Workplace technology has recently taken a giant leap, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Strict lockdown guidelines forced companies worldwide to adopt new technologies so that they can facilitate remote work and those who failed to do so faced severe economic consequences.
Gartner estimates that the world has a total of 2.7 billion frontline workers, which is twice as many as the number of desk-based workers. But when it comes to employee benefits and improving the workforce, most strategies only cater to desk-based workers. For example, according to a study by Econofact, more than 70% of frontline workers could not feasibly work from their homes during the pandemic. This resulted in either loss of pay or termination. Moreover, since most frontline employees earn lower wages on average and are more likely to be members of minority groups than the total workforce, business owners need to adopt measures to improve their daily work lives.
This article offers key insights into how employers can implement new technological solutions to support frontline workers and make their jobs more efficient.
How are Frontline Workers Different from Office Workers?
According to Forbes, frontline workers must be physically present in their workspace to perform their jobs. They are employees whose jobs often involve being on their feet, and their work plays a crucial role in keeping a business afloat.
Frontline workers are also termed key workers, field teams, mobile workers, desk-less employees, and offsite teams, depending on their industry. For example, the people who work in grocery stores, pharmacies, factories, hospitals, warehouses, etc. all fall under the category of frontline workers.
Though both office and frontline workers are indispensable to any business, the employee experience of people working in these roles differs significantly. An office employee requires a computer to do most of their work. A frontline worker needs to constantly move around to engage with customers, operate machinery, monitor the shop floor, and visit different locations.
While some call this type of work menial or blue-collar jobs, others use the term, essential workers. However, if there's one thing the pandemic has made sure of is that these workers deserve credit for the intense effort they put into their jobs because most industries will cease to exist without them.
The Major Challenges of Frontline Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic allowed the world to appreciate frontline workers, who represent more than 80% of the global workforce, which brings to light the several hindrances to their roles. Please look at some of the prime challenges frontline workers face and how it impacts a business.
Poor Internal Communication
Unfortunately, most frontline workers feel disconnected from their office peers in the absence of a straight line of communication with their leadership. Whether getting updates on new policies or raising grievances, frontline workers, on average, find it challenging to contact upper management since many lack a work email.
Feeling Alienated at the Workplace
Since frontline workers don't usually follow a 9-5 routine, they’re often disconnected from workplace rituals, communications and celebrations. This is primarily due to a lack of positive work culture, which makes them feel alienated from other colleagues in the office.
Lack of Training to Bridge the Skill Gap
A significant skill gap among the frontline workforce hinders productivity for the company. The gap stems from improper and inadequate training modules to upskill workers. This results in poor employee performance and diminishes job satisfaction.
Inefficient Management of the Workforce
Many frontline workforce managers still follow traditional human resource management strategies, with little to no involvement in technological enhancements. As a result, workers are often asked to work overtime, with irregular shifts and during weekends, making their schedules more erratic. Poor workforce management is detrimental to both employees and organizations, resulting in high attrition rates, reduced productivity, and low employee morale.
Constrained Adoption of Modern Technology
The pandemic acted as a slingshot and boosted the world's adoption of digitalization. But the adoption of innovative tech for frontline workers could have been faster. This is due to the conservative attitude of business owners and employees. Businesses need to identify the benefits of automation systems and train employees to adopt practical technological innovations to improve efficiency.
Role of Tech in Shaping a Better Future for Frontline Workers
It is time for business owners to adopt technological innovation to empower the frontline worker experience. Providing a suitable set of tools and tech to frontline workers can significantly impact efficiency and productivity. Unfortunately, according to research by Frost and Sullivan, nearly one-third of organizations believe that their frontline workers need to be equipped with the right tools when adopting digital technologies in the workforce. Specialized devices and custom software can enhance the job performance of frontline workers while increasing safety and enhancing workflows.
How HCLTech Can Help
We’re improving the lives of frontline workers by helping businesses integrate technological innovations, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and mobile computing.
Recently, we announced a collaboration with Microsoft and Zebra Technologies to bring modern tech solutions to frontline workplaces. Our Fluid Workplace Services utilizes an extensive portfolio encompassing every aspect of the business-to-employee value chain to bestow reassurance in supporting frontline employees by building a cooperative ecosystem with experience at the forefront.
"Frontline workers will be able to benefit from innovative and secure Microsoft 365 for Frontline Worker solutions that empower them to be more engaged, efficient and productive."
- Marianne Roling, Vice President, Global System Integrators, Microsoft
Key Benefits of our Solutions
This collaboration will help business owners cut losses from human error, miscommunication and skill gaps in frontline employees.
With automated processes and more straightforward workflows, the efficiency of frontline workers will be significantly enhanced, along with a reduction in the overall turn-around time of daily tasks.
Improved Customer Service
Along with the vast portfolio of enterprise solutions, we’re bringing everything tech related under one roof. This means businesses can now receive timely customer support.
To reap the benefits of these innovations, businesses will need to invest in training their frontline employees. By offering cloud-based resources—as opposed to their paper-based module counterparts—they can save time and strengthen the learning process.
The world is starting to see the benefits that technology offers in improving the future of the frontline workforce. An employee-first human resource management approach is the need of the hour, especially for employees at the forefront of every business. As a result, businesses must align their goals with the requirements of their employees to build a bounteous work culture for all stakeholders.