2021’s remote-working revolution represents a sliver of what’s going on for the UK’s workforce, most of whom are the deskless frontline staff that kept the country going during the lockdown and are now vital to post-Covid recovery.
Alongside recovery challenges, organisations are also grappling with acute talent shortages. As the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) warned recently, ‘British employers are facing the most severe shortage of job candidates on record.’ In the UK, 41% of employees are considering quitting their jobs searching for more fulfilling work, borne out in industries relying on deskless staff, from hospitality to social care and retail to health services.
The aftereffects of the pandemic will extend through 2022. In the next 12 months, organisations must turn their attention to supporting and engaging frontline, deskless workers. With that in mind, let’s explore what that will look like in practice.
Facilitating moments that matter
The majority of organisations have accepted the value of the employee experience. However, few are investing in creating moments that matter; just 6% are succeeding in creating amazing employee experiences. Investment in employee experience pays off – that 6% enjoy over four times the profit and have 40% lower turnover than the average. It has become evident that companies that invest in technology to help workers in their day-to-day job will be more likely to retain them in the long term.
What role does technology play in creating moments that matter? According to Gartner, when it comes to digitalising HR to improve employee experience, CEOs are looking for innovations to help workforces perform work faster. On the other hand, employees are looking for relevant personal tools, resources, and support to improve their daily work experiences.
For example, we know that the bond between line managers and employees is essential. Technology can give line managers insight into their employees, facilitating meaningful, empathic conversations. For example, if someone clocks in late consistently, technology can flag this to their line manager, who can check in on them, potentially facilitating a conversation about whether the employee requires greater flexibility or if there are well-being issues to address.
Frequent communication and collaboration between managers, employees, and peers — whether one-on-one or done remotely — is essential to keeping staff focused and engaged. The nature of the deskless role means there are fewer opportunities to communicate with the wider organisation; over 80% of deskless workers say they don’t get adequate communications from their employers.
Technology can help create superior communication experiences for the dispersed workforce. However, this technology must be designed with usability in mind. Organisations tend to overcomplicate corporate tools – too many passwords, too much training, but engaging employees through technology needs to feel and look familiar – like Facebook or Instagram. Modern technology solutions focused on engagement and usability can significantly improve the integration of large, deskless workforces.
Elevating line managers as engagement champions
Engaging frontline talent relies on strong, empowered line managers. They are the most vital link between the organisation and its dispersed workforce. Deskless staff are only engaged when they have a solid and supportive relationship with their line manager. Broader company initiatives are highly likely to fall flat if their relationship with their day-to-day manager has issues.
How do we empower line managers to become the engagement champions we need them to be? According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the top three skills required for frontline managers are self-awareness, agility and communication.
When it comes to engaging employees, the communication they receive from their manager is vital.
As Gartner advises, “Managers are not only the most preferred employee channel, they are also highly effective at achieving key communication goals; they help employees share information, link their work to company objectives and access needed tools and resources. Help them make the most of time spent with employees by identifying opportunities for meaningful conversations — and provide tips and tools to help them confidently lead those conversations.”
Managers need support and training to communicate effectively. Still, technology can give them the winning edge, delivering insights to personalise interactions with team members while staying connected and engaged with the broader organisation. Tech shouldn’t replace humans; it should improve the bonds between human beings. People are longing for connections, and over the next year, technology will help provide more meaningful relationships in the face of continued challenges.
Empathy through immediacy
We live in a world of immediacy – we expect brands to answer our questions within minutes and for goods to reach us in hours. There is now the same expectation for employers to respond quickly and considerately to issues in the workplace. For the dispersed workforce, gaining insight into their experiences and answering issues can sometimes be challenging.
With fresh challenges constantly cropping up, feedback and training in the moment matter more than ever. This is where technology can come into its own.
Creating consistently meaningful moments at work can be achieved through tools that allow employees to give feedback quickly, in the moment. By adding in-the-moment communication, real-time sentiment analysis, and additional performance management capabilities to their existing workforce management tools, employers can create a more engaging employee experience. They can ensure empathy and understanding is delivered at the time it’s needed – not when the moment has passed.
Next year, as we face continued uncertainty with the pandemic and seek to understand our new normal, one thing is certain — organisations must focus on modernising their workforce management technology to set up employees up for success with streamlined communication and clear expectations before they show up for work each day.
Marc has had a varied and extensive career, starting as a mechanical engineer, then working in venture capital in the exciting start-up tech space of the 2000’s. Marc is now driving the engagement of front-line teams at WorkForce Software.