How to empower and enable your small business mobile workforce

As your small business grows, you’ll probably deal with a workforce that is dispersed across the country, possibly even overseas. Coming into the office 9 to 5 is no longer the norm for many employees. By offering flexible, mobile and remote work options, small business owners find that it assists them in attracting and retaining employees, according to a Plantronics survey.

Fortunately, today with a range of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, it is possible to conduct business anywhere. However, regardless of where your team members work – in their home, on the road or in a coffee shop or airport – they still need to keep in touch and collaborate with each other and be responsive to customers. Here’s where you need to have a plan in place to ensure that your mobile team remains productive and connected.

Put a mobile working strategy in place

Your plan to support your mobile workforce should include the following:

Establish clear goals: Work with your mobile team to establish goals that are quantifiable and not just to get the job done. You may want to set milestones for mobile workers attached to deadlines. Also clarify everyone’s role so that there is no ambiguity about who is responsible for what.

Provide needed technology: In order to collaborate and stay connected, your mobile workforce will need additional technology tools besides a mobile device. Here are some of the technologies to consider:

  • Mobile apps: Mobile apps are becoming a vital tool for small business. While you can develop you own apps, there are a host of off-the shelf options from app stores that are cost effective and help maintain the productivity of your mobile workforce. Among them are note taking apps such as Evernote and Microsoft One Note; conference call management apps, including Skype and Avaya Scopia; and travel expense tracking apps such as Expensify and Expenditure. There even are mobile apps for invoicing, sales orders, estimates, inventory and pricing for field sales and field services personnel.
  • Cloud computing: When you employ cloud computing, your small business data and applications no longer reside on each desktop or somewhere on your network. Instead, service providers host them on remote servers, which you access over the Internet now redefined as “the cloud.” These remote servers can run anything from your email to customer relationship management (CRM) software to video conferencing and store all of your documents. You simply log into a web-based service to access all the applications you need.  With cloud computing, everyone in your business can access company information from anywhere at any time. That’s a great  boost to productivity and collaboration as well as customer service. Cloud computing enables your small business team members to collaborate on the development of a document or presentation using any device.
  • Unified communications (UC): UC provides a platform to integrate desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets into one integrated data and voice network so that these devices can talk to each other digitally. UC also provides a host of collaboration tools – e-mail, instant messaging (IM), web and video conferencing and fax – accessible through the convenience of one interface, eliminating the time it takes to check the inboxes of multiple devices for messages and facilitating employees getting in touch with each more easily. UC aids collaboration by making it convenient to launch a video conference, for example, and send IMs to other team members to join. On a call with a customer, you can conduct a chat session with another colleague to get answers to questions.

Enable BYOD: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) saves you the expense of having to keep up with mobile technology, which continues to evolve. Your employees also are happier and more productive because they have the flexibility to use the mobile devices they prefer. Since protecting your company data is of paramount importance, make sure you have a BYOD policy in place that spells out what is and isn’t acceptable regarding the use of personal mobile devices and personal apps used to access company data. Your policy should include guidelines on creating strong passwords and set a time frame for routinely resetting them.

Communicate regularly: You’ll also want to establish how often you want to communicate. You might require weekly email reports or regularly scheduled conference calls or video conferences to ensure that your mobile workers meet required deadlines and stay connected with everyone else on your small business team.

Ensure clear communication: Your mobile employees have no control over background noise while they are traveling or even working from home where there’s little you can do about noisy neighbors or construction down the street. To ensure clear communication on calls, consider providing your team with noise-cancelling headsets. They ensure audio clarity for both parties on the phone and also make it possible to easily launch a video conference over a mobile device should there be need for face-to-face communications.

Take time to put your mobile workforce plan together. When you empower and enable your mobile force, they are as productive and engaged as if they were working on site at your small business headquarters.

Learn more about Plantronics headsets for your small business mobile workforce.