In recent years, specifically the past two, companies have narrowed their attention to managing hybrid workforces, looking at mitigating burnout from long hours, the ergonomics of work-from-home setups, video conferencing fatigue.
But these conversations center around workers who can work remotely.
Businesses often have a blindspot when it comes to the experiences of frontline workers, those whose jobs require them to show up in person and often in the rather very demanding roles.
Frontline workers have shown their mettle over and over, especially during the pandemic.
They kept our economy ticking while most businesses shut down. Yet when it comes to engagement and technology, they’re often left behind.
As the world of work becomes more distributed, business leaders need to ask themselves an all-important question — how can we help deskless workers keep up?
Team engagement is vital for success
Gauging how engaged your workforce is often falls under the remit of other teams, such as HR. It needs to come from the top – and be a part of the entire business strategy.
Frontline workers are the backbone of many organisations and often a customer’s first touchpoint with your brand. High levels of team engagement can have a correlation with team performance and productivity, positively impacting the business as a whole.
Research by Gallup suggests that engaged workers have higher levels of job satisfaction, increased productivity and lower staff turnover – all ingredients of a successful business.
Highly-engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. All of these benefits translate to a 21% boost in profitability.
As the Great Resignation continues to sweep across the globe it’s vital for business leaders to take a step back and reflect on how their business engages with the frontline.
Can technology play a role here?
Communication is a two-way street
Two-way communication is a great place to start. Our recent research in partnership with Yougov found that 67% of frontline workers say that they are never, rarely, or only sometimes listened to on topics that matter to them the most within their organization.
Communication between frontline workers and management is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it’s vital. Frontline workers should feel empowered to communicate openly about employee dissatisfaction or feelings of disengagement.
Build up of tension could lead to a lack of trust between leadership and employees – meaning you could end up losing some of your best assets – your people.
Management, therefore, needs to make an effort to show they’re willing to hear employees speak up about any issues, concerns and feedback.
Invest in technology that allows for a consistent feedback loop between leadership and frontline workers; the right tools can make them feel empowered to be more vocal.
Implement a speak-up culture
Now more than ever, team members want a say – whether it’s in operations or workplace training. Feeling confident and knowing they have a valued voice can go a long way – in fact our research shows it’s a top priority for staff when considering new jobs or roles.
It’s simple. Empower your people to be honest, open and to speak up – and this will leave them feeling inspired to take action or reach out in a timely manner.
For frontline workers who aren’t as comfortable about speaking up, make it easier for them by introducing anonymous issue reporting. Use QR codes technology to raise issues anonymously or conduct anonymous surveys.
With this data, you’ll be able to assess whether your employees know about the proper reporting channels; why they decided not to raise an issue after they noticed it; and how they believe the company is responding to problems as they arise.
A speak-up culture isn’t just about voicing concerns to prevent bigger problems from happening later. It’s also about cultivating a space that encourages your people to feel comfortable about sharing their own views and ideas that can spark innovation.
This can lead to a variety of positive outcomes, with an innovative business culture opening up potentially lucrative opportunities.
Find solutions for their needs
The pandemic and multiple lockdowns have clearly shown that office workers can remain productive with the aid of communication and collaboration platforms; however, these tools are often geared towards desk-workers and less to our frontline.
Data shows that nearly 60% of companies have little to no flexible technology or tooling for their deskless workers. Frontline workers must be able to engage with the business without limitations, especially when it comes to technology.
Old-fashioned solutions that can act as a hindrance should be reconsidered, old tech can leave them feeling like second-class employees, treated as an afterthought.
An excellent solution is to equip teams with the right tools – and for the frontline worker, a great place to start is to switch to tools that are mobile-friendly.
Mobile workers need mobile tools.
Business leaders can leverage the technologies most of employees already own and provide solutions through apps that are designed with the frontline workers in mind.
Such solutions can improve employee experience and automate workers’ daily tasks, getting updates on protocols, viewing schedules, and seeing the impacts of shift changes, or even to check in on a worker’s emotional well-being and much more.
Engage teams with quality training
Another way to keep team members engaged is through quality career development. Tailored courses to specifically meet your team members’ needs can empower them with the skills to do their best work and provide a sense of investment in the company.
SafetyCulture research in partnership with YouGov indicated that 7 in 10 members describe training as a top priority, even ahead of a competitive holiday allowance.
Quality training can improve employee performance, ownership, increased engagement and more. We’re not talking about your typical, old-fashioned training either.
Or the lengthy courses that are dry and tedious.
We’re talking about mobile learning that is both entertaining and educational. Microlearning platforms have quickly become a popular way to get training done, perfect for dispersed teams or our frontline workers who are constantly on the go.
For an organisation to thrive in the current environment, business leaders need to put frontline workers in the spotlight and equip teams with the right training, tools and working conditions. Start empowering team members to drive improvements themselves and you’ll find them solving problems that really matter.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1950 adults (861 US, 554 Australia, 535 UK). Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th August – 9th September 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of US, UK and AU frontline workers (aged 18+).
Bob Butler is Global General Manager for the Americas at SafetyCulture, a global technology company helping working teams get better every day.