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Finding quality labor is the most difficult aspect of small business HR/labor management, according to a Plantronics survey. But the challenge doesn’t stop once someone comes on board. A 2015 survey from Gallup found that only 32% of employees were engaged in their jobs. Gallup characterizes engaged employees as “…involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work” and its research shows that employee engagement is connected to productivity, profitability and customer engagement, all of which are essential to a company’s financial success. The research firm estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 to $550 billion annually in lost productivity.

Mobility-first addresses engagement

To address employee engagement, some companies now are turning to a mobility first or mobile optimized working environment. A global study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for Aruba found that there is a measurable link between mobile first working environments and employee engagements. Specifically, companies rated by their employees as “pioneers” in how they support mobile technology experienced a 16% rise in productivity, an 18 % rise in creativity and a 23% increase in satisfaction compared to organizations poorly rated for supporting mobile technology.

A mobile first strategy embraces more than just the use of mobile devices – provided by the company or personally owned under a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.  Brian Katz with Constellation research explains that  “The core of any mobile first strategy is understanding the users and how they process information on a mobile device.”

To that end, mobile first means offering a consistently positive experience to users across all devices, whenever and wherever they use them. It involves designing apps and websites to work across multiple platforms. It also enables flexibility,such as that afforded by keeping company data in the cloud. With cloud computing, users can begin an activity a smartphone or laptop while they are out of the office and complete it on their desktop later.

Other mobile first trends as identified by the Aruba study that are driving higher worker engagement and performance are:

  • Working anywhere/anytime: 49% of respondents say working anywhere/anytime has the greatest impact on their productivity and another 38% cite it as having the greatest impact on satisfaction with their employer.
  • Ability to collaborate: 38% of respondents reported that the ability to collaborate effectively was rated the most important factor affecting creativity. Another one-third of respondents said it has the greatest impact on their loyalty. To foster collaboration, 42% of companies are using digital collaboration tools that work on mobile.
  • Access to mobile information: 42% of employees say that the ability to access information quickly and easily has the greatest impact on their productivity.
  • Workplace freedom: 32% of employees responded that being able to work anywhere within the office is the biggest contributing factor to their creativity and 29% declare that workplace flexibility makes the biggest difference to their loyalty. (The use of headsets can help cancel out noise in mobile hot-desking environments.)

The benefits of a mobile first strategy add up for small business. It means giving employees freedom and flexibility to work the way they want and that leads to more productivity, creativity and ultimately retention in a market tight for talent.