A majority of the world’s workforce doesn’t work from a desk. In fact, according to a study released by Emergence,“the top eight deskless industries — Agriculture, Education, Healthcare, Retail, Hospitality, Manufacturing, Transportation, and Construction — employ 2.7B employees.” Mobile workforce management demands a unique set of managerial skills and tech solutions equipped to support deskless work.
Unfortunately, mobile workforce management solutions are significantly lacking compared to the various tech solutions available for office-based employees and managers. To satisfy the unique needs of a mobile workforce in any industry, let’s first take a look at the growth of mobile workforces.
The Rise of a Deskless Workforce
According to Statista, in 2020, there were 78.5 million mobile workers within the United States, and in 2024, that number is expected to rise to 93.5 million. We are seeing an accelerated growth of a mobile workforce due to various factors such as a demand for remote work, a desire for flexible schedules, and a younger, more tech savvy workforce.
Due to this increase in deskless workers, field service businesses are working to increase their adoption of cloud-based solutions, mobile tech, and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Business Wire. However, the demand for field service managers to accommodate a workforce mobility far outweighs the tech skills required to support a deskless workforce out in the field. As Business Wire indicates, “the lack of skilled workforce to operate on-field management service systems, security concerns of organizations related to data confidentiality, and pressure to meet the revenue as per the demands are the restraining factor for the market growth.”
Currently, businesses employing a deskless workforce are experiencing an imbalance between the tech required to support a mobile workforce and the technical skill sets required to manage the business operations of such a workforce. The rise in deskless workers will continue to grow, and businesses need to learn to adapt accordingly. Let’s take a look at some challenges managers of mobile workforces are facing and how to avoid them within your organization.
Addressing Common Frustrations Experienced By A Mobile Workforce
It isn’t a point of contention on whether a mobile workforce is good for businesses. We know that “mobile employees can help companies improve customer satisfaction by bringing services to clients, and can allow for the completion of tasks that simply cannot be done from a central location.” But adopting the right solutions to support a mobile workforce and the employee tech skills necessary to operate those tools is where the big gap lies. With the rise of a deskless workforce, field service managers need to quickly adapt to the new demands of this emerging workforce. Picking the right solutions that meet organizational needs is critical as well.
Let’s take a look at the five most prominent challenges field service managers are facing today and their solutions.
1. Proper Mobile Workforce Tools
As mentioned before, mobile workforce software lacks the ability to properly support the day to day operations of employees working in the field. According to the GlobeNewswire, “the global workforce management software market size was worth USD 7.5 billion in 2021. It is estimated to reach an expected value of USD 12.5 billion by 2030” however, this isn’t including tools for deskless workforces. Many of these solutions are only useful for in-office employees. These tools aren’t accounting for the unique needs of employees in the field. Field services teams need access to office tech and information on the go. Unfortunately, many tech solutions don’t offer this.
To improve upon this missed opportunity, is by ensure your field service teams can access what they need for their daily tasks with mobile tech. Many mobile workforces are already using tools, databases, checklists, forms, and documentation tools, but currently, they are confined to the limitations of an office. A way to enable your mobile workforce to access the information they need from the office in the field is through a mobile app which can be built with no code app builders. This will serve as an extension of your tech stack and bring everything your team needs directly into their hands. Allow your employees to access procedure manuals, customer contracts, and forms, and to fill out and upload work orders and schedules all from the field, without having to slow down operations with manual work.
2. The Rise of a Younger Workforce
It’s no secret that millennials and Gen Z-ers are beginning to dominate the workforce. According to IBM, in the year 2030, “more than 70% of the workforce will be millennials or even younger Gen Z-ers.” The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, defined “anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of a new generation.” What does this mean for employers?
Well, first off, millennials and Gen Z-ers are more likely to take on non-desk-based roles and these two groups have grown up in a highly technological world. Meaning, these generations have been conditioned to expect speed, ease of use, and efficiency from their digital experiences which also extends to workplace technology. Millennials and Gen-Z employees expect to use tech in the workplace to automate manual tasks, make their work more efficient, and accelerate projects. Businesses need to ensure their business operations are aligned with the tech demands of the newest generation entering the workforce. The momentum of an eager workforce seeking to adopt tech to better their workdays is an opportunity businesses should harness.
Providing employees the ability to upskill by building the technological infrastructure they need to get their jobs done will increase both employee and customer satisfaction. In the Boston Consulting Group’s study, an analysis of why a majority of deskless workers are at risk of leaving their jobs, it was reported that of the deskless workers who said they might leave their jobs, “50% cited lack of flexibility or work-life balance as the reason. Other top reasons were lack of career advancement (41%), pay (30%), lack of enjoyment in their current position (15%), and lack of recognition for their contributions (14%).” This new generation of employees demand tech solutions, and as Arun Saigal, CEO and Co-Founder of Thunkable, shares, “By providing employees the tools they need to solve their problems, employees are empowered to become more engaged and invested in their work, leading to greater innovation and impact within the organization.”
