top of page

Frontline Workers, Finally HR Techs: Connectivity, Equality, Flexibility!

1 out of 2 employees is a frontline worker


Half of the workforce consists of frontline workers. They are on the ground, serving customers, driving a portion of the economy, and are only now starting to access HR technologies tailored to their needs.


To meet their specific requirements, solutions known as "Frontline Employees" or "Frontline Workers Platforms" are emerging to simplify their daily lives, connect them with the rest of the company, and develop them to restore their pride, sense of belonging, and skills progression.


Moreover, these solutions can help traditional businesses innovate quickly with a large number of employees. These populations indicate they are ready to adopt these simple practices they use in their personal lives, which are still missing from their work life.


This new segment aims to reconcile management with floor employees. They are specifically designed for these employees, and we explain how.


Frontline Workers, Finally HR Techs: Connectivity, Equality, Flexibility!
Frontline Workers, Finally HR Techs: Connectivity, Equality, Flexibility!

Who are the frontline employees?


A frontline employee cannot work remotely.


This half of the workforce includes: Personal support workers, paramedics, cashiers, shelf stockers, butchers and bakers, waiters and waitresses, sales assistants, truck drivers, bus drivers, delivery personnel, warehouse staff, handlers, construction workers, builders, firefighters, police officers, chefs, kitchen helpers, agricultural workers, janitors, and maintenance workers.


Here's how the workforce in North America is distributed and evolving, according to our calculations:


Sector

Canada (thousands)

Change 2013-2023

United States (millions)

Change 2013-2023

Retail trade

2 444

+10.2%

15,9

+7.8%

Transportation and logistics

1 234

+15.4%

5,5

+12.9%

Construction

1 082

+7.1%

7,4

+9.5%

Health care

1 736

+18.6%

19,3

+16.2%

Restaurants, bars, hotels and casinos

1 203

+13.4%

15,1

+12.1%

Manufacturing

1 711

-1,90%

12,3

-2,70%

Personal services

1 345

+22.1%

8,7

+25.4%

Maintenance and cleaning

678

+18.3%

4,3

+19.8%

Total estimated for these sectors

9 400

+12.1%

75,5

+11.2%

Total employment

19 302

+10.8%

164,6

+9.7%

% of frontline employment

48,70%

-

46%




From "frontline" to the bottom of HR technology


These "deskless" workers occupy the jobs that struggle the most to find candidates. They also have the highest turnover rates.


Note: According to SHRM, replacing a frontline employee costs $1500 USD (direct cost only, lowest estimate).

If asked, they are not motivated. The current engagement level for these employees is at zero. They feel neglected. Digital transformation and the growth of modernity seem to bypass them.


Even these physically demanding field and action jobs require rapid and frequent training. These site and floor employees aspire to master their jobs, which they want to regard as professions, with know-how and technicality. Contrary to expectations, these jobs are also the least affected by artificial intelligence, unlike administrative and white-collar jobs.


This situation has created precedents and a break between employee populations and managers. While companies advocate for health, well-being, inclusion, equality, and equity, it is clear that frontline and field workers have to settle for little to work in modernity in 2024.

At best, they punch their hours on a time clock and then check their pay slip online.


In its 2024 report on the state of Frontline Employees, Beekeeper (a Frontline Workers solution) makes 6 observations:

  1. Workforce Attrition: The departure of frontline workers due to a lack of engagement, dissatisfaction, and demotivation is massive. This attrition has negative repercussions on operations, growth, and profitability across various sectors. Businesses thus lose billions of dollars in productivity and profitability by not effectively addressing the needs of frontline workers.

  2. Beyond Salary Considerations: While fair pay is essential, the report indicates that the high turnover rate among frontline workers goes beyond financial compensation. Factors such as work-life balance, job security, recognition, and the desire for a positive and stimulating work environment are crucial for retaining and motivating frontline staff.

  3. Increasing Stress among Frontline Workers: These workers face growing stress without apparent solutions. This stress is caused by staffing shortages, security issues, and the pressure to meet targets in a context of rising global inflation outpacing salary increases. These factors contribute to increasing dissatisfaction and disengagement among frontline workers.

