Last updated on July 26, 2022 at 06:43 pm
Communicating With Frontline Workers
Communicating with frontline workers should be a top priority. Great communication can improve retention, employee engagement, job performance, and more.
Who Are Frontline Workers?
Frontline workers are often also called deskless workers or non-desk workers. They are anyone that doesn’t sit behind a desk or in an office to do their job. Remote workers are often deskbound employees but can be confused for a deskless or frontline employees.
This type of worker can be found in nearly every industry:
- In healthcare, these employees are nurses, doctors, and other non-clinical staff. They work in hospitals and clinics. There are approximately 148 million deskless healthcare employees globally.
- In manufacturing, frontline workers are your line workers, line managers, and anyone who works in a manufacturing plant. There are an estimated 427 million deskless manufacturing workers.
- In logistics companies, non-desk employees are the shippers, dock workers, and drivers. 189 million logistics and transportation workers are deskless.
- Restaurant staff, front desk workers, field managers, maintenance and housekeeping, and many more types of hospitality employees are deskless. And there are 619 million deskless employees in this industry worldwide.
Why Are Frontline Employees Important?
Deskless employees are the lifeblood of every company. They are on the front lines and carry out the daily operational tasks necessary for companies to make money. In hospitality, including restaurants, hotels, and casinos, they interact face-to-face with your customers. In manufacturing and logistics, they are the ones that make your product and get it where it needs to go. And in healthcare, they are the ones taking care of your patients and responsible for the patient experience.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers started to be called essential workers because their work is so instrumental in running a business and providing necessary goods and services to the public.
Top Challenges for Communicating With Frontline Employees
Often, deskless employees lack access to traditional communication channels. Since they do not work at a desk to complete the majority of their work, they lack access to computers. Therefore, their intranet access is very limited. Most companies also do not provide email addresses or email accounts for their frontline teams. Additionally, frontline workers are not provided cell phones, tablets, or other mobile devices by their organizations, limiting their access to digital channels
Companies with a large number of frontline employees often don’t have a way to directly communicate with them, meaning they miss Town Halls, executive comms, and more. This forces companies to rely on what’s called the “cascade of communication.” This is where messages from the top are communicated one level at a time all the way to the hourly, frontline worker–like a game of telephone.
Despite these traditional comms channels not being a good way to reach this key employee group, they are heavily relied on. But this creates huge communication gaps, hurts the employee experience, and makes it difficult to engage frontline teams.
Another key challenge is that frontline employees are rarely understood by corporate. This means messages aren’t targeted or customized for the needs of the frontline worker. And without a channel to reach them, most internal comms teams feel stuck.
How to Reach Deskless Employees
Companies must invest in mobile communication technology to effectively engage and communicate with frontline workers. Embracing mobile technology and a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy enables companies to meet employees where they are. It also gives employees the flexibility to access information when they need it. And with Smartphone ownership in the US being at a staggering 97% (Pew Research), this is a great way to reach the majority of your employees.
We also recommend using an employee survey. Asking your frontline teams what information and resources they need and how they want to receive them is key to making sure you provide the right solution. It’s possible that your corporate, desk-bound staff won’t need the same tool, but that’s okay. We recommend maintaining a multi-channel approach. This will make sure you reach employees on their preferred channel and that no critical messages are missed.
Best Communication Tools for Frontline Workers
theEMPLOYEEapp is a mobile communications app built specifically for companies with a large deskless workforce. We were created by comms and HR professionals who understand the challenges companies face in reaching this key group and why it’s so important to have a strong mobile internal communications strategy.
We make communicating with frontline workers easy. Our employee app includes:
- News Feed for real-time updates
- Easily searchable Explore section where you can store documents
- Events calendar
- Alerts and Push Notifications
- Clickable Banners
This makes it easy to include all information an employee would need in one secure and easy-to-use platform.