If there was one takeaway that employers should have taken from the pandemic, it’s that frontline workers are invaluable.
Despite these moves, many frontline workers are still finding out about changes to their working rights through the news instead of the organization they see week in and week out.
In fact, when we look at “verticals, like manufacturing, retail, and healthcare industry, there is no direct channel between the management and frontline workers, so there’s no connection between at the moment,” comments Benedikt Ilg, the co-founder and CEO of communication platform Flip.
As a result: “This means the shop floor workers and the nurses can’t be reached.
“Not having a feedback channel means that they actually always feel muted.”
Silenced workers can lead to poor retention rates, and more concerningly it means executives aren’t in tune with their people.
Looking at what is spent on frontline staff, Ilg identifies a problem: “When you look at it on a global scale, actually 1% of all software spend is actually in the deskless space, 99% is in the white-collar space, but at the same time, 80% of the global workforce is deskless.”
Evidently, it’s time to make a change.
Ignorance is bliss but costly
With tools like Flip, employees can communicate across the business and this means “that they have a voice, they can participate in what’s happening. Before, they were always the last person to know something in the company. This changes now.”
Getting information to all employees in a timely manner, “involves the employees in the company way more. This evolves everything including employee satisfaction and employee retention.”
Ilg reasons that this is of vital importance: “We are now in a war for talent and for deskless workers”
“For example, CEOs of the biggest retail and manufacturing companies tell us it’s really difficult to find a store manager, or it’s insanely difficult to find really good people on the shop floor, so employee retention is so important right now.”
Ilg notes that despite organizations historically ignoring deskless employees, the staff themselves are used to good communication experiences in their personal lives.
Whether it’s Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger, employees can communicate quickly and accurately with each other. This usability prompts discussion about the ease of downloading an application that can be used to message the entirety of an enterprise.
Ilg comments: “There’s a change. Internal communications were always top-down, but this is not interesting. We will see a change in internal communications as it becomes a bottom-up game as well.”
In this model, “deskless workers share their knowledge as well and interact with the content and really create their own content, as well as for the department. When you mix top-down and bottom-up, this makes the people hooked.”
While collaborative and easy-to-use communication is ideal, it is crucial to avoid too many messages, which can lead to overload and burnout.
Ilg reflects on the features that the team has implemented at Flip: “When you give them [employees] a channel and you can be reached 24/7, [over-communication] is a problem for employees.
“We have a function that is really important where after ending a shift, or in the evening, the push notification shuts off automatically. You can still use it if you want, but it’s not like you’re getting pushed.”
Ilg adds: “This is the value we bring to the employee. We not always just bringing value to the company.
“We say: ‘You can interact with the company and we’d love it if you do that, but no worries we are not harassing you at night or outside of your work life.”
The future of deskless discussions
Thinking about trends to watch out for in employee experience, Ilg says that some work just can’t be done remotely, and subsequently, how deskless workers are managed will be very important going forward.
On that note, he says: “Also, more decisions from the deskless workforce and less hierarchy in the deskless workforce will be seen.”
Ilg adds: “At the same time, employee engagement matters a lot. This is how you can predict employee satisfaction, how you can treat employee retention.
“It really comes down to how do we treat each other in the company, or do we just forget one side of the company. It’s crazy, at times the whole value chain is done by them [frontline workers], and sometimes even the whole customer experience.”
In terms of how frontline workers need to be supported going forward, Ilg comments: “The war for talent for the deskless workforce is coming, actually it is already here. It will only get worse in the next couple of years.
“This means at the same time that companies are starting to value their deskless workers, and it’s not a commodity anymore, to have good deskless employees. Now, you have to do something for them too.”
Ilg concludes: “COVID-19 showed the difference, because before the typical CEO thought ‘I can write an email to inform all my employees in an email,’ but he forgot that 50% of his workforce don’t have an email. Then I think management understood the gap.
“I think this has been shown by COVID-19 and the value of the deskless workers are going to increase. I think companies are becoming employee-centric companies. “
Of course, employees will rejoice at having their voices heard, but managers may need to prepare themselves for some difficult truths.
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