When you think of the digital workplace, you probably picture office workers with fancy new tech tools, webcams and innovative software. It’s true that digital transformations have mostly been designated to these corporate positions, but frontline workers can see major benefits from these initiatives as well. Estimated to make up approximately 80% of the workforce, frontline workers are the staff who are not tethered to a desk for the majority of their workday — the nurses, medical technicians, construction workers, etc. that power the backend of many businesses. To not equip them with the right technologies is a surefire way to decrease productivity and engagement.

Many current digital transformation efforts fail to prioritize these critical employees. They are generally “deskless” and aren’t using a computer often during their workdays, so many companies ask themselves whether to invest in digital tools to support them.

Why invest in digital workplace tools?

Research shows that companies with a large number of frontline workers produce fantastic results when included in digital transformation initiatives. In fact, a recent survey by Forbes and Microsoft concludes that organizations that have digitally empowered frontline workers achieve greater than 20% yearly growth at nearly three times the rate of competitors who lag behind on this metric.

This is astounding data and goes to show that there are real gains to be had. The same research shows that firms who include frontline employees in their digital workplaces initiatives see improvement in other areas as well:

  • 91% of respondents see increased performance and productivity from their staff.
  • 88% have experienced increased operational efficiency and cost savings.
  • 87% notice higher customer satisfaction.
  • 84% report better job satisfaction from their workers.

Combined with a majority reporting increased sales revenue (70%) and lower employee turnover (64%), it becomes obvious that you need to have a digital plan for your frontline workers if you want to have an engaged, competitive workforce.

What is the importance of an engaged frontline workforce?

Disengaged employees cost businesses over $500 billion per year. Additionally, an engaged department shows up to 21% more profitability than their peers. With that in mind, research by Gallup shows that only 13% of frontline workers are engaged in their work. This results in:

  • 18% lower productivity.
  • 37% higher absenteeism.

This leads to extreme waste of company resources that could be more efficiently allocated to growth-related projects. It’s time to make an effort to utilize the digital workplace to engage your frontline workers.

How do we engage frontline workers within the digital workplace?

There are many ways that the digital workplace can help engage frontline employees. Here are a few examples.

  1. Mobile access

Frontline employees don’t have dedicated desk space and can’t use traditional computing devices like PCs regularly. This is a major reason why they have been left out of corporate-led digital transformations in the past. Today this roadblock has been lifted, and mobile devices act as a computer that can be carried around throughout the day.

In fact, it’s now estimated that 81% of Americans use a smartphone. This means that it’s nearly guaranteed that the vast majority of your workers already have a powerful communications device. You don’t have to provide the hardware, only the software. This BYOD (bring-your-own-device) philosophy makes it much more cost-effective for companies to develop and implement mobile applications for their frontline employees.

  1. Digital workplace technologies

Digital workplaces – including internal platforms like social intranets – have been the backbones of corporate communications for years. Now that they can be expanded into a variety of operating systems and devices, they are fantastic for frontline workers as well. A fully digital workplace serves as a central hub where employees can log in and check for targeted information related to their positions or communicate with both management and other employees. Critical features and functionality of a digital workplace solution include:

  • Cloud-based design. Employees need to be able to access the digital workplace wherever they may be. Cloud-based services allow users to securely log in from anywhere.
  • Operating system agnostic. A modern digital workplace should be accessible on all common operating systems so that all users are included. As such, frontline employees would be able to receive important news via their smartphones and then catch up with other pertinent information on their laptops at home.
  • Social media-inspired functionality. An estimated three billion people will use social media this year. It is something people, especially younger employees, enjoy. A digital workplace that includes an intranet that emulates social media functions will improve communication and engagement.
  • Comprehensive integration with popular apps. A great digital workplace needs to be able to use common enterprise software. It should integrate with scheduling programs, survey tools, and popular applications such as G Suite, O365, Slack and Zoom.
  1. Extensive training

In the corporate world, job training is something people take for granted. Unfortunately, for frontline workers, training programs are often an afterthought. And providing insufficient (or no) training reduces an employee’s ability to do their jobs up to corporate standards. Here’s what you can do to ensure your frontline employees succeed:

  • Provide access to a corporate intranet. Here, they have instant access to your training manuals along with the ability to communicate with current workers.
  • Roleplay common work scenarios. This way the employee understands what to do when the situation happens in real life.
  • Have newcomers train with a group of people rather than a single “training buddy.” Not only does this prevent the common problem of a single person’s bad habits being transferred to new hires, but it also introduces the new employee to the people they will work with on a daily basis.
  • Solicit feedback from your current employees about the training they received. Take note as to what have been the most and least beneficial portions for them. Sometimes you may notice that issues you spend a lot of time training people on rarely come up in practice. You can then tailor your training program to highlight the most important aspects.