It wasn’t so long ago that working remotely was viewed as something of a novel concept, but with globalisation in full flow, businesses and individuals are no longer restricted by postcode when it comes to who they work with. More and more knowledge-based workers are moving into self-employment, with IPSE estimating that there are 1.9 million British freelancers working across all sectors.
In fact, this segment of self-employment is amongst the fastest growing, with numbers increasing by 36% since 2008. PeoplePerHour, the online freelance platform, has even forecast that half of us could be working for ourselves by 2020. And the reason for this? Flexibility.
Freelancers recognise that they don’t need to face a long commute or buy an unaffordable London property in order to do their work, and employers are seeing the cost benefits, with some companies, such as Uber, building their entire business models around it.
Of course, remote working doesn’t come without its challenges - although the technology to enable remote working is readily available, how do you ensure that your workforce is motivated, engaged and trained in the necessary skills? There is a danger of employees losing the sense of cohesion and team that comes with working in the same office space. One of the most common concerns remote workers have is that they’ll miss out on those ‘water-cooler’ moments, where they would bounce ideas off their co-workers and seek advice. How do you create camaraderie and knowledge sharing when employees are remote?
What’s clear is that companies need to move beyond traditional methods used to share information and train employees. For example, at EduMe, we enables companies to train and communicate with their workforce, regardless of where they are. We do so through our mobile-first solution to reflect the proliferation of smartphones, with 5.7 billion of these devices expected by 2020.
Training needs to move beyond static desktop delivery, and be available on multiple devices. It is important that companies adapt to this ‘anytime, anywhere’ style of learning, where users can get information instantaneously and fit training around their own schedules.
By embracing mobile training, companies can send freelancers bite-sized modules, instead of bombarding them with information that is not relevant to their work. Mobile also features a number of tools that can facilitate the training process, such as allowing for training to be delivered by engaging videos, rather than relying on classroom style training, or providing a digital library that stores all reference materials in one place.
Training must address not only practicality, but also communication. A sense of team can and should be created amongst a dispersed workforce. One way of achieving this is via a company newsfeed that allows remote workers to keep updated on the business, its products and current campaigns in short, snappy bursts - ideal for reading on-the-go.
The more companies can replicate the likes of Facebook or Twitter in their internal communications, the more they build on existing and familiar user behaviours.
If you can achieve this, the benefits of a mobile workforce are wide reaching. Remote workers will be able to advance their skills and subsequently be better equipped to perform their roles, and companies that have invested in the self-employed model will see noticeable improvements on their bottom line. They can save on office space and reinvest funds in company growth. A more productive and well-trained workforce is also more loyal, meaning that companies won't have to hire as frequently.
The freelancers themselves will also enjoy a greater sense of independence and flexibility. By taking control of their learning, they can work at a pace that suits them and more importantly, fit their work/life balance. The continuous communication through newsfeeds also provides them with a feeling of community, so the fear of missing out on a ‘traditional’ work experience is lessened.
Ultimately, this inevitable transition to the mobile working economy does not need to be as daunting as it may initially appear to companies looking to move towards a dispersed workforce. By working with online training platforms, companies can design effective and engaging ways for workers to learn new skills whilst also being able to keep them up to date with relevant company information. What is important is that companies continue to motivate and provide their remote workforce with the right skills. Otherwise, they risk alienating them by keeping them “out of sight, out of mind”.
At EduMe, we put business impact at the centre of our approach. If we partner with you, we’ll work together to clearly link your microlearning initiative to business objectives, so that ROI can be measured. Our approach is described in more detail in this blog post.
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The EduMe Learning Team