In a prior post I wrote about working and learning online. It generated some comments about isolation (while working at home) and about support for learning at work (i.e., does the corporation make learning possible and do they value it). This article, Managing the Mobile Workforce raises similar issues in the context of managing different personalities and cultural influences among a growing number of mobile workers (25% of the world’s working population by ’09 the study says).
Based on the findings of the Cisco-sponsored study that is the basis of the article, here are some considerations for supporting mobile workers (and I’ve added considerations for the online learners’ experiences below the bullet points):
- The article says your company must have hired the right people for mobile work – self-motivated, resilient, extrovered and independent (and says they should test for it).
Self-efficacy is something I’m sure we’ve all read about when discussing what makes a good online learner. (If you’re not familiar with the term, see here). What this point says to me if that we must help those who do not think they can learn online – recognize their successes, support them technologically, show them how others have experienced success with learning online; in short – remove the stress from the situation. We cannot make anyone a successful online learner but we can certainly help remove barriers. I certainly don’t think we should test anyone though. (can you imagine… you do not exhibit self-efficacy for online learning – so you can’t learn this way). As if we’re the same everyday. Anyway…
- The article says you must have hired the right leadership so as not to mismanage the mobile worker. Mismanaging the mobile workers includes lack of communication (isolation factor), too much communication (micromanaging), and those other things that make a bad manager in any environment – lack of interpersonal skills.
To me, this is a duh statement. My experience with good management is the individual who lets you manage yourself by adapting to who you are -some like a lot of communication, some don’t. I think the same holds true for online learners. Some like to read through all the resources you’ve provided, others like to skim and use them when they need them. A good learning experience means you let people manage their own learning while you adapt to who they are (you provide options).
- The article says you must have the right tools and resources for mobile workers. This might include video, social forums, and of course sufficient connectivity.
As learning professionals, we normally hopefully take resources into account for every experience we design. This is getting tougher I think for IDs and for IT who don’t always know what the setup is like for the mobile worker. Do you design for the lowest common denominator? Make multiple iterations? Do you have the right resources to do this?
- The article also raises good points about culture.
Localization of content, acceptance of online learning, distribution of workforce, technological infrastructure are all considerations we consider now.
Managing mobile workers is becoming more of a hot topic based on demographic changes, global work environments, and technology infrastructure. I think we’ve got a one-up on this topic in the learning field. We’ve been managing the online learning experience for quite awhile now. Been there. Doing it.
For a talent management spin on this study, see this post by Max Goldman at the SuccessFactors blog.