A retail associate logs into a new profile on her Zebra mobile computer using Zebra Workforce Connect
By Alex Fryer | April 05, 2023

Front-line Workers Should Be Able to Grab Any Device and Get to Work in Any Role. This One Switch in Your Mobile Software Setup Will Help.

If your employees transition between multiple roles each day, you need to consolidate their “profiles” onto a single device so they can flip between tasks and teams faster. Here’s how.

There’s no point in pretending otherwise – we are in a highly uncertain economy and cost-cutting initiatives have become a regular occurrence across virtually all industries. As if that weren’t enough, the ever-present challenge of hiring the right talent still affects operations. But that doesn’t mean your front-line workers, customers or overall business need to suffer.

For example, I know getting a cost-conscious budget owner to approve a capital expenditure on hardware devices that you know are critical to the coordination and execution of operations can be like pulling teeth. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

You just need to be strategic in your approach. You need to “sell” them on why the hardware is a non-negotiable purchase by building the business case for the desired process or execution change and then demonstrating how the change can’t occur without the right technology. In addition, you need to firmly tie this new acquisition to improved productivity (especially in terms of getting more out of your current staff) and assign a value to the cost savings derived from happy customers. (How much money have you lost issuing refunds/credits to make things right with customers when mistakes are made by your team?) For example, if your primary goal is to increase worker productivity and efficiency, and that is only achievable with certain technology tools, then you need to articulate the role the hardware plays (i.e., we need ABC software, which works most optimally on XYZ devices because of the buttons, UX, etc. in order to ensure we meet this objective).

Just recently, we had a customer in a similar position – trying to ensure its lean team could serve a growing customer base without missing a beat. They really wanted to use Profile Manager for role selection, which is an add-on to Zebra’s Workforce Connect Push-to-Talk (PTT) Pro software platform (and now available as a package with PTT Pro called PTT Premium). Workforce Connect was already enabling seamless collaboration and communication among front-line workers who had enabled devices in hand, and the customer liked the standalone features, such as 1:1 and group calling and multimedia messaging, GPS locationing, and emergency alert prioritization. However, they wanted to unlock device sharing for their PTT Pro-equipped devices (which Profile Manager does), so workers could share devices between shifts and even roles, and they could get maximum usage from the devices they had.

Now, on the surface, it wouldn’t seem like they would need to change out their devices. Therefore, there seems to be no need to justify an investment in new hardware; all they wanted was the Profile Manager add-on. (Workforce Connect works with any Android or iOS device.) But the customer knew the user experience would be better if workers were using the software on Zebra enterprise devices versus consumer devices, and specifically devices that were tailored toward their industry/job. Once the hardware was right, the customer knew the Profile Manager could be well tailored too because role selection has a lot to offer different workers based on their responsibilities and daily experiences. Here are some examples:

Retail Stores

Role selection lends itself particularly well in retail because of how commonplace it is for your associates to help out in different roles, especially in the meat and seafood departments where I’m sure you’re cross training quite a bit to offset the rather high wages and training costs for these employees.

Say a customer approaches the meat counter, whose only employee is on break. The seafood employee notices and heads over with his mobile device in hand, which he has already signed into with his seafood department role selected. The customer explains that he wants to place a special meat order. Now all the seafood employee must do is switch profiles on the device (using the Workforce Connect PTT Pro Profile Manager) to access the meat department’s contacts, task lists and other essential information to serve the customer. The customer is happy, the employee feels good they were able to jump in and help, and everyone moves on with their day.

Role selection is also highly useful when it comes to covering unexpected employee absences. Imagine it is late in the day and the single grocery employee remaining on duty falls ill and must leave without finishing their work for the day. No problem – your store’s night manager or another spare employee is available to come in can use a mobile device to sign into the grocery profile, providing them access to the information needed to wrap up the evening’s work.


Few organizations need mobile technology as desperately as healthcare providers, as the right solution can increase patient care quality, improve employee safety and empower your people, among other critical benefits. Yet, unfortunately, the profits are often not there to justify new capital expenditures that equip everyone with the right technology to do their jobs efficiently and with human interests at the forefront.

That is why you need to reassess the scale of your technology purchases, especially when it comes to mobility solutions. Deciding on which device to buy utilizing a per-user pricing model would require you to purchase a unique device for every user, which few healthcare organizations have the spare capital for. Instead, you can save a huge amount of money by springing for just enough devices to equip a shift’s worth of employees, and from there making a smaller investment in a software platform that allows for role selection.

One Zebra customer, a major regional hospital, tried this approach with Zebra Workforce Connect PTT Pro. Now, workers leaving their shifts drop their devices at a central point where they can be picked up by employees arriving for the next shift. It doesn’t matter what job the next user is working; all they need to do is sign into the correct profile on the device they grab and begin their tasks.

Consider a device being used by a pharmacy technician. Her shift ends at 7:00pm. She signs out of the PHARMACY TECHNICIAN profile, then places her mobile device in the cabinet used to recharge and store devices. Thirty minutes later, a nurse arrives for the start of her own shift and grabs the device the pharmacy tech just deposited. The nurse simply turns on the device and signs into the NURSE profile to access the task lists, contacts and other key information she needs to work her shift. The fact that it was previously used by a pharmacy tech is irrelevant – anyone can use and share any device, saving the facility potentially millions of dollars over devices with a per-user pricing model.

Manufacturing and Warehousing

With so many roles being worked by so many people at any given time (which inevitably varies every day), a role selection tool can facilitate device sharing across shifts, saving workers time and you money. The handheld mobile computer or tablet used by an assembly worker one day can be used by a replenishment worker the next day, next shift or even partway through the same shift. All the user must do is sign into the relevant profile and proceed with their given duties.

Similar benefits can be found in warehouses and distribution centers (DCs) given there are countless roles that a single person may fill on any given day, such as loading, unloading, fulfillment, packaging, picking and more. If you’re currently dealing with a shortage of workers, or it’s just your standard practice to cross train team members, then software that allows for easy transitions enables your warehouse/DC workers can swap roles throughout the day as needed – providing managers with an essential element of agility and flexibility of work. With role selection, they can adjust staffing levels as often as they need to in relation to fluctuating demand.

In other words, software that enables role selection is the best way to allow for fast transitions between roles and associated tasks for employees who wear multiple hats, either on a daily basis or when you’re in a pinch. You and I both know that seconds count, and any time spent trying to find “the right” device for a role or shuffling between multiple devices will slow workers – and possibly customers – down. So, I encourage you to reach out to your technology consultant/partner to find out how you can better configure your mobile devices (and get more bang for your buck).

If you’re interested in leveraging the Zebra Profile Manager tool I mentioned, the good news is that it’s now available with Workforce Connect PTT Pro as a single package called Workforce Connect PTT Premium. So, employees will have the means to connect and coordinate with one another via push-to-talk, call lists and groups, multimedia messaging, GPS locationing and other features tailored to their jobs in one easy-to-learn app. Reach out to your Zebra account manager or inquiry4@zebra.com for more information on how you, your front-line workers and (subsequently), your customers can benefit from role selection.


Related Resources




Best Practices, Energy and Utilities, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Warehouse and Distribution, Transportation and Logistics, Retail, Field Operations, Hospitality, Public Sector, Banking,
Alex Fryer
Alex Fryer

Alex Fryer is currently the Intelligent Edge Solutions (IES) Regional Product Manager and responsible for driving the go-to-market in EMEA for Zebra’s IES portfolio. Alex has more than eight years of experience within the technology industry and has driven the go-to-market strategies in a number of sectors. Alex holds a BA in Marketing & Language Studies from the University of Liverpool. 

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