How a Strong Mobile Experience Supports Frontline Workers

New technologies and solutions are often limited to office workers, but that’s a mistake. Learn how mobile applications can play a major role in your deskless employees’ day-to-day work.

Companies across the globe are still adjusting to hybrid workplaces. With more employees working from home, many businesses have focused on digital solutions for remote work. However, it’s essential that businesses also empower their frontline employees with a strong mobile experience.

Improving the employee experience for deskless workers shouldn’t only be a point of focus for the retail and hospitality industries. According to research from consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, 88% of organizations employ frontline employees. Furthermore, 74% of business leaders say they consider the ability to work collaboratively with teammates crucial or very important. Despite this, almost one-third of the organizations surveyed do not consider their frontline workers digitally well equipped.

Without access to the appropriate digital tools, frontline workers risk feeling disconnected. Additionally, they’ll lack the ability to complete everyday or timely human resources (HR) tasks, especially those limited to web applications. Employees increasingly expect to be able to communicate digitally during breaks and on the go, as well as viewing payslips or checking their schedule.

Over the course of this article, we’ll first define the key terms. Then, we’ll explain why a positive mobile experience is so important for frontline workers. For companies to succeed in a digital marketplace, they have to provide a competitive digital employee experience. If deskless workers only have access to second-rate technologies or manual processes, businesses risk increased employee attrition and declining productivity.

Employees increasingly expect the same user experience from their work devices as their personal ones.

What Is a Frontline Worker?

Frontline workers, also referred to as deskless workers and essential workers, deal directly with customers, clients, or other end users. The nature of their work requires them to be present in person for at least 90% of their time. Frontline workers are also a core part of essential industries, as seen during the recent public health crisis. 

Deskless workers are the face of your organization, acting as the first touch point on the customer journey. As such, it’s important that your frontline employees represent your company brand as best as possible. A positive employee experience will typically be reflected in a positive customer experience too.

What Are the Different Types of Mobile Apps?

Employees increasingly expect the same user experience from their work devices as their personal ones. That’s why it’s critical that businesses understand the different types of apps that are available on mobile devices.

  • Native apps: These are mobile apps designed for a specific smart device. They’re developed for either Apple iOS or Android and written in the corresponding programming language. As a result, they’re generally fast and reliable, in addition to making full use of a device’s features.

  • Web apps: These are websites that have been optimized for mobile browsers. That means they are only accessible through a smart device’s browser app. While this reduces development costs, they lack bespoke features, interface options, and a consumer-grade look and feel.

  • Hybrid apps: These combine elements of native apps and web apps. Like a native app, hybrid apps are downloaded from a device’s app store and can access phone hardware. However, they are essentially web pages accessed within a mobile-app view. Though they are faster to develop than native apps, they carry similar limits to web apps.

How to Create a Strong Mobile User Experience

A 2021 survey of 1,500 workers found that 62% agreed mobile devices played a key role in helping them be productive. A high-quality mobile user experience can be all that separates a good business from a great one. Your mobile apps should enable manager-employee communication, monitor pay and benefits, and provide survey responses. 

That’s not to say desktop applications are no longer useful. Web apps are ideal for longer-form periodic assignments, whereas mobile apps should be focused on quicker everyday tasks. Here are three ways improving your mobile experience can empower your frontline workers.

Provide the Right Tools for the Job

According to BankMyCell, as of 2023 there are 6.92 billion smartphone users in the world. That translates to 86.29% of the global population. It’s safe to say that nearly every worker at your company will use a smart device in their personal lives. With digital natives making up an increasingly large percentage of the workforce, it’s important your business provides the right mobile tools.

This Citrix report of 2,000 digital natives states that only 33% of “born digital” workers (the first generation to grow up in an entirely digital world) currently use a digital workspace. That’s significantly less than the 67% who have a positive attitude toward the technology. Providing employees direct access to their everyday HR tasks, organizational charts, company announcements, and HR requests is a strong starting point.

Almost one-third of the organizations surveyed by Microsoft do not consider their frontline workers digitally well equipped.

Of course, deskless workers will need mobile smart devices in order to access the intranet. While it might not be practical to provide each employee with a smartphone, having communal tablets in the workplace can provide the same benefits. These tablets can make tasks such as completing surveys or time sheets far more streamlined and help improve employee engagement.

Meet Essential Workers Where They Work

The next evolution in HR service delivery hinges on empowering employees with self-service options. When you meet employees in their workflow, you decrease friction and increase autonomy. For workers who are on their feet and constantly on the move, that level of freedom is pivotal.

To truly meet employees where they work, you have to consider which of their tasks are most essential. If deskless employees have to schedule an in-person meeting for basic HR requests, you reduce their efficiency. Instead, enable them to perform the following actions directly from their mobile device:

  • Take paid time off
  • Access past and present payslips
  • Monitor benefits and health care
  • Carry out employee surveys
  • Complete learning courses
  • Onboard to a new job
  • Stay informed via company communications
  • Access policy information and connect with HR

Additionally, you should consider the needs of your frontline managers. While people leaders often have a desk, their working days will be dynamic due to the teams that they oversee. To better support managers, you should enable them to complete the following actions in your mobile app:

  • Conduct HR reviews 
  • Manage time and scheduling 
  • Track employees’ paid sick leave
  • Monitor essential HR approvals

Prioritize User-Friendly Interfaces 

According to research from Microsoft, 46% of frontline workers feel pressure to adapt to new technology. A further 55% say they’ve had to learn new tech on the fly, with no formal training or practice. Making sure that your mobile app interface is intuitive not only saves time, it reduces the risk of burnout.

A 2021 survey of 1,500 workers found that 62% agreed mobile devices played a key role in helping them be productive.

Consumer mobile apps, whether for grocery stores or independent financial services, can be useful reference points. Carry out research on consumer-facing mobile applications, either through the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. By replicating the experiences your employees are used to on their personal devices, you enable them to use your app instantly.

Usability will also be impacted by the quality of your app’s build, so make sure you carry out extensive QA testing. It’s worth noting that apps developed for a specific mobile operating system may encounter bugs when ported to other devices. If a mobile app doesn’t function properly or is slow to load, it can result in decreased engagement. A positive user experience results in positive employees. 

Supporting Deskless Workers Globally

Our global study of 3,000 frontline workers found that employee experience was a deciding factor in frontline worker retention. Despite 20% of frontline workers planning to leave their jobs within the next three to six months, 79% of workers who feel a sense of belonging at work have no plans to leave. A major part of that is enabling them with technology. 

Frontline workers across the world are asking more from their employers. They want access to HR services, to feel a sense of belonging, and to be supported by their managers. Our results showed that frontline staff are 1,900% more likely to say their employer is not open and transparent if they don’t have access to the right technologies to carry out their work. Those companies who step up and take action will reap the benefits.

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