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Get on your bike, and work

How the workplace has evolved and why workforce mobility has become a critical success factor for the futureproof, modern organisation.
Read time 10min 20sec
Ellouise Langeveld, Altron Karabina.
Ellouise Langeveld, Altron Karabina.

There’s one word that defines the future of work, one word that captures the shift in workplace and workforce parameters, that wraps hybrid and remote working models into one, neat bow. That word? Mobility. Defined by Forrester as a strategy that enables employees to drive their success from anywhere, mobility is both tool and commodity.

Over the past 18 months, workplaces and workforces have undergone dramatic and drastic changes. Trends in remote and hybrid working went from potential models to immediate reality. For some, the change was temporary. A setback. A pause on the traditional way of working. But really, they should be paying attention to what will really work in the future.

A recent report by McKinsey pointed out that leaders need to get real about hybrid because, like World War II, the past 18 months has transformed everything and the world can’t go back to what it was. People don’t want to go back to what it was. Forrester points out that companies interested in retaining skilled and engaged employees, and maintaining business resilience, should be embracing the work-from-anywhere strategy. This view is shared by McKinsey in its `Future of Work’ report. Workplaces and workforces are evolving with people changing jobs and approaches at speed. In fact, two reports – one by Microsoft and one by Prudential – revealed that people were simply leaving their employers to find better opportunities elsewhere. They want more.

Research undertaken by Gartner found that while the future of work is a priority for HR, 62% say that there’s no clear future of work strategy in their business. Employee experiences have become a priority, and consistent employee experiences are a necessity. It’s a seller’s market – skills are in short supply and people are going to move to where the mobility strategy is.

We have to rethink the way we do business and the future of workforce mobility allows businesses to hire the best talent regardless of location.

Elmari Keyser, Datacentrix

This is why workforce mobility, and the devices that enable this strategy, are critical discussion points for the business right now. As the Forrester ‘Future of Employee Computing’ report suggests, it’s the era of dependable technology that delivers a trusted and reliable work-from-anywhere experience and attracts the talent that will leverage this technology to drive digital transformation. This is the time to look at how to fully realise mobility as a business commodity, the time to invest in tools that tick the three Es of workforce mobility: empower, enable and experience. To ensure that the organisation is on track to empower the workforce with the right tools that enable productivity and performance regardless of location, while ensuring a consistent and capable experience.

Q&A

The three Es of workforce mobility.

Brainstorm: What key end-userdevices and innovations should be on every business radar, right now, to empowerworkforce mobility?

Chris Buchanan, Client Solutions director, Dell Technologies South Africa: Hybrid cloud for a hybrid workforce, along with edge compute capabilities, and the availability of 5G and connectivity.

Marilyn Moodley, country leader, South Africa and West, East, Central Africa at SoftwareONE: Meeting room devices and cloud-based virtual machines are key. Many organisations have already adopted various forms of laptop, such as lightweight laptops or tablet-based systems; laptops have become pretty standard, as well as smartphone access to corporate data, such as email.

Binesh George, CEO, Redvine Networks: Secure access service edge (SASE) and cloud security-based architecture must be on every radar. This will enable organisations to focus more on the productivity of their employees and less on securing endpoint devices.

Ralph Berndt, sales and marketing director, Syrex: Providing end-users with laptops that feature built-in webcams and security systems is critical. This allows for better workforce mobility from any location. Additionally, the laptops must support softphone capabilities to improve the workforce’s ability to collaborate and work seamlessly regardless of geographic location.

Sarthak Rohal, VP: IT Services, AlphaCodes: Virtual desktop infrastructure and virtual application delivery; a unified communication and collaboration platform; unified endpoint management; user profile management; and hardware and software asset management.

Nic Laschinger, CTO, Euphoria Telecom: Two words: cloud telephony. Storage, servers, mail and productivity suites are all available and accessible in the cloud and everyone is pretty much up to speed with that. What many people don’t realise is that your landline can also live in the cloud.

Brainstorm: How would you enable an agile, mobile and dynamic workforce today?

Keith Matthews, country manager, Orange BusinessServices South Africa, and sales director, Sub Saharan Africa at OrangeBusiness Services: Develop an employee-centric approach. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes, and implement simple, fully integrated and secure collaboration systems that support all worker profiles.

Steve Briggs, chief sales and marketing officer, SEACOM: We need to think about how we transfer things like company culture, norms such as water cooler chats, as well as values without seeing people face to face. At a tooling level, it’s buying solutions that are best of breed and are compatible with your company’s IT stack, particularly at a security level, but that still allow employees to be flexible.”

Jeff Ryan, managing director for AWCape: Change management is key, to allow the organisation to find its own rate of change. For example, traditional businesses may change more slowly than technology businesses. Each organisation must be driven by its workforce and not necessarily by its management or executive needs.

