The deskless workforce is a group of employees who typically don’t sit behind a desk to perform their jobs. In today’s global workforce, 80% of the global workers and almost 100% of shift workers are deskless, mostly working in industries such as healthcare, retail, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.
Due to their physical distance from upper management, deskless workers are sometimes the least engaged. They are also directly impacted by a company’s biggest weaknesses, such as rigid policies, inconsistent communication, and outdated technology.
Deskless workers are also becoming increasingly younger, with Millennials and Generation Z now comprising a large part of the workforce. They have different technological, personal, and professional needs compared to the generations before them. In this regard:
- Companies may not have flexible technology solutions in place. Tech developers that create solutions are desk workers themselves, so they may lack awareness and knowledge about the needs of a deskless workforce. Limited technology options for deskless workers is a problem for employers when communicating with, planning for, and managing their entire workforce.
- Companies now need to move beyond providing the bare minimum for employees to do their work. Instead, they have to consider how to create workplaces where people want to be, are engaged, and remain productive.
Why the Employee Experience (EX) matters
According to research by Gallup, improved engagement with employees:
can result in a 41% reduction in absenteeism,
a 24% decrease in churn,
and a 17% increase in productivity.
A 2020 Gartner survey found that:
64% of HR leaders are prioritizing employee experience more than they did before the pandemic
EX as a Practice
Josh Bersin, CEO and global industry analyst, stated: “Above all, remember that the journey to a world-class employee experience is an ongoing process enabled by close listening to your people.”
The Josh Bersin Company released a research report, The Definitive Guide: Employee Experience, which highlights 15 essential practices for a superior EX. Beyond wages and perks, there are core elements to get right for all employees:
Employees want a feeling of purpose from their employer.
They want to trust their leaders and institutions.
They want to feel that they belong and that their team will take care of them.
They want to be treated fairly, respecting their uniqueness and identity as a person.
And they want to see the company investing in their pay, growth, and advancement.
Taking EX Action
When taking action to improve EX, leaders must ensure that white-collar workers don’t remain the primary focus. Plans should address the distinct needs of each group and include fair and inclusive programs for all employees.
- Get the deskless workforce involved. An annual survey is insufficient, there should be an ongoing feedback loop to measure sentiment. Continuously monitor and measure the effectiveness of EX efforts to ensure investments are achieving the goals set. With processes and priorities continuously evolving, using tools to close the loop on communications, provide work updates, give advice, and capture employee sentiment can give leaders a better indication of how employees are doing on the job. This can reduce burnout, mitigate fatigue, and help them feel more supported in the moments that matter.
- Make appropriate investments in technology that leverages data to uncover potential problems. Failing to act on feedback can have a negative impact on employees. Use technology with consumer-grade ease-of-use to create less friction and greater inclusion for deskless workers.
- Provide the right tools according to what different employees require. Where digital tools can help make a deskless job easier, they should be evaluated according to the needs of the deskless worker only.
- Provide better work flexibility. Overstaffing can drain company resources while understaffing can overburden employees, increase the likelihood of injury, decrease customer satisfaction, and damage the company’s reputation. Under-scheduled employees can find themselves getting bored or distracted, while overscheduled employees are more prone to stress, burnout, and fatigue. Employers can foster a better employee experience by being aware of staffing problems before they happen.
- Help deskless workers build fulfilling careers. Skills development, education, and experiences are mostly geared towards white-collar workers. A worthy consideration is to build career pathways to future-focused careers through education, experience, learning from others, and work assignments.
- Build a sense of community. Deskless workers are often disconnected from the overall corporate mission and values when communication channels are designed for deskbound employees. Prioritise investments in people at all levels and in all job roles.
Deskless workers have unique needs. Companies should listen and adapt to the feedback they receive in more frequent intervals to have a significant impact on employee perceptions. As the world’s economies reopen, companies are learning the benefits of investing in technology for deskless workers and are seeing it as a selling point in the war for talent. The rewards are significant for those that can deliver exceptional experiences.