A significant portion of the workforce often goes unnoticed and underappreciated. These include frontline workers across various industries – construction, healthcare, utilities, and transportation—who encounter unique challenges and frequently feel marginalised within their organisations. 

Often referred to as the “forgotten 80%,” (O.C Tanner) these employees are the foundation of almost every industry. Despite the critical role they play in the success of their organisations, these core workers are largely left out of technological innovation planning. A Forrester study found that only 23% of frontline workers say they have access to the technology they need to be productive. Why is this, and is this something that can be prevented?

The dilemma

Many solutions aimed at enhancing agility and providing secure access and collaboration tools for office workers often overlook the needs of the rest of the workforce, not being made accessible to frontline workers at all. As a result, these workers are lacking regular access to business technology, communication tools, and online HR systems, stumping productivity. This oversight frequently leads to a disconnect between the corporate vision and frontline outcomes, ultimately limiting the collaborative capabilities of frontliners.

This lack of support for frontline workers is also a leading cause for a significant portion of the 80% feeling invisible and undervalued within their organisations:

  • Perceived Expendability: Half believe they are treated as expendable.
  • Lack of Recognition: Less than half receive recognition, and only 26% found it meaningful.

Implementing new technology

A more inclusive and comprehensive approach can not only prevent technological disparity but also unlock new opportunities for cost optimisation, productivity improvements, and overall profitability. To achieve this, managers must first understand the roles and capabilities of their workers before designing, prototyping, testing, and deploying solutions.

To succeed in implementing new technologies, organisations need to address the following questions:

  • Are frontline workers comfortable with the new solution?
  • How much training is required to adapt to the new technology?
  • Do frontline employees understand the new app’s language or user interface?

Actions for change

Bridging the digital divide consists of more than simply implementing the technology–leaders also need to understand how the new technology can be optimised to improve productivity and tackle their perceived expendability. Businesses must use this technology consistently as a part of their leadership strategy, in line with modern leadership techniques, to improve the employee experience of frontliners. Some actions that can be taken include:

  1. Meaningful recognition and appreciation

Utilise recognition tools accessible to the 80%. Educate and upskill leaders on creating meaningful and supportive recognition experiences. Leaders should better understand their team members’ contributions and recognise them in ways that are meaningful to them.

  1. Enabling autonomy

Provide frontline workers with the autonomy they need to improve their work processes, connect with the organisation and perform their jobs effectively.  Essentially, allow employees to manage themselves, enhancing trust and squashing any need for micromanaging.

  1. Understand your employees

Leaders must understand what matters to their employees at work and what causes stress in their lives. Regular online (or in person) one-to-one meetings can help address individual and collective issues and provide career development guidance and appreciation opportunities.

HR technology for the future of work

mywage is pioneering a transformative shift in the way businesses empower their shift workers. By providing employees with their very own user-friendly portal to access their payroll and HR data, businesses and staff alike are given complete control and real time visibility over the necessary information, empowering your workforce with total transparency and improving productivity.

With our HR technology, organisations are given the tools to provide their employees with appraisals and disciplinaries, accessible through the employee portal. Staff can also access their schedules, request time off, and track their time and attendance with a simple “clock in” and “clock out” system, where detailed monthly summarising total days worked, hours, and overtime, promoting complete transparency and autonomy within the workforce.

Recognising and valuing the essential contributions of frontline workers is a strategic necessity for modern organisations. Embracing modern leadership practices that focus on understanding and addressing the unique challenges of frontline employees and promoting autonomy fosters a supportive and engaging work environment, where ultimately, bridging this gap enhances operational efficiency and cultivates a culture of respect and appreciation.