Out of the gates, we totally recognize there are subtle differences in the definitions of front-line, offline, deskless, non-wired workforces, though for simplicity in this piece we’ll be using the terms interchangeably referring to the general working circumstances of those that are not commonly digitally-enabled day-to-day.
Anyhow, It’s been a while since we’ve focused our attention on the current state of the global deskless workforce, but it’s important to shift our attention back to them right now. 2020 has been a rough one, and without them, the global workforce would have had to face even harder times. It’s very easy to overlook them in the cacophony of content outlining the work practice shift to remote and hybrid, that, great swathes of the global workforce cannot work remote, or are severely impacted in doing so.
Deskless workers make a significant portion of the overall global workforce, accounting for the 80% of the total. Still, employers have a long way to go in empowering their frontline peoples. We’ve learned over the past year how difficult it can be for them to be aligned with company goals and to feel included in their company culture, and there’s no way a company can thrive ignoring the pain points these employees face.
But what exactly do organizations do to keep these employees motivated? It is crucial that employers realize the challenges that come with non-wired employees’ nature of work. Without company emails or laptops, however, eliminating these challenges can be a tall order for employers.
According to great research on the deskless workforce, organizations with a lot of front line workers struggle to attract and retain their people. These employees tend to be less loyal and they change their jobs more often compared to office employees. Moreover, many deskless employees see their jobs as temporary, and they don’t see themselves with their current employer long-term. This is not surprising as many deskless employees are unhappy with their working environment.
Also, a recent study found that over 83% of frontline workers don’t even have a corporate email address, and 45% don’t even have access to the company intranet when at work.
Deskless workers are on the factory or shop floors, out on the field, or on the road. This makes it extremely hard for employers and managers to reach their people in a timely manner. While other workers may be using email, intranets, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other communication channels, many deskless employees don’t have access to such technology or it’s too bureaucratic for them to use it.
If 74% of all employees feel like they are missing important company information, can you even imagine what that percentage is among deskless workers?
And because of poor workplace communication, deskless employees tend to feel left out, they are not aligned with the company’s strategy, and they often don’t feel like a part of the group. Since organizations are unable to consistently communicate with deskless workers, this leads to an inability to keep these workers connected to the company’s core values.
Because they are often disconnected from the corporate and in-office workers, 80% of remote workers report that they are more likely to feel excluded than in-office employees. Furthermore, 54% of them believe their employer views them as disposable or temporary workers.
Given all of this, and considering how the pandemic has exacerbated some of these points, the need for specific digital tools to help critical workers do their job successfully has increased even further.
The Role of Technology in Enabling and Empowering Deskless Workers
It is inevitable that new technology is transforming employees’ experience in the workplace. As 92% of millennials have a smartphone, your deskless employees are most likely already comfortable with mobile. Hence, the mobile-first type of work is now a reality, especially for deskless workers.
As employee communication is clearly one of the biggest challenges with deskless employees, it is not surprising that social and communication apps are a big investment priority for modern companies. They have great power in eliminating the biggest communication barriers in the workplace.
Moreover, investing in an internal communications strategy that leverages mobile technology can play an integral role in reaching employees, making communication more interpersonal, connecting strategy with operations, employees with purpose, and helping companies thrive and grow.
Are you curious about how a modern employee comms app can enable employers to better support their people? Well, you’re in the right place!
Employees will be more productive and happy using technology since their companies will be able to share and amplify company news, ensure intuitive mobile-first communication to access corporate material, make important documents easily available and accessible, deliver personalized information, and open up a line of two-way communication so that no one feels voiceless and so that the rest of the company can engage with your deskless workforce.
Along with these points, comes the ability to import content from trusted and relevant sources of information, empower managers to reach out to their teams regardless of their location or job function, and integrate various communication channels into a single platform to ensure adoption of the platform and scalability of communications.
Improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25%, and since we global organizations will be facing challenging times recovering from the pandemic hit, making the right move and investing in employee engagement will help them thrive in the long run.
Ultimately, it can be a vicious circle when considering deskless comms and HR strategy, corporate sponsors misdiagnose it as too political and complex, the result is siloed, semi-traditional semi-digital experience, with either side somewhat resentful of the presence of the other. It can be far simpler, flexible channels of content and materials with a strong policy and transparent objectives and a degree of regional autonomy. We know it can be tricky to navigate, but in solving this, organisations reinvent their culture, stem churn and are able to compete in what is a post-pandemic economy. In our experience – success at the top often begins bottom up…
Covid-19 has taught us many things, and among these, the importance of leveraging technology to empower the global workforce is among the most interesting and future-shaping activities the world can put in place to change the current narrative.