The Rise of the Frontline Worker: Exploring the Future of the Frontline

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Welcome to the fifth and final installment of our blog series where we unpack select themes from each chapter of my new book, “The Rise of the Frontline Worker.”

As poet Mark Strand once said, “The future is always beginning now.” If that’s the case, now is the time for organizations to start recognizing the enormous potential of their frontline workforces and improve operations company-wide.

It’s one thing to say “Frontline workers are the future,” but it’s another proposition entirely to provide them with adequate support. When this doesn’t occur, employee morale suffers and ultimately workplace performance becomes stunted. The 2020 pandemic has laid bare the need to support those on the frontlines and the best way to do that is through frontline digital transformation. 

6 Key Benefits of Frontline Digitalization

As companies have started to realize their growing contribution towards business, one of their major agendas will be to drive digital transformation for the frontline workers.

A 2019 New York Times article put it plainly when it observed that there is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity to get more personal technology “in the hands of workers who don’t sit behind a desk.” 

Chief among these efforts is to “integrate the tools into the corporate life of a company, like training, scheduling, and regular communications.” To that end, the first step in frontline digitalization revolves around communication, connection, and engagement. 

Improving internal communication can significantly improve the quality of life for frontline workers.

Here are the six key benefits:

1. Greater productivity
2. Health and safety
3. Labor law compliance
4. Data privacy and security
5. Happier employees and improved retention
6. A better customer experience

Four Barriers to User Adoption

Despite these obvious benefits, there are occasions when a digital technology or tool fails to be embraced by the organization. The reasons why, however, aren’t that mysterious — they tend to cluster around four common barriers that impede user adoption:

1. Digitalization Cannot Advance Beyond the First Stage

For companies that have never used a frontline-friendly collaboration tool, stage one—reach and connect—makes a dramatic improvement. But without the involvement of IT and/or Operations functions, digitalization projects can slow down, and the longer a project gets held up, the harder it can be to maintain momentum and become fully transformative. To unlock the tool’s full potential and progress beyond the reach and connect stage, IT and Operations should be involved as early in the process as possible.

2. Choosing the Wrong Technology

Choosing technology for a project as transformative and holistic as frontline digitalization is an onerous task. Do you choose technologies to address each specific need or use a broader approach that requires an integrated platform? For organizations keen to deliver both ROI and TCO, the latter option—a platform approach that integrates well with the frontline IT landscape—is generally your best bet.

3. Using a Desktop Approach for the Frontline 

When an organization applies the same mentality to its non-desk workers as it does to its desk-based workers, it can hinder progress on the frontline digitalization journey. IT decision-makers need to understand the impact of their choices on wider business objectives while being cognizant of the accessibility needs of the frontline workforce. 

4. Low User Adoption 

The final common barrier that can slow the progress of frontline digitalization projects is the age-old problem of low user adoption rates. This lack of motivation means users aren’t harnessing the potential of a platform’s advanced features and are only scratching the surface of its capabilities. Without users, employees will likely abandon a platform over time. 

To overcome these barriers, there are three distinct ways an organization can foster interest and encourage employees to adopt a new platform.

  1. Communicate Operational Value: If your frontline platform provides operational value to its users it’s more readily adopted and more frequently used. 
  1. Leadership Participation: Without the presence of management and senior leadership in the app, the interaction is only one way, which leads to reduced frontline engagement. 
  1. Identify Internal Champions: Identify those frontline workers who are interested in using technology who will actively boost user numbers by encouraging their colleagues to use the tool. 

Recognition for Frontline Workers Is Long Overdue

Frontline workers are finally being recognized as the glue that holds society together. It’s no exaggeration to say that without the frontline workforce, life, as we know it, would not function. They have been legally named “essential” for a reason.

If there is a bright spot to all that we’ve endured during the pandemic, it’s that organizations have been forced to recognize the importance of frontline workers. The pandemic has accelerated trends that had been building for several years. 

During the pandemic, frontline workers put themselves at risk to maintain a semblance of normalcy for everyone else. In light of this, employers should focus on keeping them well-informed, provide everything possible to keep them safe and healthy, and ensure that they feel valued for what they do.

My new book, “The Rise of the Frontline Worker” explores the critical significance of the modern-day frontline workforce, and unpacks why these essential employees will play a crucial role in the global economic recovery process. Get it now at Amazon!

To learn more about how digitalization can empower your frontline workers, submit the form to download our Frontline Worker Technology Report.

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