Empowering the Firstline Worker

A recent article by Forbes Insights, Firstline Workforce: Technology, Autonomy and Information Sharing Deliver Growth to Forward-Thinking Organizations, raises a pivotal question on digital transformation:  What’s the point if it never extends beyond the corporate office?

Your answer could explain why “84% of executives fear they will be encountering negative consequences as a result of failing to meet digital transformation objectives,” according to a survey by Forbes Insights and Microsoft.

The survey gathered feedback from 300 executives to explore how well organizations are bringing their digital transformations into the front line of service fire—where employees speak face-to-face with customers, see products in action, and deliver on corporate promises.

The verdict: Most companies haven’t allocated resources towards firstline workers as a part of their digital transformation strategies. But the ones that have are three times more likely to reap business growth, please customers, and retain employees.

Who Are Firstline Workers?

Also known as “frontline workers,” these customer-facing employees include retail associates, healthcare providers, housekeepers, maintenance workers, and other (often) deskless agents of service. Forbes Insights argues that they mark the threshold between true digital transformation and shallow change: Limiting technical investments to corporate staff, while ignoring firstliners, embodies the mindset of an outdated, perimeter-centric business model.

How Can You Empower Your Firstline Workers?

Here are some in-action examples from the article:

  • Retail workers staying informed of their schedules with access to online scheduling systems
  • Construction managers spotting project delays by accessing corporate project management systems
  • Production supervisors employing analytics to identify and correct anomalies
  • Hotel workers alerting customer service through online messaging when guests aren’t happy
  • Aircraft maintenance workers using online tools to forecast parts requirements, optimize inventory to sup­port service, model scenarios, and manage a part’s lifecycle from first installation to retirement
  • Field service workers tapping into remote expertise through immersive technologies and experiences, such as mixed reality, to address problems in the field

Each instance clearly shows how having access to resources via a smartphone or a tablet, for example, helps firstline workers engage in more effective communication with customers, solve problems on the spot, and use resources more efficiently.

So why haven’t many companies funneled digital investments where it really counts?

Challenges and Solutions

Although eight out of ten executives say they think it’s important to digitally empower firstline workers, many have run into funding, training, turnover, and other organizational roadblocks. Here are the top three challenges from the article as well as tips for overcoming them.

  1. Funding: Since firstline worker technology is a relatively new concept, champions may struggle to get funding. But outfitting the entire organization with a single, integrated, secure solution can help streamline costs.
  2. Training: With every new technology investment comes the need for training and user adoption efforts. Make sure to select a solution that easily fits within workers’ existing styles and skill sets to maximize value and minimize the learning curve.
  3. Turnover: The idea of investing in a group of high turnover workers may seem like a lost cause, but by empowering employees with more autonomy and the resources they need to be successful, turnover will decrease.

Looking Ahead

Organizations that have most successfully used digital transformation to their competitive advantage take a people-first, purpose-driven approach—and who better encapsulates the scope of your workforce and mission than firstline workers? Now’s the time to recognize and act on the vast opportunity that lives within your league of frontline employees.

Want to Learn More?

You can read the full article here, or if you’re ready to see how your organization can start empowering firstline workers with a secure, mobile platform, fill out the form below to schedule time with an expert.