Last updated on April 30, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Communicating With Frontline Workers

Who Are Frontline Workers?

Frontline workers are often also called deskless workers or non-desk workers. These employees are anyone that doesn’t sit behind a desk or in a traditional office setting to do their job. Remote workers are often deskbound employees, but can be confused for a deskless or frontline employee.


This type of worker can be found in nearly every industry. In healthcare, these employees are nurses, doctors, and other non-clinical staff that work in hospitals and clinics. There are approximately 148 million deskless healthcare employees globally. In manufacturing, frontline workers are your line workers, line managers, and anyone who works in a manufacturing plant. There are an estimated 427 million deskless manufacturing workers. In logistics companies, non-desk employees are the shippers, dock workers, and drivers. 189 million logistics and transportation workers are deskless. Restaurant staff, front desk workers, field managers, maintenance and housekeeping, and many more types of hospitality employee are deskless. And there are 619 million deskless employees in this industry worldwide. And there are over 1.1 million physical security guards who are deskless in the U.S. alone.


Why Are Frontline Workers Important?

Deskless employees are the lifeblood of every organization they work for. They are on the front lines of these companies and carry out the daily operational tasks necessary for companies to make money. In hospitality, including restaurants, hotels, and casinos, they are literally the individuals who deal face-to-face with your customers. In manufacturing and logistics, they are the ones that make your product and get it where it needs to go. And in healthcare, they are the ones taking care of your patients and responsible for the patient experience.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers started to be called essential workers because their work is so instrumental in running a business and providing necessary goods and services to the public.


Top Challenges for Reaching Frontline Employees

Often, deskless employees lack access to traditional communication channels. Since they do not work at a desk to complete the majority of their work, they lack access to computers. Therefore, intranet access is very limited. Most companies also do not provide corporate email addresses or email accounts for their frontline teams. Additionally, frontline workers are not provided cell phones, tablets, or other mobile devices by their organizations, limiting an employees access to digital channels Companies with a large number of frontline employees often don’t have a way to directly communicate with them, meaning they miss Town Halls, earnings calls, leadership messages, and more. This forces organizations to rely on what’s called the “cascade of communication.” This is where messages from the top are communicated one level at a time all the way to the hourly, frontline worker–like a game of telephone.


Despite these traditional communication channels not being a good way to reach this key employee group, they are heavily relied on. But this creates huge communication gaps, hurts the employee experience, and makes it difficult to engage frontline teams.


Another key challenge is that frontline employees are rarely understood by corporate. This means messages aren’t targeted or customized for the needs of the frontline worker. And without a channel of communication to reach them, most internal communication teams feel stuck.


How to Reach Deskless Employees

Companies must invest in mobile communication technology to effectively communicate with and engage frontline workers. Embracing mobile technology and a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy enables organizations to meet employees where they are and gives employees the flexibility to access communication when they need it. And with Smartphone ownership being at a staggering 81% (Marketing Charts), this is a great way to reach the majority of your employees regardless of their age, location, socioeconomic status, etc.


We also recommend using an employee survey. Asking your frontline teams what information and resources they need and how they want to receive them is key to making sure you are providing the right solution. It’s possible that your corporate, desk-bound staff won’t need the same tool or information, but that’s okay. We recommend maintaining a multichannel approach to communication. This will make sure you reach employees on their preferred channel and that no critical communications are missed.


Best Communication Tools for Frontline Workers

theEMPLOYEEapp is a mobile communication app built specifically for organizations with a large deskless workforce. We were created by comms and HR professionals who understand the challenges organizations face in reaching this key group and why it’s so important to have a strong mobile internal communications strategy.


Our employee app includes a News Feed for real-time updates, an easily searchable Explore section where you can store documents, a directory, an events calendar, alert functionality, banners, and more. This makes it easy to include all information an employee would need in one secure and easy-to-use platform.