From the customer's point of view, frontline workers are the face of the company, and the first impressions that these employees make can often set the tone of the company's relationship with its patrons. As such, it is crucial that frontline workers remain highly engaged and motivated to serve customers while making meaningful, positive impressions. A PwC report found that 73% of consumers regard customer service as a driver of their purchase decisions, with 65% emphasizing that customer service has a much greater influence than powerful advertising. This suggests that effective frontline employees are among the biggest assets a company can have.
The importance of frontline workers is clear, but connecting these workers to a company's information technology (IT) can be challenging. However, research shows that it is both possible and important that businesses overcome this challenge. This can be achieved by encouraging collaborative working environment, using gamification techniques to bolster engagement, and improving internal digital communications. Below is a brief discussion of frontline workers' engagement at work, followed by a consideration of several strategies by which frontline workers can be connected to the company's IT.
THE STATE OF FRONTLINE WORKERS' ENGAGEMENT
Forbes has stated that while there are 2.7 billion frontline workers around the globe, only "13% of them feel engaged at work." Much of this lack of engagement can be explained by the neglect that these workers often face, as they are "often left out of internal communications" and frequently receive minimal investment in digital workplace technology. It is imperative that the entire workforce is included when implementing new technologies and strategies in the workplace, from executives to low-level employees, particularly frontline workers. A lack of engagement decreases the likelihood that frontline workers will succeed across a range of job duties, from interacting with customers to effectively navigating the company's IT — and yet, many companies still fail to engage these workers.
Connecting frontline workers to information technology: strategies
For a company to effectively connect its frontline workers to its IT, the workers must be engaged and have a positive relationship with their work. This is a challenge that the three strategies enumerated below seek to overcome. These strategies can, in part, lay the foundation on which the necessary engagement and positivity can grow, producing a workplace that is increasingly conducive to frontline-IT connection.
Encourage collaborative working environment
In the modern world, flexibility is often an important factor in the day-to-day life of workers. This is especially true in the case of certain frontline workers who may operate in multiple locations or on rotating shifts. Even if this isn't the case — but especially if it is — collaborative platforms and tools can be an indispensable way for frontline workers to connect, communicate, and share ideas. These tools can facilitate productivity, bolster morale, and improve the company's overall culture, provided that collaborative tools are implemented properly and are not "distracting or overwhelming."
File sharing apps and project management tools are two examples of collaborative tools that can be effective in fostering these benefits among frontline workers. Besides enhancing productivity and enabling easier collaboration, these tools can serve to boost employees' engagement. HubSpot has described Slack, one of the premiere collaborative workplace tools, as “a team post-it-note board on steroids,” exemplifying the communication and engagement that Slack, and tools like it, can promote. Best Buy's "Blue Shirt Nation" is one famous success story in this regard, and frontline workers at call centers sometimes leverage collaborative tools "to resolve complex customer questions while the operator artfully stall[s] for time."
Use gamification to motivate workers
Gamification software, which applies "game mechanics to non-game contexts," can be particularly useful amongst frontline workers such as marketers, salespeople, call center agents, and customer service staff. Gamification platforms can promote productivity and increase engagement in frontline workers, sometimes to a surprising degree — one learning portal that utilized gamification techniques reported that the gamified aspects "produced a staggering 417% increase in employee use."
AllenComm, recently "named on the prestigious Training Industry Top 20 Gamification Company List," is one prominent example in this space, having designed "gamified learning solutions for clients like LEGO, Domino’s Pizza, Akamai, and HP." These are far from the only notable companies that have employed gamification to positive results: IBM, NBC, and Deloitte, among countless others, have successfully implemented the technique, driving engagement and enhancing workers' relationships with their work.
Improve the company's internal digital communication strategy
The most engaged employees are those who have direct lines of communication with management and who are most informed about the company for which they work. Unfortunately, these employees are few and far between: 75% of employees feel out of the loop when their company implements policy changes, 84% state that they don't get sufficient information from management, while 50% say they lack an understanding of their company's direction. Poor communication results in poor engagement. The "majority of the global workforce is on the frontlines," and they are arguably the ones who could benefit most from increased engagement. In order to reach this workforce, companies must utilize an effective internal digital communication strategy.
Because of their often-diminished visibility, company emails are not always an effective mode of internal communication. Companies should dedicate a communicative channel or platform to the entire workforce, including frontline workers. Interactive intranet, mobile applications, and an internal social network are examples of technology tools that can be utilized to improve communication amongst frontline workers, as well as between frontline workers and workers in other parts of the company, including management. Creating the propensity for a two-way dialog in this manner can "demonstrate management’s respect [for frontline workers] and the desire to understand the realities of these employees’ jobs," promoting engagement and positivity in the workplace.
HipChat, which has a chat room, file sharing, video calling, two-way audio and video call sharing, file transfers, and real-time notification features, is one example of an advanced internal digital communication tool that can facilitate effective communication in the workplace. Similarly, the popular Skype platform offers chat, conferencing, instant messaging, voice mail, and file sharing features. Using these tools, or others like them, can "break down barriers and allow anyone to share an idea from the firstline to the boardroom." Aside from its practical implications, this can be an important step in fostering engagement among frontline workers, facilitating connections between those workers and the company's IT.