In the first post of this series on sustainable peak performance, we introduced the topic and defined how this subject relates to field and mobile service. Then, we covered the first of three steps on the road to achieving your best possible performance, and doing so consistently over time:
1) Mobilise core processes to connect the office with the mobile workers more effectively
2) Implement a performance management framework and toolset that uses the data flowing through the processes to guide decisions on improvements
3) Centralise and automate repetitive tasks and release capacity for higher-value tasks
This time, we are going to look at the performance management step. Understanding and measuring the performance of a mobile workforce is complex and demanding, as explored in this recent article by Turq, our blog editor. We are often asked why this is the second step and not the first. Surely, the argument runs, you need to put performance management in place before you rollout a mobile application.
There is merit in that argument, and it is true that the overall framework and employment policies will already be in place, but the point here is that the very fact of having implemented a mobile application provides an opportunity to revisit, review, or even to transform the existing management of performance in the field. This opportunity should not be missed as the process changes introduced as part of that mobile rollout can also be a catalyst for new ways of recognising and rewarding excellence and driving up overall standards.
We see enormous variations in the style and form of measuring what happens in mobile operations. However you approach it, the old business cliché is very relevant: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Well, with all of the data flowing from the centre out to the field and back again through your enterprise and mobile applications, you have no excuses – there is plenty to measure! Of course, the specific bits of information you need to count to populate your metrics and KPIs have to be part of that data stream if you are to rely on them. And that is where many systems fall down. Although there are lots of data, they are the wrong kind of data (to paraphrase the excuses used for late running of service on the British railways!)
At Cognito, we take a holistic view to collecting and reporting what is done by your mobile workforce, as part of our intelligent mobile workforce management approach. To ensure that you get the right overall perspective, visibility and understanding of what is actually happening, we have implemented a method in our own mobile application that focuses on the individual activities that each worker does - rather than simply the list of tasks and milestones scheduled as part of their shift. This activity-based workflow is more granular and delivers an enriched, context-aware data stream, resulting in better quality reporting and visualised in decision-support tools that help you identify exceptions more quickly and act on them in a well-informed, data-driven way.
Of course, we must not forget that we are talking about people and what they do. You want to encourage the right behaviours and discourage the undesirable ones. You want them to buy-in to any changes, and to see the benefits for themselves. If the field workers do not feel that they are being fairly rewarded and recognised for the work they do, there is a danger of this being seen as an onerous, Big Brother intrusion into their work. Having a fuller picture of all aspects of their performance, and how they have addressed the unexpected difficulties that are inevitably thrown up in delivering on-site services, means that the new performance management system can recognise and reward those that do go ‘above and beyond’, as well as identifying those that are falling short and need extra support. It needs to be multi-dimensional and calibrated to your particular business environment in order to produce a fully-rounded view of what has been achieved – one that you can rely on to make decisions.
“Most of us have workforces that are very bright, very intelligent, that want to be engaged in a broad way.” said Virginia Rometty, CEO of IBM in 2012 reflecting on her leadership philosophy. If we take that as a starting point when designing how we measure and manage performance, in collaboration with unions and field champions, then we have a good chance of getting the balance between reward and punishment, carrot and stick, right.
In the next blog post we will look at the third and final step in our journey – and another opportunity to improve both efficiency and effectiveness through advanced automation tools.
You can find out more about our methodology and activity-based workflows here.