  4. Security Needs: There's a significant gap between frontline workers' security concerns and the priority given to these issues by management. The report emphasizes the importance of addressing these concerns to create a supportive work environment where employees feel valued and safe.

  5. The Importance of a Supportive Work Environment: The findings suggest that frontline workers thrive in environments that offer friendly relationships, fun, and future possibilities. A positive corporate culture, combined with growth and development opportunities, is key to engaging and retaining frontline staff.

  6. Operational Issues and Productivity: The report identifies a disconnect between management's perception of frontline workers' needs and the actual challenges they face, such as understaffed shifts and poor communication. Addressing these operational issues is essential to improving productivity and job satisfaction among frontline workers.



New Technological Responses to Structural Labor Issues


As Canada and Quebec experience demographic shifts, movements of people are increasing with retirements, the great resignation, and professional reorientations in sectors that no longer attract.


All has been said about the labor shortage in these sectors... But let's quickly recap the list:

  • Quality of employment and non-incentive pay issues

  • Part-time issues, shift work, and "Home-Daycare-Work" distance

  • Rigidity of schedules and mechanical assignments

  • Communication challenges across multiple sites, teams, management, and shift work

  • Nearly non-existent or poorly conducted onboarding training

  • Illiteracy issues for dropout populations and some immigration sources

  • Lack of progression, career path, and internal mobility

  • Paper processes still in place 4 years after the health crisis or very administrative and discouraging email communication

  • Complexity and management cost of very part-time jobs for populations aged 14 to 20 and 65 and over, which are underutilized resources

 

1- Connectivity of Frontline Employees


"Frontline Workers" solutions are "mobile-first" solutions that propose revisiting mobile usages of manual and proximity service workers.


Overcoming the Lack of Corporate Email Barrier:

With mobile apps, just a phone number is enough, with double authentication if needed and facial recognition for security.


Leveraging the Smartphone as an Access Point to HR Services:

Nearly all manual and itinerant workers use their phones and a data plan. Access to the solution is secured with the phone number and double authentication. If they have an email address, they can also connect with a Single Sign-On (SSO) for secure access management.


Ending the Reign of Email Communications, Written, Long, and Top-Down or Paper Postings:

Too often, email is the dominant mode of communication (which no one reads) when a notification in the app or a text message achieves a significantly higher open rate in less than an hour. Better yet, video as a message brings life to proximity communications. Communities and chats have become the norm in everyday life. Why shouldn't they be at work too?


What innovative capabilities to look for in the HR TECH market?
  1. Mobile Application (Mobile First All-In-One)

  2. Internal Communication

    1. Text Messages (SMS)

    2. Video and/or Audio Messages

    3. Group chats and communities

  3. Team Visualization / Organizational Chart

  4. Profile and contact with colleagues and managers

  5. Online forms

  6. Online signature

 

2- Equality Between Frontline Employees and Others


Empowering Competence, Inclusion, and Information:

This is just as important for manual workers as for knowledge workers. Craftsmen are also professionals. Disseminating training, validating competencies, and recognizing certifications is a major source of mobilization and social mobility for companies to become places of training, qualification, personal development, and social promotion.


What innovative capabilities to look for in the HR TECH market?
  1. Portal, information, and business rules structured by entity, site, and job

  2. News feeds

  3. Administrative onboarding for new hires

  4. Social and professional onboarding

  5. Access to documents (rules and procedures, guides, task aids)

  6. Employee query management and online approval by managers

  7. Task management (Tasks Management) to structure work and ensure compliance:

  8. Task lists

    1. Procedure and task sequences

    2. On-site maintenance requests and procedures

    3. Health and safety procedures

    4. Standard Operating Procedures

    5. Site inspection and audit

    6. Work instructions

  9. Training paths for the job or task:

    1. Compliance training paths

    2. Micro-learning

    3. Video-Learning

    4. Learning badges and certificates

    5. Learning communities

    6. Q&A

  10. Quick surveys, idea participation

  11. Peer recognition, monetary and non-monetary rewards

  12. Analytics for managers

  13. Team skills matrix

 

3- Flexibility for Hourly and Frontline Workers  


Improving their work time management:

Allowing them more schedule flexibility and visibility on their options: creation of personalized and adaptable schedules according to the needs of different types of hourly employees (parents, single parents, students, retirees), the possibility of exchanging shifts between employees, access to schedules in real-time and the ability to modify them as needed, directly in the solution according to management rules (skills, rest, etc.).


