While the corporate world is rapidly changing and becoming more amenable to remote workers who spend their days in home offices, there remains a substantial percentage of the workforce that interacts with customers daily while delivering frontline services. Waiters, nurses, retail employees, and similar workers can’t do what they do from a home office. They are collectively known as “deskless workers” because they spend most of their work time in the field, helping guests, patients, customers, and others. They also make up 80% of the global workforce.
Creating an effective onboarding program for deskless employees is particularly challenging. In many professional environments, workers can sit at desks and join remote onboarding via webinars, videos, or course content. These desked workers tend to be more technologically savvy and they typically enjoy more structured onboarding experiences.
That’s not the case with deskless workers. They are unique in that they:
- Typically have limited attention spans due to the nature of their fieldwork.
- Thrive on visual content that they can refer back to as needed.
- Hold physical responsibilities that are best trained and taught through physical demonstration.
Deskless workers need unique onboarding technology and onboarding techniques to set them up for success, which is entirely possible to create and implement. In fact, with the right strategies, onboarding deskless employees can be easy to launch initially, scale across your organization, and track for effectiveness. Here’s a look at how the best onboarding strategies can help your company maximize its deskless team.
What Is A Deskless Employee?
The term “deskless employee” may be new to you. What is a deskless employee? It’s just like it sounds: any worker who does not have a dedicated desk.
As noted above, many professionals spend their days sitting at desks or taking their laptops to meetings. They have communication devices in front of them that make onboarding and training simple, fast, and easy. That’s not the case with a deskless workforce.
Deskless workers include nurses, waiters, police officers, EMTs, retail sales representatives, manufacturing workers, construction professionals, truck drivers, and others. Their work cannot be completed remotely, which makes them highly valuable and essential to society.
The Present And Future Of Deskless Work
Just before the pandemic arrived, unemployment in the United States hit a 50-year low, making it more difficult than ever for companies to hire the frontline workers who make up the deskless workforce. After COVID-19 spread around the world, backfilling deskless workers who might be ill, quarantining, or taking advantage of COVID-related relief benefits made staffing that much more difficult.
Both now and in the future, companies that hire deskless workers must find ways to do more with fewer workers. Technology can be the lever that empowers a deskless workforce to overcome this challenge. Traditionally, less than 1% of enterprise software spending is used to serve a deskless workforce, which means deskless workers are left with technologies that offer poor user experiences, limited features, and value propositions that fail to meet the unique needs of deskless workers.
In the future, as deskless workers will be asked to do more than ever before, effective technologies must be made available to empower deskless workers to be more efficient.
The Challenges Of Managing A Deskless Workforce
As one would expect, it can be incredibly challenging for corporate team members to manage deskless workers. Those challenges include:
- High turnover rates
Deskless workers have high burnout rates and often seek other job opportunities where they hope for higher satisfaction.
- Difficulty reaching deskless workers
Because deskless workers are typically in the field, they can be difficult to communicate with.
- Employees lacking a sense of belongingness
Deskless workers are on the frontlines serving a company’s customers. Because they spend less time with other employees, their managers, and the corporate headquarters, it can be hard for them to develop a sense of belongingness.
- Difficulty providing access to needed information
Deskbound professionals can typically access all the information they need through a corporate intranet or by messaging someone who can help. This is not always easy for a deskless worker who likely doesn’t have a corporate email address, corporate computer, or corporate cell phone (if they have a cell phone at all).
- A disengaged, disconnected workforce
The jobs of deskless workers have largely become more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges of the pandemic have made them disengaged and disconnected.
- Voiceless, unempowered employees
Deskless employees rarely interact with higher-ups at any given company. For that reason, they can feel voiceless and unempowered.
These are real challenges for companies that hire deskless employees, but each of these challenges can be overcome with the right strategies and tactics.
How Technology Empowers Deskless Workers
The key to overcoming many of the challenges listed above is simple: technology that is designed and developed to meet the unique needs of deskless workers. Your company needs the right technologies (especially onboarding technology) for its deskless employees to feel engaged, connected, and empowered. The right technologies for your deskless workforce will be:
- Simple, intuitive, and easy to use.
- Easily accessible and navigable on a mobile device.
- Embedded in the programs and on the platforms where workers are already spending time.
A mobile-first approach is important because your deskless workers are in the field and away from computers, but they are more likely to have access to mobile devices. There’s no need to develop a custom mobile application. In fact, it’s better to use apps that deskless workers are likely to have installed and regularly use on their mobile devices.
The average mobile device user spends 2 hours and 51 minutes each day on apps, but more than 62% of installed apps go unused each month. Embedding your company’s content and messages in a popular, regularly used app makes it much more likely that deskless workers will access your content and messages.
How To Enable Your Deskless Workforce
Once you choose the right technologies, how should you use them to engage with deskless employees? Consider the following content opportunities:
- Share and amplify company news (that your workforce will be interested in).
- Create two-way communication channels that allow workers to offer feedback and ask questions.
- Send push notifications when you have urgent or highly relevant information to share.
- Create different audiences so that you can share personalized information. (For example, send different content to managers than to entry-level workers, etc.)
- Empower managers to send communications to their direct reports.
As you create and share content, keep a mobile-first approach. Mobile is the primary channel deskless workers use to access content, so emphasize it from the start and be sure to measure your engagement. Engagement analytics will help you identify the messages that people like, share, and interact with, allowing you to focus more on those types of content.
What Is Employee Onboarding?
Onboarding is the series of training sessions or communications that guide new hires through how to complete administrative tasks, how to access needed information, how to configure and take advantage of benefits, and how to use available tools and resources to effectively get their jobs done. Using fresh ideas and creative ways to onboard new employees can help them develop a stronger connection with your company.
Why Is Onboarding Important?
Wondering why onboarding is important? It’s your first chance to engage deskless employees. Effective onboarding can help companies overcome the challenges mentioned above. Creative onboarding can help your deskless employees engage, connect, and feel like they are empowered and that they belong.
Effective onboarding leads to a greater sense of employee loyalty and reduced turnover. After an engaging onboarding experience, 69% of employees are likely to stay with the company for 3 years or longer. Quality onboarding also helps limit the initial burst of turnover that most companies experience; 20% of all turnover occurs in the first 45 days after employment. Given that it costs $3,000 to $18,000 to replace the average employee, investing in technology that supports effective onboarding is worth the investment.