Connecting Workers

Part
01
of one
Part
01

Connecting Workers

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.
Sources
Sources

Quotes
  • "In the eyes of your customers, your frontline staff is the face of the company - this is where first impressions are formed, and first impressions matter. It only takes three seconds for a customer to evaluate you and your company and, often enough, first impressions set the tone for the relationship that follows."
  • "The frontline is where all the action happens, and frontline employees need to be equipped with the correct tools and have a support structure in place to be able to deliver a top-notch customer experience consistently in a manner that reflects the company culture and values."
  • "Frontline employees also need to be empowered to take ad hoc decisions to solve simple customer queries, therefore reducing complaints and escalations, and ultimately enhancing the overall customer experience. Consistent customer experience is a key differentiator that will help you stand out versus competition and could ultimately help your business grow."
Quotes
  • "When implementing new technologies and strategies, it’s important to keep the entire workforce in mind — from your C-suite executives to every IT staff member and especially frontline workers, the employees who deal directly with customers or who are directly involved in making the product."
  • "Give your frontline workers access to the same tools and technology as the rest of their colleagues so they feel connected to the broader team. Also ensure that your frontline workers have the necessary tools, such as mobile devices, to do their jobs seamlessly and efficiently."
  • "Frontline workers play an essential role in companies across the world, and their workplace engagement can have a direct effect on customer experience and therefore your bottom line. Considering these tips can help you ensure that your frontline workers feel included and valued as you prepare and scale your digital inclusivity strategy."
Quotes
  • "The majority of the global workforce is on the frontlines, untethered to a desk or corporate communications, but they’re the ones most in need of engagement boosts. To reach those employees, companies need a business communication app that’s specifically designed for a mobile workforce."
  • "The frontline workforce also receives the least investment in digital workplace technology and are often left out of internal communications. Linking these employees to a business communication app engages and empowers them with information. Every employee wants to be included in corporate updates."
  • "Most companies compete based on customer experience alone which is defined by their interaction with a company’s frontline workforce. Educating, informing, and communicating with that team through a business communication app can build customer loyalty."
Quotes
  • "Customer service is more important than ever in our digital age. According to a recent report by PwC, 73 percent of consumers say that customer service drives their purchase decisions, and 65 percent find great customer service more influential than great advertising."
  • "Engaging a nondesk workforce requires more than paper notices on the break room bulletin board. Truly engaging front-line workers takes time, care and ingenuity, but opening the lines of communication is critical to survival in today’s marketplace."
  • "If there’s a singular constant among organizations with highly engaged front-line workers, it’s communication. Effectively communicating brand values, product or promotional knowledge, and performance feedback is key to success."
Quotes
  • "Well, some companies feel hesitant to issue their staff with new dangly gadgets, like mobile phones, smart devices, tablets, and so on. Employers think these things are productivity sinks that take up people’s time with games about candy and farms and pirates."
  • "What we’re saying here is that companies should use technology to encourage workers to work and train virtually. If they do that, then they reap the benefits of happier, more motivated, and more productive employees."
  • "Oh, and did we mention communication? With today’s technologies, it’s easy to use professional social media and collaboration tools to keep up-to-date on projects instantaneously."
  • "All we’re saying is that using remote work and online communication helps us to boost employee engagement by allowing more and better communication between workers, no matter where they may be."
Quotes
  • "Make use of familiar tools that break down barriers and allow anyone to share an idea from the firstline to the boardroom."
  • "In addition, Maor and her coauthors urge executives to launch “creative, more digital approaches to engaging employees,” including social media, change-management apps or games, and live-feedback tools."
  • "“Employees can also use these tools to explore and engage with the changes being made, on their own terms and with the ability to provide feedback,” they add. Ultimately, a more connected organization is a more productive one, enabling all employees to turn their ideas into actions."
  • "Preparing and enabling firstline worker participation in digital transformation requires a strategy that involves training, technology, autonomy and information sharing."
Quotes
  • "Without fostering a closer working relationship between IT experts and frontline employees, shadow IT can quickly become a practice that threatens enterprise security. While there are many different approaches to strengthening this collaboration, one that I’d recommend is implementing more real-time feedback options."
  • "Creating a direct and immediate line of communication between IT and the frontline is the first step to bolstering mutual engagement."
Quotes
  • "The platform was built on ancient technology, but nonetheless helped to solve scores of small but critical problems that were affecting customer service."
  • "I have seen firsthand how people working in call centers use real-time collaboration to resolve complex customer questions while the operator artfully stalled for time."
  • "Very quickly, a dozen possible opportunities for deploying collaboration and social tools will become apparent. These can generally be winnowed down to a few possible starting points."
Quotes
  • "AllenComm has been named on the prestigious Training Industry Top 20 Gamification Company List as one of the pre-eminent gamification training companies within the Learning and Development industry."
  • "AllenComm has won awards for their gamified learning solutions for clients like LEGO, Domino’s Pizza, Akamai, and HP."
Quotes
  • "Gamification software is any tool or platform used for applying game mechanics to non-game contexts in order to boost engagement and successful end-results. Common use cases include customer loyalty, e-learning, employee engagement, and performance management."
  • "By harnessing the entertaining aspects of games, gamification technology offers organizations a solution to their engagement problems."
  • "In many of its initial applications, gamification has had impressive results, leading global organizations such as IBM, Deloitte, and NBC to use gamification in their marketing campaigns and workplaces, and even acquiring gamification startups to permanently integrate the technology into their software and business models."
Quotes
  • "It’s harder than ever for businesses to reach and align an increasingly dispersed, diverse workforce. Today’s companies must adjust how they communicate with employees and how they help them communicate with each."
  • "One way to do this is to reach and engage your entire workforce with more targeted, personalized corporate and executive communications."
  • "An interactive intranet streamlines this type of communication. HR can post a blog about the new program, and employees can respond with questions or comments in real-time. This cuts down on inbox clutter and provides HR with valuable insights."
  • "Rather than posting content and hoping it gets read, HR can review data and act on the findings to ensure all employees and teams are aware of important changes and conversations."
Quotes
  • "Many companies make communicating with non-desk employees a low priority."
  • "It’s a huge mistake not to engage your frontline employees in the vision and values of the company, in the brand promise the company makes to consumers, and what the brand stands for in the world."
  • "Instead, build channels directly from corporate management to the non-desk audience. There’s a significant downside when corporate leaders leave this population out of the loop."
  • "Commit to at least one channel through which non-desk employees will hear from management. These might include a mobile app that employees download on their personal devices, an employee magazine mailed home or printed table tents in breakrooms."