Rob Lith, COO, Telviva: Accelerate your cloud strategy and make security central. Set up HR procedures to manage the dispensing of assets and managing data protection. Build trust with your team and set standards around accountability, expectations, and performance. Take time to find ways to ensure the essence of team is not lost.

Mohammed Vachiat, head of Sales and Innovation, KonicaMinolta South Africa:

Brian Timperley, CEO, Turrito: There’s no silver bullet to solve all the challenges of mobility and remote workforces, but there are incredible combinations that can change your business almost overnight.

Brainstorm: How can organisations fully realise the potential of this mobility experience for their workforce?

Dell’s Chris Buchanan: Organisations can empower their workforces by providing them with reliable and up-to-date technology to get their jobs done effectively. Employees can achieve 37% more in a workday when using newer technology that is supported with the correct software and services, and good technology can save employees 23 minutes per hour or 15 hours in a 40-hour work week.”

Matthew Hall, product director, Rectron: Organisations need to give their workforces the right tools and training to help them adapt and take advantage of the benefits of mobility. This involves utilising digital technologies to support employees, increase engagement and enhance collaboration when working remotely. There also needs to be a focus on creating connections and monitoring employee well-being so workforces thrive whether on site or off.

Ellouise Langeveld, senior specialist: Solutions at Altron Karabina: True remote working means having access to all the functionality that you had in the office. Remote working is much bigger than just the ability to set up an online meeting.

Elmari Keyser, End-User Computing Product manager, Datacentrix: We have to rethink the way we do business and the future of workforce mobility allows businesses to hire the best talent regardless of location.

Shyless Nkuna, head of HR, EPPF: There’s an opportunity to upskill and reskill the workforce, create different platforms for cross collaboration beyond organisation boundaries. The skills needed to be successful in today’s workforce differ substantially from those of the past.

Alex Pryor, divisional manager of Digital, iOCO: Companies should start thinking about providing an allowance to pay for data or fibre lines or infrastructure to enable people to do their jobs, like desks, screens, or chairs. They should also consider what flexibility looks like, and build a delivery-based measurement system rather than the traditional approach of managing hours worked.

Eugene Perumal, MD, Netsurit SA: Knowing how to apply the technology within the South African context is key and cybersecurity will be paramount to the survival of organisations going forward. Employee wellbeing and productivity have proven to be important components of any discussion on the topic of empowering workforces.

Case Study


Connecting the skeleton

When lockdown hit, BulkSMS.com hit the mobility button to ensure its staff were connected across multiple locations.

BulkSMS.com, a Cape Town-based service provider of business messaging services to a global client base, leapt into the mobile workforce world with Euphoria Telecom in 2020. When the lockdown hit, the company needed to connect its employees across multiple locations to ensure that it could continue to service its clients. With the majority of employees working from home, including the service desk, and a skeleton staff keeping the lights on in the office, BulkSMS.com needed seamless access and connectivity.

“We had to ensure that we could work from places other than the office in a manner that was just as effective,” says Richard Simpson, director at BulkSMS.com. “With staff working from home, we had to enable them to do so in a way that minimised the disadvantages of not being in the office.”

The skills needed to be successful in today’s workforce differ substantially from those of the past.

Shyless Nkuna, EPPF

The company was struggling with isolated and disconnected teams. With only 20 people allowed in the office at any one time and the remaining staff working on a rotational basis, they couldn’t see when other team members were online or available to take calls when they were transferring them, and this led to complexities around customer care and team engagement. This was further complicated by the devices used by the teams to communication and collaborate – in the office, employees used IP desk phones while remote workers used mobile applications.

Single point of contact

To resolve the challenge, the company opted into Euphoria’s Advanced Softphone, a platform designed to streamline mobile engagements. The platform provides every staff member with an overview of all extensions and queues so the entire organisation is visible, removing the pain point of limited insight into staff member availability. Euphoria migrated the company to the new application and platform, and employees downloaded the application to their mobile phones, to VoIP handsets or to PCs. This created a single and cohesive point of collaborative contact for all staff members. In addition to visibility, the teams can now receive and make calls via the switchboard for added ease of use, and have taken to using Microsoft Teams to further build engagement.

“By making greater use of Microsoft Teams, we could enable collaboration between staff, and they could use the switchboard once they’d installed the Euphoria app on their mobile phones,” says Simpson.

Companies should also consider what flexibility looks like, and build a delivery-based measurement system rather than the traditional approach of managing hours worked.

Alex Pryor, iOCO

The platform gave the distributed teams access to the essential information they needed from any location, when they needed it. This went a long way towards helping them stay in touch with their colleagues, regardless of where they were located.

“We’ve now been able to manage working from home, or any location, in a way that minimises the disadvantages of remote work,” says Simpson.

The migration to the new platform that had seamless interconnectivity and interoperability was a simple shift, but it was one that had an impressive impact on the business and its people.

* This feature was first published in the October edition of ITWeb's Brainstorm magazine.

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