The last two years have seen the world of work experience seismic shifts with HR teams attempting to prevent disaster.
As a result, C-level members of staff have invested heavily in wellbeing, employee engagement, and HR technology. However, the next investment may need to be on the frontline workers who are often overlooked.
At least, that’s the opinion of Ujjwal Singh, the head of Workplace from Meta, who believes in 2022 frontline workers will be as important as the C-suite and their experiences will become a key competitive differentiator for companies.
Singh was kind of enough to sit down with UNLEASH (virtually) and discuss the world of work in 2022, as well as the ongoing plans for Workplace from Meta.
Naturally, huge bonuses that could pay off a frontline member of staff’s mortgages in one clean swoop won’t be handed out. But there is plenty of food for thought when improving retention and engagement of frontline staff.
Workplace from Meta and 2022
Before jumping into transforming how frontline staff are perceived and treated by some organizations, Singh spoke about Workplace from Meta and how the company has evolved during the pandemic.
Singh explained: “Workplace from Meta has traditionally always been a tool that’s focused on building community, much like Meta’s mission of building communities, [but] with employees at a company.”
The company has since “expanded to employee experiences more widely” and this adaption looks set to continue.
Singh discusses the highly publicized metaverse, and how it will impact the operations of Workplace from Meta: “One of the things I would say is, the way we’re thinking about the metaverse, and more generally, the future of work is we were going to build on our current strengths.”
“We think the metaverse tied with employee experiences, is actually a really powerful differentiator for what we’re gonna offer to businesses.
“I want to make clear metaverse isn’t just about VR headsets. Metaverse is really about, in our minds, this notion of unbundling of experiences and leveraging different types of devices effectively to get the job done more.”
Singh notes Meta’s Portal for Business as an example of the metaverse not looking the way many imagine.
Portal enables simple video calls through portable devices. Businesses can then set up accounts and settings remotely for their employees. Singh adds that Portal for Business has been a success for those on the frontline.
Frontline workers and their worth
The last year showcased just how damaging it can be for businesses when they struggle to keep their frontline staff, and even institutions like McDonald’s have had to reduce their hours of service in my chains.
On the back of this, Singh details how he values these workers: “The important part here is it’s not that frontline is more important, it’s that frontline is equally as important” as other workers.
“And the challenges frontline employees face are equally as important as the challenges knowledge workers.”
He continues: “It’s not just around culture and community, there are other parts of the employee experience that really matters to them.
Singh highlights the importance of onboarding, training, and recognition to these staff who are often overlooked.
Technology and frontline operations
In terms of technology supporting frontline operations, Singh comments: “We’ve seen shift management solutions range from a clipboard hanging on the wall to systems that are basically spreadsheets in the background.”
By giving technology to employees, Singh thinks that cultural problems can be addressed including a disconnect from the senior leadership of an organization. Singh notes that in most companies the amount of engagement from the CEO has a low bar.
This is partly due to a lack of technology, but Singh claims this barrier needs to be removed by applications and enable frontline workers to contribute and feel included.
Singh explains: “One way I think that you can bridge that gap is just giving access [to work platforms] on mobile devices.”
“Another way, is we [Meta] can take interesting approaches with frontline employees, as they look more like consumers than they look like employees or business users.
Singh elaborates: “If you think about some of our strengths on the consumer side with our different messaging platforms, I think leveraging those and effective ways to get work done is something that is really interesting to explore in the future.”
On this note, Singh reflects on the success Workplace from Meta had within Honest Burgers:
“One of the first things that they [Honest Burgers] noticed when they rolled out Workplace from Meta, especially when the pandemic hit, it was super critical that leaders were able to connect directly with employees, promote wellbeing, and created tools, specific tools to share furlough pay information, especially during the initial stages of the pandemic. “
Communication and engagement have undoubtedly been high priorities for most companies and being able to message workers who are not behind desks enabled Honest Burger to provide clear messaging at an uncertain time.
Honest Burgers also relies on The Bot Platform. Singh notes that this is a piece of “Workplace from Meta functionality, which are key components to rescale employees and ensure skills were put to good use as people needed to transfer to different jobs.”
Singh concludes that this example and the success of Honest Burgers showed the importance of communicating with frontline staff during the pandemic.
Not only that, but the value of these tools is only going to grow.
The future of Workplace from Meta
Looking ahead, Singh comments: “The metaverse is something that I’m genuinely excited about. And I think it’s going to have an active massive impact across the workforce and how people think about working both in the office but also remotely.”
“I’m excited that more people, across different segments of the workforce, are seeing the tools that a company uses to create culture and community are must-haves and are important.”
Doing this through a myriad of devices is important to Singh, and given that he sees a future with frontline staff using workplace products through their devices, it looks like 2022 will be full of new possibilities.