. Provide ongoing learning opportunities to keep your people engaged and growing. All from a single, intuitive platform. Book a demo today to learn how Northpass can help you make online learning a competitive advantage at your company.

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