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Technology allows managers and business owners to track their mobile employees’ every move.

Not only can office staff use the GPS on mobile workers’ own smartphones to see where they are at all times, they can see how long they are at each job and how many tasks they are able to do each day. If they really want to, they might even find out where they prefer to go for lunch.

While this level of transparency is good for business efficiency and job productivity, it may leave mobile workers feeling vulnerable. They could believe the boss is looking over their shoulder all day … and possibly all night, too.

When a business invests in mobile job management software, it needs to satisfy its workers that the new technology will benefit them as much as it will help the business. Mobile staff will find it easier to get to their jobs, and once there they will have all the job and customer information they need on their mobile device. They will save time on their paperwork, and may be able to quote or invoice while on-site.

Most of all, mobile teams need to be convinced they’re not bringing Big Brother along for a ride in their work vehicle every day.

Good managers know that it’s vital to only measure those things that are relevant to business success. Time on job, for example, is a useful way to see how efficient a team is. But keeping tabs on the length of tea breaks is likely to antagonise staff, who will try to find ways to “beat the system”.

Good managers know that it’s vital to only measure those things that are relevant to business success. Time on job, for example, is a useful way to see how efficient a team is. But keeping tabs on the length of tea breaks is likely to antagonise staff, who will try to find ways to “beat the system”.

So while job management software offers an immediate and accurate snapshot of what is happening in the business, it’s important for managers to not become overly reliant on it. They still need to make the time to speak to their mobile teams, either daily or weekly.

‘Not a bother’

Ken Mackay is manager at Christchurch-based Appliance Pros. The company, which installs, repairs and services whitegoods in New Zealand’s Canterbury district, has five mobile workers, including Mackay himself.

Mackay says the team was very relaxed about using the company’s choice of mobile job management software, GeoOp. “As long as they’re getting their work done in a timely manner, we’re not pointing fingers or anything like that,” he says. “I don’t believe the boys feel like they’re being watched 24/7.”

He says Appliance Pros didn’t need to “sell” the technology to its employees. Technology that tracks staff schedules is now just a fact of life for anyone who works on the road.

“The boys appreciate that they’ve got the vehicle to use, and after hours, and I don’t think it’s a bother,” he says. “It’s certainly not a bother for me.”

Staff need to feel valued

The key to convincing staff that mobile tracking technology is good for them is firstly addressing their underlying fears and emotions, says business resilience expert Andrew Hughes.

The most common emotional response, he says, is for mobile workers to feel threatened or that they are not being respected or trusted.

“When you introduce any change, and especially when you’re introducing any automation or innovative process, you have to first communicate [to staff] in a way that enhances their sense of significance or enhances their sense of autonomy.”

“When you introduce any change, and especially when you’re introducing any automation or innovative process, you have to first communicate [to staff] in a way that enhances their sense of significance or enhances their sense of autonomy.”

Hughes says managers looking to bring in any work change need to convince staff that they are still valued, and that the new technology is only going to help them work a bit smarter.

“You can beef up their sense of significance and how important they are to the business,” he says. For those who enjoy their work, Hughes says it will make them feel like they’re making more of a contribution. “[For them] it’s not about profit … it’s about serving customers, making people’s lives better.”

The other factor in winning over mobile workers with any new technology is making them feel like they are part of a team, and that they are in this together.

“People love to be part of the group, and they generally like to be connected,” he says. “We all want to be part of something.”