Topic: Employee Recognition


Is Your Recognition Program Engaging Offline Employees?

Insights from

Updated on 

February 12, 2024

The effects of recognition on the employee experience and related business outcomes are undeniable. Highly integrated recognition increases odds of high employee engagement 9x, and in turn, high engagement is linked to:

  • 81% lower absenteeism
  • 64% fewer employee safety incidents
  • 58% fewer patient safety incidents in healthcare facilities
  • 41% fewer quality defects in manufacturing units
  • 18% higher productivity
  • 23% higher profitability
  • Higher earnings per share

Yet many companies recognize their employees disproportionately, catering their tools and programs to online, corporate employees while leaving others feeling unseen and underappreciated.

Offline, deskless, and frontline employees span a huge range of roles and industries, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, travel, and hospitality.

Who are offline employees?

Offline employees, as their name implies, spend the majority of their workdays offline. They may send a few emails or enter some data throughout the day, but their roles are largely independent of the internet.

This category often overlaps with deskless employees, who spend less than half of their workday at a desk, and frontline employees whose core responsibilities involve face-to-face interaction with customers. Many of these employees fall into a broader category we call “the 80%.”

Medical staff providing patient care.

Who are the 80%?

Offline, deskless, and frontline employees span a huge range of roles and industries, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, travel, and hospitality.

These folks spend the majority of their workdays on the floor or in the field, putting the final touches on your products or interacting face-to-face with the people you serve. They’re the nurses, mechanics, and warehouse workers that keep society running smoothly.

But being in the field or on the floor isn’t the only trait that defines this category. Its members also share a relative lack of autonomy, influence, and voice within the company, as well as a lack of access to the tools and technology that keep them connected at work and opportunities to advance in their careers.

This category of offline/deskless/frontline employees who lack access and enablement represents 80% of the global workforce.

A manufacturing team connecting during a team huddle.

Why is employee recognition for offline workers and the 80% important?

Employee recognition impacts offline workers in the same ways it impacts online workers—but considering the current state of the 80% experience, the degree of impact stands to be even greater.

Recognition shows members of the 80% that their efforts and ideas are valued.

Because they’re often physically and culturally removed from the hubs of corporate decision-making, these employees can feel invisible and disposable. Thoughtful recognition shows them that they matter—not just as producers, but as people.

Recognition helps inspire the 80% to innovate and produce great work.

When offline employees and other members of the 80% receive formal appreciation for going above and beyond, they’re more likely to push themselves to think creatively and solve problems.

A warehouse team celebrating a coworker’s accomplishments.

Employee recognition for offline workers fosters a sense of inclusion and belonging within the company.

When offline, deskless, and frontline employees are appreciated by peers and business leaders, especially those they might not often interact with directly, they feel more connected to their workplace community, their company, and its purpose.

A chart showing how recognition in the workplace increases odds of connection to purpose, accomplishment, and each other.

What’s the best way to appreciate offline workers?

There are several steps you can take to create a more inclusive employee recognition program. Making these adjustments will not only allow you to better reach the 80%, it’ll improve your program for everyone and strengthen your overall company culture.

  • Encourage and enable peer-to-peer recognition. When appreciation flows in all directions, it reaches more people, more often.
  • Use recognition tools that are available to offline workers. Think about what the typical day looks like for these employees, and how they’d be most inclined to give and receive recognition.
  • Broadcast recognition company wide so everyone sees the contributions of the 80%.
  • Offer recognition that actually matters to the employee. Allowing them to select a reward can help ensure they’re not receiving something geared toward the corporate cohort.
  • Don’t just appreciate them. Listen to them. This is the first and most important step to take when retooling your recognition program. Supportive action from leadership is a powerful driver of positive outcomes for these employees.
A team of mechanics at work.

Is your employee recognition program meeting the needs of your offline employees?

As you assess your recognition program, it might help to ask the following questions:

  1. Does your recognition platform have a mobile app or recognition kiosks?
  2. Are there offline ways to recognize and reward employees?
  3. Do your offline employees have the same opportunities to be recognized as their online, corporate peers?
  4. Are there offline ways to share recognition moments throughout the company?
  5. Have you asked your offline workers what kinds of recognition mean the most to them?
  6. Is recognition built on a foundation of empathy and real connection with leaders?
  7. Is your recognition program equipped to offer specific, personalized recognition?
  8. Is your recognition platform integrated with the tools and apps your offline workers interface with outside of work?
See how CIBC revamped its recognition program to recognize all employees more equitably.

Offline, in-the-field, desk-free employees are essential to organizations’ success, yet they consistently feel underappreciated for their important work. Reexamining your recognition program through the lens of the 80% can help companies close this gap, improving outcomes for these essential workers and for your organization.

Learn more about the workplace experiences of the offline population and the broader 80% in our 2024 Global Culture Report.

Construction and engineering teammates at work.
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