3. Security and Compliant Integrations
Security has been a big issue of concern for all organizations in this digital age. Ensuring not only that databases are legally compliant but secured to keep customer and personal information secure is a number one priority. Another problem organizations face is the ability to link tech solutions to each other. The worst thing is to keep software in silos with pieces of information stored in separate areas. Not only does this make visibility into business operations more difficult for managers, but it also can be a pain point for employees. Mobile workforce management requires information delivery and storage capabilities to happen instantly when employees are in the field. Anything which will slow down the day-to-day operations of field service teams will cause friction in the field, with customers.
Several mobile workforce managers, we’ve spoken with use secure databases like Xano or Backendless to manage their data. (If you are interested in learning what the best database solution is for your organization, take a look at our blog on this very topic.) Additionally, one way to resolve software silos is by extending your current tech stack through a mobile application. Allow your mobile workforce to access anything they need on the go from their mobile device. Tools like Thunkable support extensive integrations for any of your needs.
4. Management of a Mobile Fleet Team
Fleet management and dispatch of field services are key aspects for any manager of mobile workforces. Management of dispatch teams involves a multitude of logistics from meeting with customers, tracking personnel or vehicles, scheduling shifts, and much more. It can be difficult to have visibility into the physical locations where your employees are, but how can managers get better visibility into their team’s whereabouts?
One solution field service managers are using is geolocation tracking and geofencing. Geofencing is defined by Zuper as “a feature in modern GPS tracking apps that allows administrators to set up virtual boundaries around specific geographical areas. When an employee's GPS tracker enters (or leaves) one of these boundaries, the app sends a notification to the administrator (job status update) and the customer (ETA alerts).” Such a feature can give managers peace of mind but also provide greater visibility into operations which will make way for future improvements in operational efficiencies.
An extension of location capabilities for a deskless workforce can be harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to help technicians determine their routes and appointments in relation to traffic. Before beginning their journey, mobile workforces can tap into their mobile app to plan their day. Furthermore, a feature for weather can be integrated. In the case of Auszac, a Balsa wood manufacturer and distributor, their field service team works in the rainforest. Knowing weather conditions before the start of their day can help them better prepare. Additionally, by creating a mobile app with Thunkable’s drag and drop app builder, they were able to leverage offline capabilities which enabled technicians with the ability to go offline and not be tied or restricted to network connection giving them the flexibility they need to complete their tasks for the day.
5. Cost and Time Resources for Creating Mobile Apps
Many businesses have seen the value of utilizing mobile apps to support a mobile workforce. An app is the most efficient way to handle the unpredictability that comes with a field service workforce. But how does one get started? Is it better to build a mobile app or buy a mobile solution?
The first step to answering this question is to ask:
Is a whole new tool needed to support your team?
Does your organization currently have the software necessary to complete the job?
Does your organization lack a way of making necessary tools available in the field?
The answers to these questions will help determine what type of solution you need.
One point of frustration we often hear from mobile workforces is that the solutions out there have a lot of great features, but the team itself needs something simple and straightforward. Many of the mobile workforce management solutions on the market are complicated and require a significant time for onboarding employees to use the tool. So the decision for most organizations with mobile workforces comes down to selecting a big, robust tech solution with a hefty price tag or building a custom solution. A big hesitation we often hear is the fear of buying shelfware; to that we say: business’s need to understand their core needs.
Building customized mobile apps can be complicated and costly depending on the route you decide to take. If you would like to learn more check out our guide which goes into detail about what goes into building a mobile app. Luckily, no code app builders like Thunkable are now enabling teams to build the solutions they need on the go. Drag and drop platforms allow you to either create an extension of your existing tech stack for your mobile workforce or build an app completely from scratch for your team’s unique needs.
Now that we have taken a look at the top five most common challenges mobile workforces face and how to overcome them, let’s look at the future of mobile work.
Future Trends in Mobile Workforces
Mobile workforces demand inclusive technology, more visibility, and extensive mobile technology. With the growth of wearable technology, near-field communication (NFC) technology, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and drones, these innovations will soon be commonly utilized by mobile workforces. Such mobile technology can enhance business workflows, customer interactions, and daily operations because they are both extremely powerful and portable.
Ensuring your tech stack can scale and grow with the latest technology is essential to business survival. Thunkable enables businesses of all sizes to be adaptable and harness the power of tech to build impactful mobile experiences.
Equip Your Mobile Workforce With The Solutions They Need
Mobile workforces encounter much more variability and unpredictability in the field than office-based employees, and they should have tech that supports their mobile work. A mobile solution is best equipped to handle the complexities of fieldwork and can offer powerful solutions to any field service team’s biggest challenges.