Oddly, firstline workers are one of the most valuable, and underrepresented groups in the modern workplace. Despite being the backbone of some of the world’s largest industries and making up just under a third of the population of the entire world.
If they’re so important, why are they so underrepresented? As workers that are often far removed from the heart of the business – where the board and the information workers usually exist – they are both hard to know, and easy to ignore. Because of that, their relationship with the businesses in which they work is often very transactional. They are treated, and often feel like, a commodity, with low levels of engagement, poor productivity and even worse retention. Speaking to those across a range of major firstline-intensive sectors, an annual
employee turnover of 30% and higher is not uncommon.
At our event last week:
Fall in love with firsttline workers, we discovered just how different things could be.
Ruchika Raj from Microsoft kicked us off with some examples of the value firsttline workers have added in the past when properly enabled (no less than the inception of Cheetos);
James Mace and
Charlene Cottle from WM Reply explained how
Yammer work hand in hand to bring firstline workers right into the fold; and Microsoft’s
David Trevallion explained the unique value that
StaffHub adds to the Office 365 blend for those at the coalface.
After the talks, we were joined for a panel discussion by
David Callaghan, lead business change manager at Whitbread,
Vikki Wildsmith, infrastructure deliver manager at Kingfisher and
Richard Ellis, formerly of Yammer, currently of Microsoft.
Here’s a summary of what we learned, in the form of ten top tips for building the best relationship with your firstline workers:
Connecting people across a diverse and geographically spread out organisation is something that must be based on communication tools. But even Teams and Yammer, some of the best corporate communication tools in the world, are useless if people don’t have ready access to them. That means putting mobiles in the hands of firstline workers, or having a tried and tested
BYOD policy that works for the people on the ground.
Sponsors and stakeholders – the key people in the business who can set an example to others and drive participation – are essential. They need to be not only invested in what you’re doing, but invested very visibly.
For individual managers to get behind collaborative communications technology, they need to see how it will support the issues they face. The tools are great, and have answers for most of the common challenges, so that’s not hard, but taking the time to show them why is essential. If they aren’t on board their teams won’t be either.
The needs of the audience and their working styles vary massively across the wide range of firstline workers – a chef will have very different wants and needs to a field sales executive. To find a solution that works for each of them, their shift patterns, breaks, desk time and access to technology will all need to be carefully considered. This is where apps like StaffHub can integrate well, to help bring to life the workdays of all employees.
It almost goes without saying that organisations need to make it really clear that they are solving the actual challenges firstline workers face. But they also need to constantly drive that message home, for example by quickly getting the best examples out far and wide, and encouraging those on the firstline to do the same.
Talk about the issues. Technological change implies a complexity and a threat, while giving employees no reason to care. The issues are what matter.
People need to understand it from the off, otherwise there’s a good chance they won’t get round to it – they won’t self educate. Training needs to be practical, direct and centred firmly around the issues.
It’s all about their challenges, and their needs so why not take it to them and show them it in the environment in which they’ll be using it?
It has to be in language and on topics that people across the front lines will get. Often, what they’ll be expecting is a semi-adapted take on a campaign that ran last month for information workers in the head office. Giving them something that clearly has them in mind is essential.
Recognising champions isn’t just about the comms teams and the senior team who lead by example. It’s about following what’s going on at each level to encourage and showcase the individual managers and firstline workers who quickly embrace and promote the efforts to bring them into the fold.
Often, Teams, Yammer and the myriad apps that sit around them are intuitive and inherently useful enough that workforces pick them up and share them organically. But firstline workers don’t have the time and the access to guarantee that kind of early doors engagement. Businesses have to be the catalyst, to drive and support the best kind of change, right from the start.