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Top 5 Trends Shaping the Future of Frontline Work

Frontline Trends Report
Beekeeper's guide to the trends shaping frontline work

Frontline industries have faced challenges like improving communication and adapting to new technology for decades. But the pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to adapt to a new future of frontline work. 

As we enter into a post-pandemic world, frontline organizations are looking back on lessons learned during the past year and how they can apply those lessons to better prepare for the future.

At Beekeeper’s Frontline Future 2021 virtual summit, one session dove deeper into how digitization is changing frontline work from the perspective of leaders in hospitality and manufacturing.  

The panelists for this session included:

  • Simon Mutlu – VP of North American Sales, Beekeeper
  • Jim Vinoski – Manufacturing Contributor, Forbes
  • Jeff David – President, Fitler Club; Principal, Jeff David Hospitality
  • Moderator: Sharla Walkey – Large Enterprise Sales, Beekeeper

Want more insight into the future of frontline work? Download our 2022 Frontline Trends Report!

Here are the top trends our panelists agreed are going to be the most influential in shaping the future of frontline work:

1. Re-Assessing Frontline Needs

Beekeeper's guide to assessing frontline needs

Early on in the pandemic, it became clear that frontline workers were essential to maintaining a functioning society. It also became clear that now more than ever, these workers deserve to be recognized and valued for their work. 

Now, companies are re-evaluating how they can boost operations by improving working conditions for frontline workers.

“Looking at the future of frontline work, it should be a reassessment of the people who do all that vital work for us. What are their needs? How do we make sure we’re valuing them as people and contributors and not taking them for granted? How do we give them a fresh start so they can get what they want out of their jobs?”
– Jim Vinoski, Manufacturing Contributor, Forbes

The pandemic has also raised public awareness around the breadth and diversity of the frontline workforce. Employees in procurement, sales, HR, warehouse management, and transport all encompass the frontline ecosystem.

2. Navigating an On-Demand Economy

During the pandemic, many frontline organizations had to reduce their workforce to the bare minimum in order to comply with new health and safety guidelines. Frontline operations had to continue but companies needed to ensure that workers could properly social distance while on the job. 

“It’s an on-demand economy and there’s a trend that less workers is better efficiency. Technology will supplement, never replace, so you’ll have to be light on your toes as far as the democratization and digitization of hospitality.”
– Jeff David, President, Fitler Club

Companies in hospitality, manufacturing and other frontline-majority industries found that a digitally enabled workforce could remain efficient even if it had been reduced in size. This coupled with the rise of the on-demand economy, means that frontline organizations are now seeking digital solutions that will help them maximize the efficiency of their workforce.

3. Automation

Robotics and automation are not new, particularly for industries like manufacturing. But with the acceleration of digitization and new technology, automation is becoming a top priority for frontline organizations.

“You’re never going to replace people. What you’re doing is augmenting people.”
– Jim Vinoski, Manufacturing Contributor, Forbes

Increased reliance on automated solutions might mean that some frontline jobs become obsolete. But automation can also help eliminate dangerous and monotonous tasks, making the frontline workplace safer, cleaner, and more attractive to work in.

We’ll likely see frontline organizations rely on automation to up-skill their existing workforce and re-define roles to focus on high-level strategy and decision making.

P.S Learn more about the future of automation in one of our other Frontline Future sessions.

4. Agility and Resilience

For the majority of frontline organizations, operations had to change during the pandemic. Adaptability trumped other indicators of success like consistency or even quality of service.

“Even the most stable of workforces have to turn into entrepreneurs and live in chaos. The ability to adapt is actually stronger than the ability to be consistent in your service.”
– Jeff David, President, Fitler Club

In an effort to become more adaptable, many frontline organizations sought out digital tools like the mobile platform Beekeeper to communicate with employees and schedule shifts. Now, as operations begin to return to normal, digital tools are enabling frontline supply chains to continue to be more agile and adaptable.

5. A New Approach to Hiring

Hiring and retaining employees is one of the biggest challenges that frontline organizations are facing post-pandemic. Employees now have more options in terms of where and how they want to work. Companies are finding that they need to create a compelling case for why employees should return to or apply for a position on the frontlines.

“The paradigm now is: how do employers have to adapt to the workforce?”
– Jeff David, President, Fitler Club

Frontline organizations may have asked for loyalty from their employees in the past. But as  many workers are choosing side gigs with flexible schedules and pay, organizations have to rethink their approach to hiring. That involves creating roles that offer the kinds of benefits and tools frontline workers are looking for in a post-pandemic world

Long-Term Predictions for the Future of Frontline Work 

The pandemic and post-pandemic recovery process has had a significant impact in changing the future of frontline work. Priorities have shifted, both for frontline workers and employers.

“I think every business needs to be either an early adopter or early majority because the late majority or laggers will wind down and be obsolete.”
– Jeff David, President, Fitler Club

When asked what frontline work will look like over the next 5-10 years, our panelists made three predictions:

  1. More emphasis on tech-based solutions
  2. New methods of hiring like mobile training and apprenticeships
  3. Automation for monotonous tasks