How to engage 2.7 billion non-desk employees - comment

Many of the technology tools used for workforce management fail to meet the needs of frontline, customer-facing staff, warehouse workers, healthcare professionals and others not tied to a desk.

 Working from home (photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)
Working from home
(photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)

In 2021, the Israeli job market saw an increase of more than 7% in the rate of resignations, and so far in 2022, the country has experienced a sharp, double-digit jump of over 20% in voluntary resignations, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Among those resigning are many frontline employees. Retail, healthcare, food and beverage, construction and hospitality are all industries that rely heavily on the strength of their non-desk workers to drive primary business outcomes. But yet, so many of the technology tools used for workforce management fail to meet the needs of frontline, customer-facing staff, warehouse workers, healthcare professionals and others not tied to a desk.

The vast majority of enterprise workforce management solutions are focused on office employees, touting features and functions that enable in-office teams and remote desk-bound staff to collaborate and communicate. But these solutions have a major blind-spot: The deskless workforce. Non-desk workers account for 80% of the global workforce, with 2.7 billion workers who fulfill their work responsibilities outside of an office.

So while enterprise software succeeds in fulfilling the needs of employees sitting behind a desk, it fails to give the bulk of an organization’s workforce the tools it needs to succeed.

An even bigger problem is the rate of turnover among the deskless workforce. According to a survey of more than 7,000 global deskless workers conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 37% were at risk of leaving their jobs within the next six months. Younger workers were even more likely to quit their jobs, with 47% saying they were considering quitting.

 Medical staff protest lack of funding which has forced hospitals into ''emergency mode,'' August 29, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Medical staff protest lack of funding which has forced hospitals into ''emergency mode,'' August 29, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A Gallup poll from earlier this year underscores BCG’s findings, revealing that the proportion of actively disengaged workers had reached 18%. “The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade,” reports Jim Harter, chief scientist for Gallup’s workplace management practice.

The same Gallup poll found that since the pandemic, Gen Z and younger millennials – a demographic often more likely to fill deskless roles – feel less cared about and believe they have fewer opportunities in the workplace to develop professional skills. In fact, the percentage of younger workers who strongly agree that they have opportunities to learn and grow, and that someone cares about them and encourages their development, has dropped by 10 percentage points since 2019.

A deeper relationship with employers

It is clear these employees are craving a deeper relationship with their employer and yearning to have a more satisfying employee experience.

McKinsey analysts claim there is a “fundamental mismatch” between a company’s demand for talent and the workers willing to supply it: “The COVID-19 pandemic has led more and more people to reevaluate what they want from a job – and from life – which is creating a large pool of active and potential workers who are shunning the traditionalist path.”

Knowing that replacing an employee can cost as much as one-half to two times the employee’s salary, enterprise organizations are in dire need of addressing high turnover rates among their deskless workforce. Today’s younger workers are less likely than previous generations to remain in a role if they do not feel supported. And it is not just younger employees exiting the workforce. The BCG survey found that more than a third of the Gen X employees it surveyed and nearly a quarter of baby boomers were contemplating quitting their deskless jobs.

Granted, employment policies, management best practices and pay are key to reducing turnover and improving the employee experience, but the right workforce management platform can drastically improve the engagement and retention of non-desk workers. The key is finding a solution that best fits the needs of your non-desk employees.

MOBILITY IS a must when choosing a workforce management solution for a deskless workforce. A mobile app that is easy to deploy and includes a user-friendly interface is essential. Today’s frontline employees rely on their smartphones for nearly every area of their life, and their work life should be no different – especially the mobile-first generation of younger employees and managers.

The mobile app should have full functionality to manage your operational needs and communication channels, as well as your HR and training requirements. A comprehensive workforce management solution enables businesses to manage work schedules, provide communication channels for all levels of staff, survey employees and conduct onboarding and training programs. Employees should be able to manage tasks and track their workload, giving managers visibility into day-to-day activities.

Customization is also important. The deskless workforce includes a wide variety of workers. Each of whom requires different tools to do their jobs. For example, construction workers need technology that can quickly alert them to a potential job site hazard. Retail managers need tools that enable them to easily cover hard-to-staff shifts or manage tasks tied to their store’s opening and closing routines. Healthcare organizations have strict guidelines and protocols that are often amended without much notice – requiring staff receive daily updates. Each of these scenarios underscores why customization capabilities are key when selecting a workforce management solution that meets your specific needs.

The $7.5 billion workforce management software market is projected to reach $12.5 billion by 2030, according to Straits Research. Enterprise software in this market covers a wide range of solutions, from time management tools to communication platforms and finance applications, yet as mentioned fails to encompass deskless workers.

With employee engagement at an all-time low, it is imperative enterprise organizations implement an effective workforce management solution that addresses the needs of deskless employees. The goal is to find an all-in-one solution that enables you to improve employee engagement with your frontline workers, increasing productivity, boosting the overall employee experience and creating more satisfying work environments for workers outside of the office.

The writer is the COO of Connecteam. Connecteam is a workforce management app for deskless employees providing an all-in-one experience for communications, day-to-day operations, HR and training.