*This article was published in CEOWorld Magazine 30 October 2022

Now, more than ever, employee engagement is critical for business success. But frontline workers are often left out of the conversation, which can have a significant ripple effect throughout an organization. To keep your deskless employees connected to and engaged with your company’s goals, follow these three steps.

Employee engagement is shrinking, according to Gallup’s latest poll. At the same time, active worker disengagement is inching upward. Businesses still have time to implement employee engagement strategies before the situation worsens. One population to focus on first is frontline workers.

Currently, frontline workers make up 80% of the global workforce. These are the deskless workers, the ones who carry out a lot of work, including customer-facing positions. Because they’re not tethered to traditional workspaces, they’re at greater risk of experiencing disengagement than other types of employees. Often, frontline workers have little to no access to the necessary technologies to receive regular corporate updates. This makes them the last to know about important leadership messages, vital health and safety information, crisis communications, and even routine updates.

Because they’re always one step removed from their employers and colleagues, deskless workers frequently feel like their input is unwanted. As a result, they can begin to disengage over time, not realizing how or why they can be part of their organizations’ missions, visions, and purposes. Therein lies the underpinning of much of the global disengagement we’re seeing today, as well as the significant ripple effect it’s having on businesses of all sizes and sectors.

What are some of the largest repercussions of rampant, unmanaged frontline employee disengagement? The first is a huge cost burden. Gallup estimates that poor disengagement can cost around $7 trillion annually. In the U.S. alone, disengagement can have significant fiscal ripple effects of up to $550 billion yearly.

Another challenge inherent in disengagement is an uptick in employee turnover. More than 63% of businesses report that, despite all the labor shortages, they’re having more trouble holding onto their workers than finding replacements for those who leave. Even if disengaged workers don’t tender their resignations, they can become sources of lowered productivity, decreased profitability, and increased absenteeism. After all, they’re not likely to carry out their roles to the highest standards if they aren’t engaged.

Businesses can’t afford to have frontline workforces that are unwilling to take responsibility, feel little connection to the employer brand or customer experience, and exhibit all the hallmarks of plummeting morale. By putting the right measures in place, organizations can avoid these problems and enjoy all the benefits of engaged deskless employees.

Just a few of the advantages of providing frontline workers with the right employee engagement solutions include greater ownership and pride, a desire to complete goals more effectively, and a high eagerness to collaborate and problem-solve in both individual and team environments.

What are some methods to help build a motivated, loyal, and engaged frontline staff that’s ready to learn and progress? Below are proven tactics to bump up deskless employee engagement:

  1. Keep frontline workers in the loop.
    With limited access to corporate-owned devices and no company email addresses, frontline workers tend to experience a communications gap that more traditional employees don’t. Businesses must provide specific solutions to frontline employees to bridge the gap and ensure they aren’t left out.One such solution is a digital employee engagement platform that employees can access through personal mobile devices. As long as deskless workers have phones, they can stay looped into whatever is happening.
  2. Provide the means for frontline workers to be heard.
    Frontline employees are the heartbeat of any business thanks to their “boots on the ground” locations and, in many cases, access to customers. Yet, their unique insights are often overlooked by employers. Those insights could significantly impact an organization’s operational, marketing, sales, and other strategies.Eliciting feedback from deskless employees through surveys and other means serves two important purposes. The first is that the employee feels heard and valued (both drivers of employee engagement). The second is that the company taps into concrete, data-driven information on everything from which frontline processes are working (and which aren’t) to what frontline workers need to improve their outcomes.
  3. Implement wellness programs that have positive effects on frontline workers.
    Investing in all employees is a must for any company that wants to achieve true employee engagement. Wellness initiatives go a long way to improving worker engagement numbers. Employees who are satisfied with their organizations’ benefits and wellness programs are almost two times more likely to stay with the company. And businesses with engaged employees outperform organizations with disengaged employees by a whopping 202%.Moreover, research shows that employees at companies with wellness programs embedded in their cultures are 67% more likely to be engaged in their employers’ missions and goals. Which wellness programs are most useful to activate more widespread staff health and well-being? Employee surveys and other input can help pinpoint specific recommendations to help frontline workers feel their best to bring 100% to their roles.

The employee engagement solutions that work for desk-bound workers — including remote workers — often don’t resonate with their deskless colleagues. Companies that desire to improve engagement across the board should be ready to implement strategies that serve the needs of their frontline employees.