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Deskless Employees: Who They Are & How to Reach Them - theEMPLOYEEapp

Last updated on December 15, 2022 at 02:43 pm

Deskless Employees: Who They Are & How to Reach Them

Deskless employees make up the majority of the global workforce. 80% of workers are considered to be deskless, which means they do not sit at a desk for work. Examples of deskless employees include truckers, manufacturing plant workers, and automotive assembly line workers.

deskless employee in logistics

What Industries Have Deskless Workers?

The term deskless employee is used to describe this type of worker in a broad sense. Frontline workers are a type of deskless employee, but they are slightly different. Deskless employees don’t necessarily interact with customers or work in a public-facing storefront.

Deskless workers can come from all industries. But note that these workers are different than remote employees or hybrid workers: 

  • A real estate agent, for example, may work away from their desk for a portion of the day, but they still use a computer and work out of an office. They are a great example of a hybrid worker.
  • Remote workers are really office or deskbound workers. The only distinction here is that they do not have to physically go into a corporate office for their jobs. But they primarily use a computer for their work.
  • Therefore, deskless employees are the workers who primarily do their work without a computer. Although some deskless employees might have shared kiosks, computers, or workstations.

Frontline employees are a different type of deskless employee that you can learn more about, but in this guide we’ll focus on deskless employees who are not front line. They primarily come from manufacturing, logistics, and back of house hospitality (e.g. cleaning staff, chefs and line cooks, etc.).

What Are the Top Challenges of Communicating With Deskless Employees?

The main challenges companies have when trying to communicate with deskless employees are:

  • Limited access to traditional internal communication channels like email, in-person meetings (town halls), and Intranets. 
  • Heavy reliance on the cascade of communication, which results in things being lost in translation and the message varying based on the individual manager relaying it. 
  • No direct line to deskless employees (and vice versa), making it difficult to get employee feedback and include them in employee engagement initiatives that often favor deskbound employees.

As you can see, the biggest barriers come down to the worker’s location, the technology available to them, and our existing systems that are skewed to favor deskbound, office workers. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic proved to many organizations how flawed this system was, even as their office staff became remote and lost access to outdated methods of internal communication.

The State of Deskless Employee Communication

We survey deskless employees annually to learn about how they feel about employee communication at their organization. In both 2021 and 2022, we have seen a few key trends emerge from that survey.

Managers are more satisfied with internal communication. 

There are many reasons why this could be the case. Our survey results show that managers just have more access to channels of communication. 

This means:

  • Companies should invest in more direct communication channels for all employees, not just those in managerial positions or who work on a computer.
  • Because managers have more access to information, we need to focus on training them as communicators to strengthen the cascade of information to our deskless workers.

Younger employees prefer mobile-first communication channels. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger employees were more likely to say they wanted texting or employee apps to receive messages. 

This means:

  • We need to start considering how employee communication has to evolve as young millennials and Gen Z employees become a larger part of the workforce.
  • We still need diverse channel mixes to reach all employees the way they prefer.

Younger employees are more concerned with topics like diversity and inclusion. 

What we communicate is just as important as how we communicate. While all generations want to see information on topics like benefits and training and development opportunities, age can impact what other topics matter. 

This means: 

  • We need to continue the best practice of sharing a communication preferences survey regularly.
  • Companies should invest the time and resources to create employee personas and update them to keep pace with our rapidly changing audiences.

How Can You Reach, Engage, and Retain Deskless Employees?

Deskless employees make up the majority of the workforce, making it critical for companies to focus on training, engagement, and communication strategies for this audience segment.

Internal Communication Strategies 

To improve your ability to reach and connect with deskless employees, we need to start with the right internal communication solutions. Finding the right technology for your organization and your workers’ needs is a critical first step.

To find the right internal comms solution for you:

  • Start with an internal communication audit of your existing channel mix and communication roadmap.
  • Conduct employee communication preferences surveys regularly to understand how the current technology is being used and what else they might need. Remember that it’s not always about replacing your existing tools. Sometimes it’s about how you use them. A channel is only as good as the content and resources you put on it.
  • Pick the right vendors who will grow with your business. Providing any technology for hundreds or even thousands of workers can become very expensive. This is one reason why SharePoint for deskless employees isn’t always a viable solution. So, you want to make sure you’re choosing technology partners that give you what you actually need at a fair price.

Employee Engagement Strategies 

If you want more highly engaged employees, we have to look at the employee experience. Bad work cultures, insufficient employee pay and benefits, lack of training and development opportunities, and other factors that make up the employee experience are often the source of disengagement. 

So, by focusing on how you can improve EX, you will also start to create a work environment that fosters engagement. A few of these strategies include:

  • Evaluating your employee benefits. Is your benefits package sufficient for employees? Are employees able to take time off and sick time to avoid burning out? This helps workers come back to work refreshed and able to be more committed. 
  • Focusing on the onboarding process. Onboarding sets the foundation for an employee’s time at your company, but most onboarding processes miss the mark. Go beyond checklists and recorded training sessions and make sure you welcome and invite employees properly to improve feelings of workplace belonging right away.
  • Conduct employee engagement surveys. Even though there is some love lost for the annual employee engagement survey, that does not mean that it isn’t important to include engagement-related questions in pulse or longer, annual surveys. We can’t improve what we do not measure, so make sure you include this in your strategy.

Deskless Employee Retention Strategies

Retention is also highly linked to the employee experience. A few additional ways to focus on retention, specifically, include:

  • Employee development programs. All workers want an opportunity to grow and to increase their earning potential. If you give your deskless employees these opportunities at your company, you decrease the need for them to look elsewhere for work that advances their career.
  • Invest in employee recognition for deskless teams. Recognition is a powerful force when done well. Make sure you include deskless employees in any recognition programs you start. Our deskless worker recognition guide is a great place to start and is full of ideas for all budgets.