How digital transformation can empower frontline workers too

Fujitsu / March 14, 2022

From healthcare workers, nursing home staff, retail employees, flight attendants, bank cashiers, field technicians, restaurant workers, grocers and warehouse operators, amongst others, frontline workers are the backbone of our economy.

As we enter the next phase of recovery and find our new ways of working, empowering these essential workers must be a priority if we’re to navigate a future of uncertainty.

However, frontline workers are often overlooked and not enabled with the appropriate digital tools and technology when an organisation is undergoing its digital transformation or overhauling its employee experience.

In the US alone, there are around 31.67 million frontline workers and globally, it goes up to 2.7 billion, according to Deskless Workforce. So, that’s a huge proportion of key workers that are yet to benefit from the digital changes enjoyed by their information worker counterparts.

Historically, this may have been the case because the different working models between frontline and information worker counterparts weren’t easy to navigate, or the cost and scale made it difficult. But in a digital-first world, this has to change.

The vital role of frontline workers is evident, and as such, they can no longer play second fiddle when an organization is transforming its operations.

Businesses must now ensure corporate culture is consistent and engaging for all employees, regardless of where they work.

In this blog, I explore some of the challenges frontline workers are experiencing and how technology can be used to empower them and build a sense of belonging.

Problems with legacy thinking

Business leaders have sometimes ignored the value of the role frontline employees play, and as such, how important they are to the organization and its culture.

It’s not in an organization’s best interest to assume that because frontline workers aren’t given digital devices as part of their role, they don’t need digital services to carry out their day-to-day tasks.

Frontline workers are the lifeblood of many industries and organizations. If they’re not included in the digital transformation process, then the business is unlikely to thrive to the best of its ability. Furthermore, all workers should be able to access and benefit from an equal employee experience.

Feelings of displacement

Some of the challenges frontline workers tend to face include limited connectivity, a lack of collaboration with the organization, and feelings of being digitally excluded.

In today’s digital world, it’s surprising that most frontline workers still have to go to traditional notice boards to find out what's going on in the business and see what important messages are being communicated.

This diminishes their sense of belonging to the organization and its culture, which is a key contributing factor to high attrition rates. On the flipside, 69% of employees are less likely to quit if their company was more effective at communicating and 85% regard effective communication a job benefit.

Creating a connected workforce

Frontline workers depend on their environment and quite often this cannot be replaced by any home-office setting.

However, technology can help in various ways to involve them in digital initiatives and improve the sense of community in an organization.

Fujitsu is currently working with customers to implement technology such as Microsoft Viva and Microsoft Teams that enables this connectivity and inclusiveness.

It allows employees to read up on corporate messages, juggle task management, watch training videos, read instruction manuals, book annual leave, and swap shifts. And they can do all of this either on the job or at their own pace, with protections in place to safeguard their personal time.

For example, retail workers won’t have to go in on their day off to look at a noticeboard to find out when their next shift is. Also, if they want to book a day off, they can do it on their personal mobile phone and don't need to be given a corporate device to access the services.

With processes like this, we know there can be challenges with security and compliance. But this can be easily overcome with services such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager, designed to support a secure, ‘bring your own device’ approach and shouldn’t be a barrier to implementation.

Additionally, frontline workers can access tools for task management that updates them on what occurred during the shift before theirs, so they’re up to speed on what to do next and the handover process is easy and effective.

Teams’ Walkie Talkie is another great tool that enables frontline workers to stay safe at work. If or when support is needed, they don’t have to send a message. Instead, they can use the Walkie Talkie feature to call for assistance.

Similarly, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees are being cared for, Fujitsu provides technology such as body worn cameras for people that work on roads or store security. We also provide fall detectors for people working in dangerous environments, so if they fall and they're on their own, someone in a center will be notified to call for help.

These are very simple things that technology offers frontline workers. The tools help them to stay healthy and safe, create a sense of belonging and allow for digital inclusiveness, to ultimately help them feel like a true part of the organization’s culture.

Staying competitive

It’s essential that now, more than ever, frontline workers are carried along in the digital transformation journey.

But of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution – every organization will have different types of frontline workers, with different needs. So, they shouldn’t be grouped into one persona and treated the same. Business leaders must listen to and act on their individual needs.

Microsoft has seen a 300% year-on-year growth in demand for services that specifically support frontline workers; and in the last 12 months, Fujitsu has seen more customers procuring solutions for frontline workers, with a growth of 82%.

Organizations that are yet to empower their frontline workers with the digital tools needed for today’s market will be smart to do so to remain competitive in their industry.

Ultimately, improving the experiences of frontline workers will make people happier and more likely to stay in their roles, which can have a positive, profitable impact on your business, while reducing skyrocketing attrition rates.

Get in touch to learn how you can empower your frontline workers with Microsoft and Fujitsu.

John Ellis
Global Lead for Microsoft Modern Workplace & Business Apps, Fujitsu
John is leading the development and growth strategies for Fujitsu’s Modern Workplace and Business Applications based on Microsoft 365, Security, Dynamics 365 & Power Platform as part of Fujitsu’s global business with Microsoft cloud services. Prior to his current role, John was Product Manager leading a team developing Fujitsu’s Modern Workplace Products. Having joined Fujitsu in 2006, John has experience across IT Strategy, Product Management, Architecture, Sales, Account Management, Project & Portfolio Management and Service Management. He is committed to helping Fujitsu customers digital transformations and improve experiences.

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