By Tara Peters, Strategic Communications Manager with Anthill, finalist of Best SaaS Product for HR at the 2022 Saas Awards

From hybrid, to remote, to in-office, where and how we work is changing – or is it?

For decades, we’ve relied on the frontline and deskless workers to provide us with the goods and services we need most. While the locale and benefit options have evolved for office workers, what hasn’t changed is how the workplace has supported the deskless workforce, until now

Deskless workers total 2.7 billion globally and want the same access to employer-provided benefits as office workers, such as:

  • Schedule flexibility;
  • Employer support;
  • Communication;
  • Development for upward mobility.

So, how do we deliver dignity to every role while also streamlining day-to-day operations for employers so they can focus on the people?

Check in on your employees

One answer is regular check-ins with your employees to gauge how they’re feeling in their roles or at the company through employee listening sessions or surveys.

The problems typically arise in the implementation and delivery of these sessions and surveys. You can see it in the number of employees who exit their new job prior to the 90-day mark, those who don’t make it to their first day on the job, or those who get filed under the no-call, no-show absence termination and perhaps no one even got to know their name. 

As you may have read in social media posts and recent news articles, employees are taking it to TikTok to share their frustrations with employers who ask them to complete “anonymous” surveys only to be written up or bullied following their responses. HR and operations teams encourage employees to be honest and share their struggles, frustrations or opinions in an “anonymous” setting but here’s where it gets sticky.

Employees know that “anonymous” from an internal outreach standpoint is not completely anonymous. There are IP addresses, company logins, and voice or dialect recognition to leave a trail of breadcrumbs right back to the identity of the employee completing the survey. Do your employees trust you enough to share the issues that they’re struggling with at work without fear of retaliation? If they do, perhaps they shouldn’t unless you can tell them you have an external SaaS that can verify the anonymity you’re touting. 

Communication is key for deskless workplaces

Employers need a third party to verify that their internal communications platform is truly a safe space to share. Trust is a two-way street and so is communication. Two-way communication creates a conversation – an open dialogue to share your thoughts, information, or ask questions.

There is no better way to improve your business and strengthen your corporate culture than to listen to your employees and customers – your brand ambassadors – to take stock of what’s going well and where you can improve. 

Choose a solution that offers two-way communication options with survey forms that deliver the response data without exposing the user’s identity. Put anonymity in the employee’s hands with more options to speak directly or discreetly. Creating an open, secure and inclusive dialogue for all employees is the first step to closing the loop on employee retention. 

“Desk” employees want flexibility to answer questions during work hours and typically respond and engage with HR teams through a shared platform that utilizes a corporate email address or an app. If you provide them a safe space to share, they will. This segment of employees – commonly known as office workers only accounts for 20 percent of the world’s labor force

Where are the other 80 percent and how do you provide a two-way dialogue with them? Deskless workers are working in factories and manufacturing warehouses. They’re hauling freight across the country or at the ports. They’re laboring in agriculture fields or stocking shelves in a retail store. They’re hospitality workers and frontline medical personnel ensuring the world’s needs are met, and often the first impression your customer has of your company. 

Don’t assume that these employees:

  • Have access to a strong data plan;
  • Trust your organization enough to download your app;
  • Or that English is their first language.

When we make assumptions that aren’t based on data, we leave a large population of the team out of the discussion. That means they can’t connect with you to tell you they can’t work a certain shift or that conditions at the plant are affecting their health. That means, your team is disconnected and at risk for increased turnover. It means they didn’t take the survey. 

How can deskless work be optimized?

Choose a solution that provides the most inclusive technology for the most marginalized group in your workforce. Think about texting. At this point in the technology revolution, you’re probably thinking about the Metaverse, so texting seems unnecessary. However, it is more likely that everyone at work has some kind of phone, and even a flip phone can text. It’s possible that employees won’t use your app because they don’t own a smartphone or because they don’t want your organization to have access to their personal information.

Nonetheless, you should make sure the platform you use has automated choices to switch between languages so your HR staff can rapidly create a message that can be translated into each employee’s preferred language. It’s important to connect with each employee.

How does technology help the deskless workforce?

Supportive technology to connect with your entire workforce translates to hours saved in productivity for your HR and Ops teams. The use of automation and artificial intelligence solutions to translate survey analytics into actionable insights delivers:

  • Increased software adoption;
  • Walk-out prevention;
  • Employee engagement and retention;
  • Reduced turnover.

Wouldn’t it be a better use of your HR and Ops team members’ time to give all employees access to benefits through a constant text-based solution, containing all the information on benefits, pay, and scheduling in one secure location? It would provide access to the tools they require to work more productively and effectively with their coworkers.

Right now, with the tightening of the labor market, there are 0.52 workers for every open job in America and employees are empowered to go where they feel they have the most opportunity to be seen and heard. Where we place value, honor, and respect and how we convey those principles within our organization to each and every person filling a role, is what matters and what gets you noticed, for your benefit or detriment.

It’s a heart issue in the workplace as much as it is a bottom-line issue. By incorporating technology that is inclusive and provides accessible, secure two-way communication, employers will provide dignity to every employee in the workforce. 

Regardless of the tasks we undertake, the jobs we hold, or the roles we play, every one of us seeks human connection and affirmation that we matter. If we don’t provide a means to show that to our workers, we will never be an employer of choice. Our businesses depend on a consistent workforce – choose technology that demonstrates your commitment to doing the right thing for the people who make it all possible and join the revolution.