What Mobile Workers Want

By Lori Castle, Editor-in-Chief — January 27, 2014

What does the enterprise need to prepare for around mobile? Security? Developing the right app? Enabling, optimizing and supporting the field? Yes, to all of those, but what companies really might not be ready for, according to a report from Aruba Networks is, “#GenMobile.”
 
There is a new workforce to serve, a cultural shift  in employees that just so happens to be going on at the same time as there is a shift in the role of IT and the CIO— who are going from “keeping the lights on” to being part of the business.

This new business savvy in IT surely means understanding the needs of end users —a new workforce— a group of employees defined by their preference for mobility both in terms of the devices they use and their approach to work.  “IT leadership has an opportunity to be an ally to other functional groups that are looking to hire and retain #GenMobile talent,” said Manav Khurana, VP Product Marketing at Aruba Networks in an email to Mobile Enterprise.
 
In fact, IT is playing a pivotal role in enabling this generation of workers.  “IT departments at some of our customers, for example, have led the transition to the flexible workplace where employees don’t need to be tied to the desk, desktop computers and desk phones. They understand the preference for being connected inside and outside the office,” according to Khurana.
 
Who are they? What are they doing?
The majority of #GenMobile  are in the early stages of their career, own three or more connected devices (62%), and feel most productive when working from home (57%). They expect to  make their own hours, with 45% believing they work most efficiently before 9am or after 6pm, and 37% expect their number of remote work hours to increase in the next 12 months.
 
They are so attached to their mobile devices that they are 15 times more likely to give up coffee and seven times more likely to say goodbye to their televisions than their beloved smartphones.
 
The report reveals that, rather than acting as an aide to the workday, #GenMobile are shaping their working lives around their mobile devices. With the ability to work effectively any time, any place and on any device, they expect employers to make the policy and structural changes necessary to enable their preferred form of working.
 
Expect policies? That sounds more encumbering than is characteristic of #GenMobile, but Khurana said, “The question is less about changing policies and more about providing the right tools to support policies like work-from-home and using work apps on personal devices.”
 
What do they want?
Nearly 58% prefer Wi-Fi at the expense of other connections (4G, 3G or wired), while 51% declare that their mobile devices help them to manage their lives, and with network access becoming as prolific as the devices themselves,
 
Believe it or not, 53% would prefer to work from home two to three days a week than receive a 10% higher salary, and 32% would rather have their employer pay for the smartphone of their choice than a 5% higher salary.
 
Thirty-eight percent would rather be able to bring their own device to work than have an office with a window, and 53% would rather their company paid for their choice of device than provided them with lunch.
 
Right now, 45% want their cars connected, but 20% will demand wearables in the next five years. Interestingly, these were two of the biggest trends coming out of International CES this year. Mobile players large and small introduced initiatives in both these spaces.  
 
How does the enterprise adapt?
Understanding and catering to #GenMobile’s needs can be the key to a productive workforce, according to Aruba, while also ensuring global companies are in a competitive position. For example #GenMobile are more likely than other groups to access mobile apps such as Facebook (17%) and Twitter (14%). But they are also 20% more likely to access and respond to work emails on their mobile device. Mobile is second nature to both a work and personal life for them.
 
This fact, and the challenge therein, was evident in a recent interview with Mobile Enterprise’s editorial advisory board.  Keeping up with the times also means enabling social.  Greg Lush, Senior Vice President, Learning, Quality, Innovation, ABM, said that in the same vein as these workers expecting mobile to be “part of the package,” social media has become the place for communication.
 
Lush noted, “While the younger population may be seeking additional platforms to collaborate (past FaceBook to Instagram, Vine, etc.) the enterprise still perceives social as a spare time activity. Our ability, as an enterprise, to capture and share experiences will enhance every worker’s experience and deliver creative caring results.”

He sees this as part of the next cultural/mobile challenge, but said that the move from social to community will take time. “However, it’s well worth the effort,” according to Lush.

Don King, INF Solutions Engineer, Kimberly-Clark Corporation sees social as a challenge here too —but is looking at it from a risk perspective rather than the cultural lens.  “Employees are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc. to a wide degree and forcing companies to rethink security.  Confidential document or pictures can be posted on the internet for all to see and the terms that a user/employee signs by registering to these sites may not protect the company.  This could create a huge impact down the road,” he said.
 
Still, there remains space for human interaction in the life of a #GenMobile and the enterprise needs to facilitate that as well — 63% in the Aruba report indicated they still value the time when they can disconnect their devices.
 
“We’ve seen flexible working, BYOD and always-on connectivity growing for some time, but this report shows that it’s now become a way of life for those in the modern workforce,” said Ben Gibson, Chief Marketing Officer for Aruba Networks. “What this report suggests is that #GenMobile won’t have patience with companies who do not accommodate their mobile lives. In order to attract and keep the best employees, businesses need to start looking for solutions to ensure levels of empowerment and productivity in this emerging working world. Ultimately, many will have to totally redefine traditional work environments.”
 
“Making the necessary workplace changes needs to be supplemented with solid technology choices; employers will only succeed in motivating #GenMobile workers if they have the security and connections available to facilitate this shift,” added Gibson.
 
Khurana added, “Data security is paramount. People lose their mobile phones way more often than a desktop computer. IT must update its security policies and more importantly invest in tools to make it easy for people to secure their personal devices.”

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