| Aug 22, 2022

On the Frontline: How to Maximize the Potential of Your Deskless Workforce

They are the unsung workers who are needed on hand, not behind a screen, to power industry. Yet too often they feel like voiceless cogs in the machine.
By Kemi Aremu |

3 minutes

When the pandemic hit, these were the workers deemed “essential” but who are now overlooked, underfunded, and disadvantaged. An estimated 2.7 billion “deskless workers” make up over 80% of the global workforce and are shaping customer experiences — in the factories, on the farms, and on the scooters — across numerous industries. How is that these frontline workers get the shorter end of the stick compared to desk-bound staff when it comes to enabling their performance through technology and employee experience?

In the face of rising inflation and The Great Resignation, there is no straightforward path forward. Prudence is important but so is introspection. As business leaders explore ways to protect their organizations from volatility, there is a unique opportunity for them to optimize the strength of their existing deskless workforce. How?

It’s no secret that happier workers are more productive, and in industries whose success is heavily characterized by the productivity of their employees, business leaders can empower their deskless workforce for long-term success and profitability by enhancing the connections between frontline workers and front office. 

Structuring for Connectivity

With deskless workers out on the road, behind registers, and on assembly lines, it makes connecting with them harder than with their in-office colleagues, but this does not mean that they don’t need a voice, too. A running theme in most deskless worker industries is the disconnect between ground staff and management, leading to lower engagement rates and reduced productivity.  

Data reveals that deskless workers feel less cared for and valued by their employers with just 37% of distributed workers feeling as though their opinions and perspectives matter to their employers.

While it is obviously impractical to have daily debriefs with the C-suite, closing the gap through innovative, technology-driven solutions and structures where the deskless workforce can share valuable ideas and experiences throughout the ranks has resulted in significant increases in motivation and enthusiasm. 

As the tech industry unravels the benefits of serving the deskless community, more innovative collaboration and connectivity tools have been developed to address a major pain point for both management and their deskless workforce. 


Empowering the Frontline

High turnover rates are not uncommon in industries with large deskless workforces. In hospitality alone, employee turnover rates are at 130%, with construction, retail, entertainment, and healthcare not far behind. With figures like these, investing in your people may seem futile.

On the flip side, Igloo Software’s 2020 State of the Digital Workplace report found that 83% of deskless workers didn’t have company-assigned email addresses and even more tellingly, 54% of deskless workers felt disposable to their organizations or like temporary staff. A report from Quinyx further revealed that 61% of deskless workers intended to stay in their jobs for a minimum of one to three years, debunking the myth that they are not interested in long-term work or career development.

Meanwhile, a survey of more than 4,000 U.S. and U.K. frontline workers and managers conducted by Meta communications platform Workplace found that over half of the deskless employees said they believed they were voiceless, compared to the 83% of mangers who claimed they gave their workers a say within their business.

What these studies show is a brutal disconnect between employers and employees that serves neither as they work through costly and time-consuming recruitment processes. With fewer people willing to work, perhaps redirecting efforts from recruitment and onboarding to retention presents a more efficient path to maintaining an organization’s workforce.

Communicate to Show Respect

Advances in mobile technology make training, upskilling, and motivating the deskless workforce easier and faster. A well-structured retention strategy that touches on flexible schedules, peer-reviewed compensation, pathways for progression, and a “people-first” culture are a few ways to get started. 

Lack of communication is often equated with lack of respect. All employees want to feel respected, valued, and be shown how they fit into the big picture, including deskless employees. With work-life balance setting the baseline for most people, employers seeking to go the extra mile will find innovative ways to make sure there is a culture of inclusivity and appreciation at work, especially for the younger generation of deskless workers.

Get the Most Out of Your People

Ultimately, the perks of retention can only be revealed when companies spend time articulating the benefits of working for them. They then must hold everyone accountable, including management, to the standard they set. What works will differ by industry, organization size, and existing cultures but a roadmap and the grit to stay the course will ultimately end in better results for everyone.

Kemi Aremu

Opinion Contributor, Strixus

Kemi is a freelance writer, product marketing manager, and teller of compelling stories that inspire action. view profile


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