Take a second. Imagine a stereotypical employee in the mobile workforce. Really dig into the details. After you finish this quick exercise, we have one question for you. Did you imagine…
- A millennial…
- Who works in a techy role…
- At a West Coast startup…
- Who works mobile because they believe in “disrupting” traditional work patterns?
Your “stereotypical mobile worker” probably matched at least a few of these characteristics. These details create our culture’s most popular picture of a mobile employee. And while this picture isn’t wrong per se, it is a little outdated.
On the one hand, yes, mobile work does have strong roots in young, idealistic tech workers. But the most recent research on mobile working paints a different—or at least a more expansive—picture of who actually does (at least some of) their work outside of a centralized office today.
As a recent piece in Forbes noted, modern mobile working:
Is not just for millennials.
Most of today’s employees who work mobile are 35 years old, or older. About half of them are 45 years old, or older.
Is not just for techy roles.
56% of U.S. jobs can be completed out of the office. This number is on the rise. In 2010, only 50% of jobs were compatible with mobile work.
Is not just for West Coast Startups.
Silicon Valley isn’t even the country’s main mobile working hub anymore. Today, the region with the highest-volume of employees working mobile, at least part of the time, is New England (71%), then the Mid-Atlantic (50%), and then, in a distant third, the Pacific region (25%).
Is not about taking an idealistic stand against traditional work patterns.
In fact, mobile work is actually nothing new. Sales professionals “work mobile” every time they take an onsite sales call with a potential client. And every time a team in one part of the world, say Los Angeles, gets on a conference call with a team in another part of the world, say Tel Aviv, those two teams are working mobile from each other.
What has changed: new cloud-based collaboration tools are giving more roles the ability to work mobile, and making it easier to connect teams from around the work with each other.
These data paint a surprising picture of modern mobile work environment. They show us that mobile work isn’t some strange, niche trend anymore. They show us that it has a been a fact of life in the traditional workforce for a long time, and is simply becoming more common, and more effective, due to the invention, and introduction, of new technology platforms like G Suite.
And yet, even though these data paint a clear picture of this escalation in mobile work and global collaboration, they unintentionally create one false impression about this evolution in the workplace.
The Increasing Mobile Workforce Isn’t “Just Happening”
It’s easy to read the above data and assume traditional companies are evolving to a more mobile and globally collaborative workforce via a totally natural, organic, bottom-up process. That their adoption of new collaboration tools is “just happening”. Assuming this, all you have to do is just allow your people to bring these new tools into the workplace, and allow them to operate as mobile as they want, and all these great new flexible work patterns and global collaborations will create themselves, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Even if the technologies behind this increase in mobile work appears natural, organic, and bottom-up, that doesn’t mean the actual evolution itself can proceed spontaneously.
Sure, there are some success stories from companies with robust mobile policies who let these policies enter, and evolve within, their company naturally. But these stories often come out of startups that are so small, intimate, and culturally defined by their founders and initial employees that they could let their best work practices develop spontaneously.
Big, existing companies tend to require more focused attention and top-down direction to make new mobile work policies and global collaborations succeed for them. Even Google—the company who invented the G Suite cloud-based collaboration suite—deploys a well-defined framework of policies for how their internal staff can use these technologies, taking into account privacy and security measures..
When it comes down to it, larger more established companies have different strategic and operational needs than smaller companies. And even more important—integrating these new tools offers different challenges to large companies vs small companies.
Getting 30,000 people to adapt to more employees working together while on the move, from every corner of the world, is a whole different thing than getting 30 people to work together with cloud-based collaboration tools— especially when those 30,000 people already have established, traditional work patterns they’ve been sharing for years (sometime decades).
These challenges present in many ways when you try and introduce cloud-based tools into large organizations. A few of the lessons we’ve learned about these transitions include:
- Change Management is the Difference Between Success and Failure
It’s unrealistic to believe that teams and employees who have worked together for a long time in a single central location will be able to just change to a cloud-based collaborative workflow overnight.
Even if you give them the best tools in the world, they still will need to be taught how to use them, they will need frameworks and policies for how to use them within your specific company and team, and they need to see these tools adopted—and these appropriate behaviors modeled—first by their team leaders before the change can become “real” for them.
This takes work. But it’s not impossible. Colgate recently introduced new collaboration tools their 28,000-member workforce with SADA’s Change Management and Training services.. (Click here to watch Colgate explain how they managed their transition.)
- Companies Can’t Put Their Existing Clients on Hold When They Introduce New Collaboration Platforms
Mid-Market and Enterprise companies with a full slate of clients can’t just press “pause” on their obligations to customers, partners, etc. They must continue to serve without any interruption in products or services delivered, while they fundamentally transform their daily operations by adopting new technologies. When these companies introduce new mobile collaboration platforms, these companies have one priority: maintaining their existing performance.
- The Biggest Change Management Challenges are Cultural
The presence of mobile work and global collaboration is growing fast. But not everyone is ready for it yet. Plenty of managers in established companies still hold stigmas and irrational fears when they think about giving their people new tools for working more remote and globally. They worry these tools will make their employees stop coming into the office, and start working from the beach at disruptive hours of the day and night.
Like it or not, these managers aren’t going anywhere. Their objections—irrational or not—need to be disarmed with care and sensitivity. We’ve seen plenty of skeptical managers won over after some hands-on experience with a set of collaboration tools like G Suite. Benefits like silo-busting, real-time collaboration, and face-to-face conferencing are immediate, obvious, and persuasive. Some managers just need to experience these benefits first-hand before they feel comfortable to introduce these tools into their workforce.
When it comes down to it, there is only one “right person” to ask for help when you’re thinking about bringing a new cloud-based collaboration tool to your company—someone who has done it before. Either a team that’s brought these tools to a company like yours, or a company that’s made the transition themselves.
We want to give you access to these people, so you can get actionable answers to your questions and how to introduce these tools into your organization.
To help you get a detailed, real-world picture about what it takes, Google and SADA Systems are bringing together a few of our clients who have implemented G Suite —and are currently reaping the benefits from going Google – to a live webinar on October 26th at 11am PST.