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Frontline Essentials: Non-Desk Workforce Definition and Development

Frontline Trends Report
Workforce Definition with Beekeeper

Fun fact: 80% of the global workforce is non-desk employees, and when it comes to workforce development, these essential workers are often left out of the loop.

That means the majority of the world’s workforce is on the front line keeping production, customers, and businesses moving forward. All without access to a company computer.

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Desk or no desk, these essential employees are imperative to business success. So, it’s important for companies to understand their unique needs – especially when it comes to workforce development.

So, let’s get started! Up first: workforce definition.

What Do We Mean When We Say Workforce?

The word ‘workforce’ tends to be vague and can take multiple perspectives. For example, it can mean individual groups within a company or the broader workforce that is a central pillar of modern society.

Here is our workforce definition:

A workforce consists of individuals that work in an industry, sector, business, or country.

When we talk about the workforce, we mean employees that are supporting an organization’s missions and objectives. And, within the workforce, there are many different types of employee groups.

Two important workforce groups are:

  1. Non-desk, or deskless, employees
  2. Desk-based employees
defining workforce with Beekeeper

Desk-based workers are employees who work behind their desks or computer all day. That means they likely use their laptop or desktop for all business-related communications, such as accessing email, company news, and documents.

Deskless employees are typically those on the front line. Rather than being behind their computers, they are working directly with customers, guests, or patients. Or, they are on the manufacturing floor making sure everything is operating like a well-oiled machine.

Examples Of Non-Desk Workforces

Beekeeper's examples of non-desk workforces

Deskless workforces truly are all around us. Here are some examples of frontline, essential employees that are around us.

Grocery Store Cashier/Stocker

When you get in the grocery store line, you might be making sure you got all the right ingredients for your recipes. Or, maybe you’re wondering if you should have gotten the alfredo sauce instead of the tomato.

What you’re likely not thinking about is that the cashier is a frontline worker – but they are. Instead of working in offices, they are facing customers day-in and day-out.

Hotel Housekeeper

Housekeepers are crucial to ensuring a valuable, unique, and safe guest experience. They are usually on-the-go moving from one room to the next.

As a result, housekeepers’ access points to company information are often either through break room posters, daily stand-up meetings, or their mobile devices.

Retail Sales Associate

In the retail environment, sales associates are always busy. Whether they’re tending to customer needs organizing the stock room, or setting up displays, they rarely have access to workplace computers, let alone the time to stop and use them.

Nurse Practitioner

Health care workers – like nurse practitioners – are essential frontline employees. We’ve known this long before COVID-19, which spotlighted the workforce’s need for better mobile tools.

Nurse practitioners move from patient to patient to provide the best care possible. If you ever do see a nurse practitioner behind the desk, they’re likely updating patient records or taking a much-deserved break from constantly being on their feet.

What Is Workforce Development?

Because frontline employees are constantly on the move, their needs are much different than their office-based counterparts. Even when it comes to training and development.

Workforce development usually gets lumped in with on-the-job training – but there is a difference.

Workforce development from the organizational-centric perspective is defined as training programs that provide existing and potential workers with the skills to complete tasks needed by employers to let the organizations stay competitive in a global marketplace.

Ultimately, workforce development is a longer-term approach to educate, expand, and improve performance to help the company stay competitive. Whereas job training is specific hands-on training given to an employee to improve their ability to perform a particular job function.

Office-based employees usually have multiple options to engage in workforce development, such as in-person training, off-site conferences, or remote webinars. For non-desk employees, development and training materials have to be easy to access through mobile-first platforms.

frontline workforce development with Beekeeper

Given that the overwhelming majority of the workforce is deskless, organizations need a way to reach, connect, engage, and empower their essential employees. Which is why many organizations are shifting to centralized digital workspaces – fast.  

Here are four digital workspace trends driving non-desk workforce development:

1. Demand for centralized platforms. With today’s tech-savvy marketplace, it’s no wonder mobile workplace apps boomed overnight. While the variety of tools is useful, frontliners need a go-to platform to access their essential apps all in one place.  
2. Platform extensibility is key. When it comes to digital workspaces, extensible means customizable. Businesses that want to remain agile, no matter the situation, should prioritize extensibility.  
3. Save time with workflow automation. Don’t let new tools slow you down. Using automation, like chatbots and integrations, helps frontline workers save valuable time and resources.
4. Spotlight on employee engagement. Mobile collaboration platforms like Beekeeper help employees across all levels work together. Elevated employee engagement and empowerment boost overall productivity, loyalty, and motivation.

In adopting centralized and customizable platforms, businesses are empowering, prioritizing, and developing their frontline-facing workforce. And, who doesn’t want that?