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Empowering deskless workers with technology

The world of work has changed significantly since the Covid-19 pandemic – but it has only changed for a minority. Around 80% of workers are deskless and aren’t benefiting from the flexibility afforded to desk-based workers. Flip CEO Benedikt Ilg is seeking to change that
Benedikt Ilg Flip

How can businesses digitise the deskless workforce and give them the same flexibility as desk-based workers?

Desktop workers are on video calls throughout their working day and are very well connected to their corporate IT. When we consider deskless workers, they’ve never done a corporate video call nor written or received an official work email. They are simply not connected to the communications channels of their company. Therefore, deskless workers need a very simple tech solution which gives them a voice and provides them with the flexibility they deserve.

Flexibility for deskless workers could be as simple as providing digital shift plans so they don’t need to travel to their place of work to check their shift times. It could also mean allowing deskless and desktop employees to communicate with each other digitally and having the flexibility to swap shifts, or hand in absence requests in a digital form. These simple changes provide more flexibility to deskless employees and improve their work experiences.

What are the risks for businesses if they do not properly engage with their deskless workforce?

The risks are that you lose those people that are essential to the success of your business. A recent Boston Consulting Group study found that 49% of all deskless workers in the UK said they are open to new opportunities, and almost one in ten are actively looking for a new job. Having those employees at risk is a serious problem.

Employee retention in the frontline has become a real competitive advantage and unless employers adopt the right technologies, their workers will leave

If you think of a retail company, a logistics company or a manufacturing company, deskless employees are part of the whole value chain and, particularly in retail, they also own the entire customer journey. In many cases, the reason people want to leave is not because of compensation, it’s usually because they want to feel more valued, respected and appreciated.

Given the current scale of labour shortages, talented workers are becoming scarce. You can no longer replace employees quickly. The threat is not only the time and money it takes to replace deskless workers, but the strategic impact of losing top talent from the frontline, particularly their customer expertise and deep knowledge of important workflows.

Talent shortages are also impacting our wider society. We’ve already seen the consequences at airports, in restaurants and in healthcare. We need a fundamental change in mindset to provide desirable work environments for all employees. Employee retention in the frontline has become a real competitive advantage and unless employers adopt the right technologies, their workers will leave.

What can businesses do to better engage with deskless workers?

The first and most basic step is to communicate with your frontline workers, and it must be a two-way conversation, no longer just top-down. Digital tools like Flip enable employees to give feedback directly to management about how their company can be improved, and how those changes can be implemented faster. This drives value for the company and acknowledges the talent and contribution of these employees.

It is also the first time management and frontline employees in deskless working environments have been able to properly connect. Having closer connections with employees is more important than ever in times of economic crisis, as this reassures them and reduces uncertainty.

How should the future of work be designed to take into account both deskless and desk-based workers?

These cohorts have very different needs, and when we think about the future of work we believe it should be better work for all, regardless of whether they are a deskless worker or a desktop worker. The connection between technology and people is key. Digitisation can connect blue-collar and white-collar workers, young and old, and really bring those groups together.

With dedicated technology and digitalisation of the front line, we can make the lives of both deskless and desktop workers better. Employees are craving it too. If a young employee starts at McDonald’s today, they don’t understand why they need to look at a noticeboard at work to check their shifts. They simply don’t get it. They believe they should be able to check an app on their phone and instantly see their shifts.

What are some of the benefits of using tech for deskless workers?

Employees use technology in their private lives and they are demanding the same technology experience from their employers. With Flip, we bring digitalisation to these employees who have been underserved for way too long. When deskless workers are using technology like Flip, the whole workforce is instantly connected.

If you consider a manufacturing company like Bosch, workers traditionally felt they were just working in their specific factory. By connecting with workers in different locations, the company starts working together for the first time, employees can exchange ideas on how to solve problems and that knowledge is shared globally across the company.

How is Flip helping businesses transform the deskless worker experience?

Flip is building the operating system for the frontline through really owning and digitising all the touchpoints that a frontline worker has with their organisation. In the case of Bosch for instance, we offer their deskless workers one app to manage their payroll data, shift planning and task management.

The Flip platform allows companies to connect with the whole workforce in just two clicks. Everyone can use the application and can access it from their own private smartphones. With our app, the information doesn’t drip down through five layers of hierarchy. Instead, information can be sent directly from management to employees, and can be targeted to certain groups. As a result, deskless workers feel more included. Europart noticed a 25% increase in employer identification within the first 6 months of using the Flip App. By helping companies connect directly with their workforce, we help every single worker understand their role in the company’s strategy. This ultimately leads to more meaningful work and increases employee engagement and retention which is highly needed to solve HR’s biggest challenges of today.

For more information, please visit Flip App