By James Cartmell, ELMS development manager at location and tracking specialist Track24 ELMS
Recent hostage situations and kidnappings involving British workers in Algeria and Nigeria highlight the dangers employees face when operating in volatile regions.
Despite the risk, a globalised market and increasingly limited natural resources means organisations need to operate across vast and varying geographies.
The result of this is an increasingly mobile workforce. At any one time an organisation might have employees conducting business in several countries across a number of continents.
This new, mobile workforce, operating in potentially volatile regions, has pushed duty of care and employee location management to the top of the business agenda, and organisations now need to be able to quickly account for staff safety status and location.
However, many organisations are struggling to manage their mobile workforces. A good example of the inadequate processes some firms use for in-country employee location management is the ‘spreadsheet and emergency number’ solution.
Organisations manually record their employees’ locations in an Excel document and provide an emergency number to call if anything goes wrong.
While the intention is sound, the practicality of this system isn’t.
Noting down an expected destination and estimated time of arrival doesn’t account for the journey to and from appointments or any change of plans.
Plus, cellular networks have been known to struggle with high volumes of voice data transmitted during emergencies.
The reality is that organisations traditionally have travel management systems designed to cover flights and hotel bookings, and high-tech tracking hardware for executives that need to remain in contact and be constantly monitored.
But tracking hardware is too expensive to roll out across an entire workforce and not appropriate for every employee.
It is typically only intended for high value assets travelling to areas known for volatility and a lack of cellular reception.
This means the demand for a solution for employees that need to be able to update their employers on their safety status while on the move, is greater than ever before. This demand is being met with new location management apps and software solutions built in the cloud.
Employee location management solutions are low cost and easy to roll out across entire workforces. They give employees the reassurance that their employers are taking their safety seriously when they’re travelling for business.
They are not full blown tracking solutions, but they do mean that in an emergency incident, an organisation’s resources can be appropriately deployed based on real time location management intelligence.
Employee location management software consists of a user application combined with a cloud-based control hub.
Apps can be easily installed on smartphones and are unobtrusive, allowing the employee to quickly, easily and subtly update their safety status and location at the click of a button.
The information is then pushed to the cloud and is available to travel and risk managers through an online portal which at its most basic consists of a map of the world displaying employee locations, and user groups displaying status updates.
The travel/risk/HR manager at the employee’s HQ can monitor their safety status and location as often as the employee deems it fit to update – thus not impinging on their privacy.
They can also recall historical location data in order to secure a full picture of events leading up to an incident – this can be invaluable when dealing with an emergency situation.
The user’s smartphone application also includes a panic alerting function which can be activated in emergencies.
This instantly sets off a chain reaction of messages which are sent to whoever needs to react.
These new solutions initially proved popular in the NGO sector as charities and aid organisations needed cost effective ways to monitor the safety statuses and locations of all their employees and volunteers, who often find themselves in some of the most dangerous regions in the world.
Businesses are now adopting the technology as they look to fulfil their duty of care requirements.
With incidents involving employees from UK companies regularly reported on the news, and workforces being more mobile than ever before, employers need to make sure they have up-to-date intelligence on their employees’ safety statuses and locations so they can react appropriately in an emergency.