HR and technology’s role in enriching employee experience on the frontline

By Gretchen Alarcon, - Employee experience


This blog is co-authored by ServiceNow’s VP and GM, Gretchen Alarcon and Fujitsu’s Rebecca Breakell.

Did you know frontline workers make up 80% of the world’s workforce?

For many, it’ll come as a surprise to learn that so many employees – some 2.7 billion of the global working population – don’t sit at a desk all day. But despite the sheer breadth of deskless workers, spanning essential industries such as healthcare and manufacturing, their wellbeing and the overall employee experience has been overlooked for years, compared to their desk-based counterparts.

In a recent podcast, I was joined by Rebecca Breakell, Culture Change Lead for Workforce Transformation at Fujitsu, to discuss the importance of HR in enriching the experiences of employees on the frontline. Our conversation uncovered some of the ways this can be achieved, with a focus on empowering HR leaders, truly understanding the needs of frontline workers, and listening and acting on their feedback to ensure they feel connected to the wider business.

In this article, however, I want to dive deeper into how technology enables this – which, to date, has largely been unavailable for the deskless. HR leaders are of course pivotal to bridging the divide between the frontline and head office, but having the right tools and yielding them in the right way can be a powerful means to make work (and life) more fulfilling for billions of people.


Understanding the disconnect between the frontline and head office

Before diving into the answers, it’s important to understand exactly why frontline workers are often overlooked when it comes to employee experience. One overarching reason is the sense of disconnect, as confirmed by the 76% of essential workers who say they don’t have the ability to provide feedback to their headquarters, according to Human Resource Executive.

Lack of technology, or rather a lack of access to it is a major factor behind this – because, typically, the frontline are in roles that require them to be present in front of people or machinery. If we think of nurses, retailers, or factory workers, they’re not expected to check emails or upkeep communications – they’re expected to carry out their day-to-day. So, the first step is accepting their roles are fundamentally different.

Secondly, it almost feels like there’s a reluctance to equip the frontline. I can only guess the reasons why – be it costs, common misconceptions that frontline workers aren’t tech savvy. But the bottom line remains: deskless employees have an increasing reliance on technology to do their jobs – as revealed by the 75% who spend most of their time at work using some form of technology – and should be equipped accordingly.

In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, this only became more prevalent as entire offices scrambled to adopt remote working and business leaders tried desperately to support employee wellbeing and virtual collaboration. But while us desk dwellers embraced communication tools, such as Microsoft Teams, with aplomb, a majority of the frontline were not provided with additional technology and tools to complete their jobs.


Bridging the gap and unlocking the (many) benefits of an empowered frontline

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this tech neglect is the obvious benefits it’s thwarting. For one, 80% of business leaders believe that empowering deskless employees is critical to long-term business strategy. But above all, with the wellbeing of workforces now sat atop almost every business agenda, addressing the frontline’s technology needs and ensuring they feel connected means initiatives truly extend across the entire business – and aren’t just a box ticking exercise.

In addition, you don’t need me to relay how a happier, more engaged workforce equals a more productive workforce. But this becomes even more pertinent when we consider how any boosts in performance can have a bigger impact on the frontline, given their proximity to customers or carrying out of essential services. Or to think of it another way, if an employee is disgruntled and feeling disconnected, would you want them dealing with customers or delivering said services?

Ultimately, an enriched employee experience breeds a better customer experience. So, how can HR leaders begin to achieve this? My conversation with Rebecca explores the many answers at a greater length, but one standout for me is the need for quick, convenient, consistent interactions. Because, if an employee is on the frontline, the reality is they don’t have time to visit HR or engage in back and forth email conversations.

Instead, they need the opportunity to reach out when it suits them, how it suits them – every time they need to contact managers, HR, or whoever it may be. This is where technology comes in. Or more specifically, mobile technology – such as Now Mobile – to reach the deskless on a device the vast majority will have, while granting easy, speedy access to the answers and information they need to make their day-to-days smoother and more stress-free.

Another important factor is the understanding that enriching experiences on the frontline is an evolving, learning process. It’s not enough to simply start contacting teams on their smartphones, organisations need to know what’s working and what isn’t working – and act accordingly. This is where AI can be applied, to intuitively recognise what answers or sections of an employee portal are the most engaged with, while also capturing any feedback and uncovering emerging trends / common complaints that can be automatically flagged to HR.

Last but by no means least, there’s also bonus points up for grabs if organisations can involve deskless workers to co-create any processes, systems or strategies. Doing so can help HR and business leaders to better understand the frontline’s needs and ensure they’re met, while promoting greater collaboration, identifying the most effective tech, and baking employee experience into every aspect of said processes, systems or strategies.


Enrich employee experiences with Fujitsu and ServiceNow

Chances are you’ve read the above and are wondering how to even begin. Sure, you know enriching frontline experiences is important, but the disconnect may already be so wide that it seems insurmountable to start bridging the divide.

This is where partnerships come into play. Fujitsu Work Life Shift and ServiceNow can help you to make the complex simple, for leaders and employees alike. In turn enabling you to identify the most effective technology and approaches to create the great experiences your employees and customers demand, while supporting you every step of the way.

Get in touch today to see how together, we can help you to enrich employee experiences and empower the frontline.

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