Offline workers make up 80% of the global workforce, in industries as disparate as agriculture, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare. Employees in this category are sometimes referred to as deskless, unwired, or, in certain industries, as frontline or essential. These 2.7 billion people don’t sit at a desk or computer. But all of us—our food, education, supply chains, infrastructures, systems, and so much more—depend on these workers.
As work continues to rapidly evolve for the 20% of the workforce that sits behind desks, employers need to make sure they’re also innovating for the 80%. For example, when it comes to the employee experience, offline employees need recognition too. Meaningful moments of appreciation can go a long way to helping offline workers feel happy, engaged, and valued at work.
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges frontline workers face and how a recognition program can help.
Why offline workers feel disconnected and under-appreciated
Offline workers can sometimes feel isolated and separated from the very organizations that employ them. Many work long hours on their feet and on the go—this can make it hard to feel connected to leadership and the larger organization. Offline workers sometimes express concern that they are rarely recognized for their specific contributions and worry that if they don’t keep up, their employer will simply find someone else to do the job.
Feeling stretched thin
Offline employees desire more autonomy or flexibility in how they approach their jobs. They know the daily realities better than anyone, yet they don’t always get to contribute to decisions concerning how their jobs happen. All this can leave offline workers feeling disconnected and excluded. These negative feelings affect every aspect of their lives, causing stress that results in low productivity and poor retention.
So much falls through communication cracks for offline workers—84% don’t feel properly informed, and in turn they don’t feel valued. Many of them don’t feel like they understand their company’s strategy or even know what it is to begin with. They may not get face-to-face time with management or have a space to gather and take a break.
How recognition builds connection and community for offline employees
Despite these challenges, the good news is there are many opportunities to help offline workers feel supported, included, and appreciated.
Employee recognition can lead to a meaningful transformation for all employees. As Forbes points out, recognition will always matter. A stellar workplace community is built on integrated recognition that happens frequently for a variety of accomplishments, large and small.
Employee recognition boosts productivity, retention, and overall well-being. It significantly helps people feel valued and included in a workplace community—two things that offline workers desperately need.
Here is how you can incorporate recognition into the work culture of your offline employees.
Connect on an individual level
The quickest way to help someone feel seen and heard is to work shoulder to shoulder, to personally listen to their perspective, to see the world as they do on a daily basis. Check in with your offline teams frequently and consistently. Show them that you are paying attention to what they have to say.
Make sure that employees get face time with leaders in a meaningful way where they feel comfortable discussing challenges and ideas. A regular, open dialogue will dramatically improve work community.
Encourage peer to peer recognition
Create ways for workers to recognize each other in person, in the flow of their demanding jobs. This peer to peer recognition can include handwritten notes, thank you cards, or any other tokens of appreciation.
Employee recognition software, like Culture Cloud, provides an on-the-go mobile app experience for offline workers to recognize peers and leaders wherever they are.
NewYork-Presbyterian, a leading healthcare system, uses Mobile Appreciation Stations around their hospitals so nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers can create genuine and personal recognition experiences through notecards, points, and nominations through their recognition platform.
These powerful recognition experiences have led to employees feeling more valued and reduced attrition in NewYork-Presbyterian’s hospitals.
Show employees that you appreciate them
Swag bags and gift cards are another way to help employees feel seen and valued. Employees can mix and match gift cards for grocery stores, gas stations, and other necessities. This perfectly illustrates the old adage to meet people where they are.
BlueScope, an Australian steel manufacturer, wanted to thank all of its 8,000 employees after a challenging but successful year. O.C. Tanner worked with BlueScope to create a combined virtual and physical employee recognition experience for employees to select from a range of retail and lifestyle gift cards, or a charitable donation.
When people feel overwhelmed and life is more expensive, find ways to show your appreciation that also make their work and home lives easier.
Share personal gratitude
Make time to personally say thank you. Harvard Business Review reports that “a lack of close contact with people inhibits the formation of trust, connection, and mutual purpose—three ingredients of a healthy social system.” The world is difficult and more complex than ever—a sincere thank you remains a powerful way to connect with someone and help them feel valued.
“Recognition takes such little effort and creates instant joy.” — Samik Basu, CHRO, Hindalco
The employee recognition solution
Whether it’s a nurse facing a long shift, an oil rigger working through the night, or a truck driver far from home, the good news is that many offline workers love their jobs. They enjoy what they do for a living, and they don’t want a different career.
What they do want is better communication from leadership, a more equitable experience, and of course authentic appreciation for all their hard work. They want to feel fulfilled. In fact, research shows that personal fulfillment is the largest contributor to a positive employee experience—and meaningful recognition is a proven way to bolster fulfillment.
As organizations focus on solutions to help offline workers feel heard and valued, they will see improvements across the board in productivity, retention, and community. More than that, they will help make life better for millions of employees in the 80% around the world.