How to Earn Employee Buy-in From Your Mobile Workforce

The field service industry is forecasted to grow by 17.9% in 2011, followed by an 11.2% growth in 2012 according to a recent VDC Research report*. We expect many of these enterprises will evaluate new devices to find the best solution to enhance in-field productivity. For many IT managers, it is often a challenge to get employee buy-in when looking to rollout a new mobile solution to a large or small field force. Workers are often resistant to change their practices, even if it will be more efficient in the end.

However, there are methods to successfully engage your employees and ensure a smooth and positive rollout. A significant investment in new hardware will end up collecting dust in a corner if not properly adopted and integrated into your workforce. At Panasonic we’ve established some best practices to garner employee buy-in early on and streamline the deployment process.

Understand the needs and pain points of your mobile workers
Many times the organization’s IT department has its own agenda and goals for a new technology deployment. This is often driven by the need to streamline IT processes or capture additional data in the field as the result of a new corporate initiative. However, it’s extremely important that you invest the time to understand the culture and needs of your workforce. This is a critical element of a successful deployment rollout.

We advise IT planning personnel to conduct ride-alongs with field teams or host focus groups in order to get a sense of the their day-to-day challenges and pain points. This allows you to observe redundancies and inefficiencies and collect feedback directly from the end-users. It also communicates to your workforce early on that you’re interested in addressing its needs and helping make their jobs easier.

Initiate small pilot or trial programs
Once you understand the needs of your workforce and began evaluating solutions, initiate pilot programs to test different solutions in the field. A small pilot program with a select group of users can be valuable. They can get a feel of the workflow with the possible devices and communicate their feedback. Tracking key information, such as the number of repairs/service calls per day or turnaround times, during the pilot phase will help earn management and financial buy-in and acceptance from the larger team.

Select partners that offer ongoing support once the solution is deployed
Choose partners that will provide support and services once the technology is in the field. As with any new rollout, it will take time for the devices and associated software to be fully accepted and usable. Partners that provide on-site assistance and support after the initial purchase will significantly reduce the time your IT department spends training and assisting workers with technology transitions.

Offer comprehensive training for all your mobile users
Once you’ve selected the best solution, prepare a detailed rollout plan that includes employee training. Without the proper training, we find users often don’t use the technology to its maximum potential. To get the most out of your investment, we recommend choosing a day and time to roll out the solution to the entire team. During this training, use advocates of the technology to share success stories from the pilot program and share the key improvement metrics that you captured and quantified. Using the participants from the pilot program to engage their peers will help create excitement and lower resistance to the new processes.

With any mobile technology investment, you are purchasing a solution, not individual devices. Without training and acceptance from your workforce, you’ll likely be facing an uphill battle. Engaging your field workforce early on and listening to your employees’ needs will create interest in the new solution and expedite your return on investment.

*David Krebs and Balca Korkut. “2011 Enterprise & Government Mobility Solutions,” VDC Research, June 2011.