Maximizing Income:

Offering them to indicate availability, to do overtime to increase their income, or even the possibility to apply for vacant shifts, to directly follow their income, bonuses, and commissions, and the visualization of earnings in real-time. Some solutions even offer on-demand pay (daily) to deposit the earned income on a bank card the same day. This capability is highly appreciated by frontline workers, especially temporary, casual, seasonal, and part-time employees, or those with double jobs (increasingly common).


What innovative capabilities to look for in the HR TECH market?
  1. Scheduling planning

  2. Real-time schedule sharing

  3. Time capture

  4. Shift exchange requests

  5. Leave requests

  6. Team leave and absence calendar

  7. SMS recall list

  8. Overtime/shift requests

 

A Continuum of Solutions, Each with Its Angle


The boundaries of "pure player" solutions are often variable, but here is a first list:  

Founded on Communications

Founded on Workforce Management

Founded on Learning

Employee Portal and Collaboration Angle

Time Management and Absences

Learning and Frontline Workers Enablement


Solutions Not to Confuse


Not all employee experience platforms are platforms for frontline employees:


Employee Experience Platforms (EEP) are not Frontline Employee Platforms:

Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Viva, WorkLeap, Blink, or Applaud, for example, require a corporate email. They are more suited to populations with an office and more sophisticated HR usages. The features are numerous and less targeted at the needs of field workers.


Multifunctional HR-Payroll-Time-Talent (HCM) solutions are not platforms for Frontline Employees:

These solutions offer a mobile component and an app, but most often require a corporate email, do not always offer Text Messages (SMS), and are denser, thus more complex. They also cost more than platforms for frontline employees.


Employee Portal (EPS) or Social Collaboration Platform solutions are not platforms for Frontline Employees:

Solutions like Simplrr, LumaApps, Unily, or Microsoft SharePoint as well as Workplace Meta mainly address communication, information, and collaboration needs and do not integrate the Time Management and Health-Safety component at the heart of the daily needs of frontline employees.


Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) are not all platforms for Frontline Employees:

They often require corporate emails to enroll the learner and track their learning. Moreover, they only meet the classic training needs for all types of employees, while on-the-job training (On The Job Training), micro-learning, Q&A, practical quizzes, learning refreshers, and task aids are much more suitable.



Innovating with Employees Thought to Be the Least Tech-Savvy


To the question, how many of your employees have a smartphone, the answer is now close to 100%. The context has changed. They are ready. It is therefore possible to innovate quickly where it has been painful for too long. And artificial intelligence is rapidly advancing for a large number of employees.


  1. If there are paper forms in your company, there is still room for digitization with employees' smartphones. Provide WIFI in your sites and stores.

  2. If you have difficulty deploying your on-the-job training programs and most of the training is done in a classroom, with long hours sitting in a room listening to theory, it's time to revise the pedagogy, overly long and boring content, and service delivery with mobile and partially automated onboarding.

  3. If HR Business Partners or Service Centers receive many calls and questions about internal policies, Chatbots with Knowledge Bases can change the dynamics and costs.

  4. If the quality of service is deteriorating, smart workforce planning and predictive scheduling based on demand can save you headaches, service disruptions, grievances, and sales losses.


 

To Go Further with Solutions for Frontline Employees


Consult our HR TECH directory – 470 solutions classified and analyzed by Nexa RH



  • If you are looking for more precise comparisons, write to us.

  • If you wish to explore the emerging capabilities of these solutions, write to us for a consultation.

  • Our analysis of the HR Tech industry covers 48 market segments.


This article is part of a broader reflection. 4 years earlier, my first article on the subject was published by CRHA and remains relevant today:  Vos employés de première ligne méritent ce qu’il y a de mieux (carrefourrh.org)

In an upcoming post dedicated to frontline employees, we will discuss the recruitment of hourly employees. A rapidly growing segment.




0 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page