In Company Protocols, What about the 2.7 Billion Deskless Workers?

The pandemic was a wake-up call to businesses to modernize their employee-facing technology

by Joe Ross 

So much has changed in the last year, and the way businesses operate is no exception. The pandemic accelerated the pace of change for many companies as they were forced to abandon old ways of communicating with their workforces, especially the 2.7 billion deskless workers. Corporations had no choice but to say goodbye to notices on bulletin boards hanging by the time clock and fliers in the breakroom to share important need-to-know information. Many deskless employees, who were left with no access to company intranet systems and no company-issued laptops while they were on lockdown, connected with their personal smartphones to non-sanctioned social platforms like WhatsApp to get the latest news on factory and shop closings, reopenings and health protocols. While this was not ideal for many large corporations, it was their wake-up call. Ready or not, the race to modernize their employee-facing technology was underway. 

Now, finally, the deskless workers — who make up nearly 80% of today’s global workforce — would get their share of the technology investment, which up to this point was only a meager 1% of the total enterprise software spend. While many companies had long been investing in their supply chains, warehouses and new point-of-purchase systems, the technology that deskless workers desperately needed was not a priority. Their scheduling and time capture was being done on paper and with punch cards, last-minute callouts left teams understaffed and frustrated, overtime pay was often manually overwritten, employees suffered from burnout and fatigue, and the necessary trainings were intermittently delivered. How did this happen? How did some of the most important HR-based systems that hold the data on which an employee’s pay is based – their time and attendance – become obsolete and get left behind in the era of digital transformation? 

Some of the disparity was the result of IT and management teams’ resistance to “bring your own device,” or BYOD. Worries about adoption for access to personal devices for business purposes are becoming non-issues for the generation of digitally native employees that now comprise about 73% of this working group. Not embracing this change neglects the robust and transformational opportunities that a real-time mobile application would have to enrich the daily work experience of hourly workers. This investment disparity stemmed from a lack of understanding of the deskless worker experience and underestimating the incredible impact they have on the business. But the pandemic changed this; many businesses are now working to determine how they can capitalize on the immediate positive and transformative impact that mobile-based applications in the hands of employees can have on the bottom line. 

When modern technology finds its way into the hands of deskless workers, moments at work are simpler, fairer, even more transparent, with the added benefit of giving hourly employees the flexibility they need to balance their job with their lives outside of work. For example, the ability to quickly change schedules when there is a callout and connecting to replacement workers based on compliance rules keeps scheduling fair and in line with the regional, union and collective bargaining agreements that may exist. The technology also quickly improves employee satisfaction by reducing burnout and mitigating fatigue by delivering instant app-based check-ins between managers and employees who may be working excessive overtime, asking them how they are feeling about the added shifts. These answers can vary wildly, from someone not wanting more overtime and needing more time at home with family, to someone else who really could use the extra shifts to cover costs at home. It’s the moments at work that add up for employees to determine their overall satisfaction with an employer, and today’s technology allows employees to easily be heard in-the-moment while it also enables managers to engage in consistent and meaningful ways with their employees. 

The pandemic has certainly been hard on all of us, and we owe it to our essential deskless workers to invest in their daily work experience and provide them mobile technology to make their work easier. With modern technology, deskless workers are supported in the moments that matter to them while at work. This continued engagement between employers and employees leads to less turnover, greater productivity and an improved bottom line. In fact, many corporations that invest in modern time and attendance platforms have seen a total ROI of greater than 300%. But most importantly, this modern technology truly connects employees and allows them to be heard and seen as important and valued contributors to the success of the business.  

Joe Ross is chief product officer at WorkForce Software, a leading global provider of cloud-based workforce management solutions. The company’s WorkForce Suite adapts to each organization’s needs, delivering a breakthrough employee experience — no matter how unique the organization’s pay rules, labor regulations, schedules and employee self-service needs are. Enterprise grade and future-ready, WorkForce Software removes the noise from a managers’ busy day, protects the organization from compliance risks, provides leadership with strategic business insights, and delivers real employee engagement at the time and place work happens.

Did You Know: Many deskless employees, who were left with no access to company intranet systems and no company-issued laptops while they were on lockdown, connected with their personal smartphones to non-sanctioned social platforms like WhatsApp to get the latest news on factory and shop closings, reopenings and health protocols.

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