Across the globe, 2.7 billion workers do not sit behind a desk to do their jobs. Comprising 80% of the global workforce, these deskless workers, sometimes called frontline workers, are employed in sectors like construction, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, hospitality, first response, and agriculture.
They are the employees we call “essential” even though we fail to treat them this way—and that shows up in deskless worker technology, which traditionally hasn’t received nearly as much time, attention, or investment as technology geared towards desk workers, both in terms of development and in terms of purchasing.
In fact, as of 2019, tech investors were only using 1% of their enterprise software funding to develop new productivity and communication tools for this sector. While desk workers have slick, streamlined productivity and collaboration tools, technology for deskless workers is often outdated, clunky, and not intuitive or in sync with the user experience found in software for desk workers.
Let’s take a look at how investing in cutting-edge technology for frontline workers will improve your business’s ability to hire workers, maintain employee job satisfaction, and avoid the steep costs of attrition.
Millennials, defined as those born between 1981 and 1996, are digital natives. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates millennials in the US workforce will grow by 4.5 million between 2019-2029, and by 2030, 75% of the workforce will be millennials.
Not only do frontline millennial workers have their own smartphones and mobile apps that they use outside of work, but they are also less likely to stand for subpar tech tools that aren’t as fast and efficient as those they use to conduct their personal lives.
And when the tools an employer provides aren’t satisfactory, workers will turn to their own tools and platforms to speed up their work and get the job done.
A patchwork of technology and devices, while perhaps helpful for an individual employee, can slow down the operations and communications of the company as a whole, while also posing a host of privacy, security, and compliance threats.
By providing all employees with the mobile-first technology required to efficiently and effectively do their jobs, employers optimize performance and communicate to younger workers that they are a valuable part of the workforce.
Skedulo’s’ 2021 Report on the State of Deskless Work found that organizations with a high volume of deskless workers lag behind in digital transformation: only 6% of respondents rely entirely on digital processes for deskless work, while 44% of organizations rely on paper-based processes half of the time or more.”
Frontline workers know that even though corporate headquarters refers to them as “essential workers,” they are treated as anything but.
While their in-office counterparts are constantly integrating new gadgets into their work lives, deskless workers are expected to succeed using older technology that they report as slow, inefficient, or unusable on a tablet or smartphone.
In fact, Emergence.com surveyed 1,532 deskless workers about the technology they are given and the technology they need in order to do their jobs well. Eighty-three percent of survey respondents said they were given a desktop or laptop, which is incompatible with being on-the-move and deskless; there’s a reason the other term for “deskless worker” is “mobile worker.”
Sixty percent of survey respondents said they were “dissatisfied” with the technology the company provided or that there was “room for improvement.”
Dissatisfied deskless workers are more likely to burnout on the job or quit.
While there are many causes of attrition, we can safely assume that weak deskless technology is a key contributor to job dissatisfaction and turnover in frontline organizations.
As most leaders know, it’s far less expensive to retain an employee than to replace one. But in the last year, large numbers of deskless workers—especially in industries such as retail and leisure/hospitality—left their jobs.
The true cost of replacing an employee includes direct costs such as hiring, training and onboarding. But there are also indirect costs, such as mistakes a new employee may make simply because they’re learning on the job, the speed at which a new employee can complete their work, and the impact on coworkers’ performance due to lower morale when a colleague leaves the job.
According to Investopedia, the cost of replacing a frontline worker making $8/hour can cost a company $3,500 in both direct and indirect turnover costs.
Equipping frontline workers with state-of-the-art tools for communications, logistics, and operations is absolutely critical to optimizing performance and revenue.
By investing in the technology your deskless workers expect and need to excel at their jobs, your company can do more than pay lip service to the concept of “essential workers.” Instead, you will demonstrate that you recognize the truth: your business can’t function without them.