When you consider frontline employees’ experiences over the past few years, it’s not surprising that many organizations are struggling to retain them. In 2020, the indispensable nature of their work was made painfully clear, and they went from overlooked background players to national heroes practically overnight—we doubled our tips, hung banners, and wrote songs in their honor. But by 2022, the proverbial parade had passed. Nurses, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers were left feeling a sense of whiplash.
With turnover rates of up to 500% per year among offline workers, organizations must make meaningful cultural changes in order to improve the employee experience for these workers. And the best place to start is by understanding who these employees are and what their high-level needs are.
Understanding the 80% experience
The vast majority (80%) of frontline, offline, and deskless workers lack access to the tools, technologies, and opportunities they need to advance in their careers and shape their workplace experiences. This group of employees represents the majority of the global workforce, and they operate in virtually every industry, from healthcare and hospitality to retail and real estate.
Because offline workers are removed from corporate culture, their voices are often missing from decision-making that affects them, and their efforts and ideas are less visible than those of their online, corporate counterparts. Combined, these issues result in low engagement and high turnover rates.
How do you engage offline workers who are part of the 80%?
Since lack of access to key resources, low levels of autonomy and voice, and a perceived lack of empathy are key factors in this crucial category’s engagement woes, it makes sense to focus your efforts in these areas.
Ensure that your offline, deskless, and frontline employees have regular access to technology and tools such as email, messaging apps, and online HR systems in their normal job duties. These workers may not depend on online tools to perform the basic functions of their jobs, but granting access to them can increase offline workers’ connection to leaders and team members as well as their visibility and participation in company culture.
In cases where granting access to certain technology tools isn’t practical, it’s important to ensure that offline workers still have easy access to the same information, communication, and resources as their corporate peers. Newsletters, bulletins, announcements, company intranets and wikis, and regularly scheduled emails can help accomplish this.
Enable voice and autonomy
The 80% desperately need greater voiceshare in their workplaces (increased access to tools and technology will help). When these employees are able to participate in discussions and share ideas in the same channels as their corporate peers, they’re better able to connect with decision-makers and influence company policies and operations.
Enabling autonomy can also impact employee engagement. When leaders give offline and frontline staff the flexibility to make decisions about their day-to-day work and the freedom to attend to their personal lives, outcomes for these employees improve significantly.
Before making changes to access or enablement, solicit input and feedback on policies, programs, and the day-to-day employee experiences of the 80%.
- ~2 in 5 employees in the 80% feel they’re viewed as inferior by office-based employees.
- 35% say senior leaders minimize or dismiss their ideas.
- 39% say their work is not valued as highly as office work.(—2024 Global Culture Report)
Actively listening to and gaining a clear understanding of their needs and challenges will help you take the right supportive action for your offline/deskless employees.
Building access, enablement, and empathy into your recognition program
One of the best ways to help frontline, deskless, and offline employees feel seen and valued is to ensure that the tools in your recognition program are easily accessible to them.
Retaining deskless employees with online recognition
If your recognition program uses online tools such as points or digital messaging, ensure that your deskless workers are aware of them and have ample opportunity to use them. Ask yourself:
- Are these workers able to receive same-day notifications when recognition happens?
- Are they able to give recognition to peers?
- Are they able to see other recognition moments happening throughout the company?
- Are leaders trained on how to ensure awareness and use of the tools?
- Are there regular internal communications around your recognition program?
It’s also important to ensure that the recognition and rewards given are meaningful to the 80% and not overly reflective of corporate office culture.
Retaining deskless employees with offline recognition
If you find that online recognition tools aren’t reaching deskless employees with the same ease and frequency that they’re reaching office employees, consider implementing more offline recognition solutions, such as:
- handing out physical reward code cards
- placing recognition kiosks in common areas
- broadcasting recognition in company newsletters or meetings
- sending swag boxes to employees’ homes
- holding in-person career anniversary celebrations
Learn how BlueScope created a combined virtual and physical recognition solution to recognize every employee for their hard work and resilience.
And don’t forget to incorporate feedback from the 80% into your recognition program. You’ll be giving these employees a voice in shaping their work environment and elevating their status within the company.
The business impact of recognizing offline workers
Connecting with frontline employees is more important than ever. When organizations recognize offline, deskless, and frontline employees, they not only show these employees how much they value their everyday efforts, important milestones, and above-and-beyond achievements, they can also improve outcomes that are linked to retention.
And it stands to reason that when your recognition program reflects the 3 things offline employees need most—access, enablement, and empathy—the outcomes for your organization and its employees will be even stronger.
Learn more about the 80% experience in our 2024 Global Culture Report.