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Why Technology is the Future for the Frontline Workforce

Why Technology is the Future for the Frontline Workforce

The last several years have given us an even greater appreciation for the critical role of the frontline worker. Frontline workers today—representing approximately 2.7 billion people and nearly 80 percent of the global workforce1—are employees who must be physically present at a location to perform their job. Generally, they are hourly or shift workers in industries such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality and foodservice. They often directly interact with customers or the public, do not have a dedicated desk and work in a mobile fashion, which can present physical challenges.2 Some of the largest employers of frontline workers include well-known names like Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, Costco and Target.3

Frontline worker priorities and challenges

A number of recent surveys have been conducted on this key group of workers to better understand their motivations, biggest challenges and drivers of retention. In 2022, the global consulting firm McKinsey surveyed more than 2,100 frontline employees to gain insight into the factors most influencing their job satisfaction and career advancement decisions. Microsoft also surveyed more than 9,600 frontline workers and their supervisors in 2021 in industries like automotive, healthcare and manufacturing.

Coming out of this research is a better understanding of the current state of frontline work, what these workers want (versus what their employers assume they want) and what improvements can lead to reduced stress and better job satisfaction. For example, McKinsey’s survey found that pay, job growth prospects and learning opportunities ranked in the top three priorities for frontline workers in areas like retail and customer service.4 More than 70 percent of surveyed frontline workers applied for career advancement opportunities with their current employer or a different company, demonstrating this group’s strong interest in upward mobility.5  

In terms of the top challenges and stressors for frontline workers, the 2022 Work Trend Index Special Report found that one in three frontline workers feel they do not have the right technology tools to do their job effectively (two out of every five workers when looking at only non-management employees). To surveyed frontline employees, having improved technology on the job makes the top three in the list of factors that could reduce work-related stress.6

Technology investment for the front line

Frontline workers, who often represent the final stage of the holistic customer journey, are expected to be a large focus of technology investment in the next several years, catching up to office workers. Market research firm Gartner predicts that frontline workers will benefit from 75 percent of new “mobile initiative investments.”7 Companies are also increasingly investing in robotics and artificial intelligence; these technologies will help automate tedious or physically burdensome processes and equip workers with the information they need to make quicker and better decisions, ultimately making frontline work more appealing for many people.8

Mobile computers such as Honeywell’s CT30 XP, CT45 XP and ScanPal™ EDA52, are an example of technology that improves communication for frontline workers across the supply chain. Resembling consumer smart phones but purpose-built for the needs of healthcare, retail, transportation and logistics, distribution center and warehouse workers, these technologies boost team collaboration and make workers’ jobs easier, ultimately resulting in better customer experiences. For example, a retail associate in one section of a store can easily scan products to look up inventory availability and communicate with other associates across the floor to answer customer questions.

Earlier this fall, Honeywell announced a new strategic partnership with Microsoft to further enhance the digital tools the company offers to mobile frontline workers. By downloading the Microsoft Teams Walkie Talkie application on a Honeywell mobile computer, workers can turn their mobility devices into a walkie talkie using a “push-to-talk” button. This combined solution enables instant voice communication over the cloud, allowing retail employees to better serve customers or healthcare workers to better care for patients.

Integrated solutions like this9 help solve many common problems frontline workers face, such as needing to carry multiple different devices for different purposes or using a personal phone, which may create security risks and unnecessary distractions. Honeywell and Microsoft’s solution allows frontline workers to be more agile and productive through “anytime, anywhere” communication, supported by Wi-Fi and cellular networks. 

To learn more about Honeywell’s suite of products for frontline workers, visit our website

Sources

1 – www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/01/12/microsoft-teams-frontline-essential-workers-workplace-tech-collaboration

2 – Frost and Sullivan: As the Workplace Changes, Don’t Leave Frontline Workers Behind. https://news.microsoft.com/wp-content/uploads/prod/sites/625/2022/01/FS_VIS-Microsoft_Frontline_09282021_KL-v2-ACCESSIBLE.pdf

3 and 8 – www.accenture.com/us-en/blogs/business-functions-blog/attract-frontline-workers

4 and 5 - www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/bridging-the-advancement-gap-what-frontline-employees-want-and-what-employers-think-they-want  

6 - www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/technology-unlocks-a-new-future-for-frontline

7 - www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/01/12/microsoft-teams-frontline-essential-workers-workplace-tech-collaboration

9 - https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-365-blog/transform-your-frontline-workforce-with-a-single-secure-platform/ba-p/3640406