The world we work in today is very different from the one of previous generations. The number of business and organisations that have a workforce that is not located on one site has vastly increased. This includes the wide ranging existence of remote employees. In 2014, Forbes reported that as many as 30-45% of organisations make use of remote or virtual individuals or teams. This change in workforce formation has been supported by the development of technology which enables areas of an organisation to work seamlessly together, even when they are located on other sides of the world. What are the benefits and challenges of a multi-site workforce?
The benefits of a fluid workforce
Being able to work from a non-central location means that employees no longer need to be tied to an office or to a full-time office hours contract. Organisations may still have teams of full-time employees at one or more central bases, but they can also make use of freelancers, homeworkers and contractors. This offers benefits to the organisation and to individuals.
Benefits to the organisation
Any organisation or business has to run efficiently and productively in order to remain competitive. Having a fluid workforce provides several benefits in this area:
- The workforce can easily be increased and decreased according to the demands of the business.
- The need for expensive business premises is reduced.
- Using a multi-national workforce helps to increase intelligence of the global marketplace.
- New individuals can be engaged solely to innovate within the business, and there are no geographical restrictions to the recruitment.
- Workforces located across different time zones enable businesses to operate 24/7 without any requirement for shift or overtime payments.
Benefits to the individual
Remote working has brought about greater flexibility to individuals who no longer have the inconvenience and expense of having to travel to work. There is also a wider field of recruitment opportunity, across geographical boundaries. Because the need for a physical workspace and working day no longer exists, many individuals are able to work flexible hours, improving their work/life balance.
The challenges of a fluid workplace
As with many aspects of the business world, there are challenges as well as advantages, to having a fluid workforce. In order for a business or organisation to run effectively it is important that these challenges are identified and overcome.
The importance of good communication
Good communication is vital in the ongoing survival of any organisation; it enables the organisation to work as one entity and not just many disjointed parts. There are many communication channels which can be utilised in order to facilitate excellence in communication.
- Well maintained email systems, including the facility for any member of the workforce to communicate with the central management team.
- Company Intranet for communication of all important information, such as staff directories, company performance data and HR information.
- Video meetings so that all interested parties can be present, no matter where they are located.
Communication is a major challenge for any organisation with a multi-location and fluid workforce. It’s important that careful communication planning and a well-crafted communications strategy are employed.
The need for effective human resource management
It’s hard enough to employ effective human resource management when all employees are under the same roof; having a workforce that is fluid can make the task even more complicated. Just because an employee works remotely does not mean they are not entitled to the same amount of attention on HR matters as any other employee. This attention can be in the form of:
- Payroll issues
- Attendance management
- Performance reporting processes
One of the easiest ways of ensuring all of these processes run smoothly is to employ an automated HRM solution. Often, in the past, many HR processes have involved the signing of paper forms and the physical storage of these forms. This system is difficult if employees are geographically dispersed. An automated system enables full HR functionality for every employee, no matter where they are situated. Not only does this benefit the workforce, it also benefits the organisation. They do not need to employ huge HR teams to be able to handle the location diversity and they have all the HR data at their fingertips, no matter where they are in the world, and where their teams are located. Fluid workforces are here to stay, as technology enables us to have access to each other across the globe and 24/7. The benefits of the flexibility and cost advantages this offers to organisations and individuals are undeniable. But it is vital that businesses embrace the technology to its full extent, both in ensuring effective organisation wide communication and by employing an automated and self-service HRM system to facilitate the smooth running of all aspects of human resource management.