Why customer-facing employees are key to digital transformation

Why customer-facing employees are key to digital transformation
Inside HR, partnering with Microsoft, invite you to join the conversation around empowering firstline workers at its upcoming event, Power to the People. You will be in the presence of some of Australia’s trailblazing HR professionals, offering up their knowledge on critical topics to assist your organisation and your firstline workers. With opportunities to discuss with and learn from industry leading speakers, Power to the People will ensure you return to your organisation with a forward-thinking view on HR processes. Register now

Edit: We’re out of space! Registrations have now closed due to the incredibly enthusiastic response we’ve received for this event. You can find out more about Microsoft 365 Enterprise for Firstline workers here, and sign up here to be the first to hear about Inside HR events in the future! 

Firstline Workers who interact with customers, patients and the public feel they are being left out of the organisational loop, according to a recent research report, which found that HR can play an important role in empowering firstline workers to become more engaged and productive.

Firstline workers are those who are “first in line” when dealing with a customer, such as bank tellers, store cashiers, firefighters, nurses, plumbers, sales assistants and waiters, and people in these roles tend to work with their hands or while standing, largely unaided by the technologies available to their colleagues behind desks.

Often hired on a contingent basis, many firstline employees do not even have a work email account or access to the office intranet – and as such, are often left behind in organisations’ efforts to empower their workforce through technology.

Advancing digital transformation
Many Australian enterprises are equipping their workforces with new digital productivity and collaboration tools, and this effort has focused mostly on knowledge employees who are physically and technologically connected and present within their organisations.

To illustrate, the research report, which was commissioned by Microsoft Australia, found that 77 per cent of employees (both customer-facing firstline workers and managers) believe that digital transformation and technology are significant issues for every organisation.

Furthermore, there is strong support for digital transformation and enterprise innovation – with 84 per cent of firstline workers agreeing that technology can help streamline processes, while 82 per cent say technology is key to improving efficiencies.

However, only 21 per cent of firstline workers are involved in digital transformation initiatives.

“They’ll use technology to collaborate, to exercise greater creative and strategic freedom, and to bring real value to the work they perform”

Firstline workers also feel excluded from digital transformation initiatives, with almost two-thirds saying they don’t yet have an active and participatory role in how these technologies are deployed.

Engaging firstline workers
Ian Heard, general manager, digital workplace & collaboration, Microsoft Australia, observed that as rote work is increasingly performed by machines, human interaction and knowledge-based expertise will become more important to firstline workers.

“They’ll use technology to collaborate, to exercise greater creative and strategic freedom, and to bring real value to the work they perform,” he said.

“By engaging firstline workers from the get-go, enterprises will be better positioned for success.”

The research, which took in almost 1400 employees and was conducted by research firm, YouGov, late last year, also found that 62 per cent of firstline workers want to work with intelligent automated systems.

They also recognise the benefits technology offers in terms of improving work-life balance, easing access to new skills and training, improving engagement levels and enabling collaboration with co-workers.

“Organisations that engage firstline workers in their digital transformation initiatives – ensuring that these programs are inclusive, simple and effective, supporting firstline creativity and teamwork while preserving enterprise and employee security – will be better placed to succeed with their strategic priorities,” said Heard.

“Firstline workers are the key to the next wave of successful digital transformation and sustained competitiveness – they must be part of the program.”

“By engaging firstline workers from the get-go, enterprises will be better positioned for success”

3 steps to improve firstline worker engagement
There are three important steps HR functions and organisations can take to bridge the gap that exists between frontline workers and the rest of the organisation.

  1. Automating human resources tasks. Today, for example, millions of Australians have a static view of their shifts. The simple act of applying for holidays or requesting a roster change requires people who are already busy to navigate an endless series of administrative hurdles.A better approach would be to equip firstline workers with the ability to automate routine HR tasks using a simple smartphone app. This would instantly eliminate non-productive conversations with managers and reduce paperwork.
  1. Keeping everyone in the loop. Organisations can further engage firstline workers by giving them real-time access to company information. In the digital-first era, shouting instructions across rooms or pinning notices on walls is no longer an adequate office communications strategy.Instead, the modern workplace bulletin board is virtual, not physical, providing access to announcements on an employee’s own device. This could include everything from staff newsletters to directives from the CEO – even assignment lists or the date of a worker’s next shift.
  1. Sharing best practices. Finally, a true digital collaboration solution must transcend any individual worksite. Firstline workers should be able to freely share best practices across factory floors and between franchises, and to link content with the outside world. This will enable innovations to flow from one store or service environment to the next.

Inside HR, partnering with Microsoft, invite you to join the conversation around empowering firstline workers at its upcoming event, Power to the People. You will be in the presence of some of Australia’s trailblazing HR professionals, offering up their knowledge on critical topics to assist your organisation and your firstline workers. With opportunities to discuss with and learn from industry leading speakers, Power to the People will ensure you return to your organisation with a forward-thinking view on HR processes. Register now.

Edit: We’re out of space! Registrations have now closed due to the incredibly enthusiastic response we’ve received for this event. You can find out more about Microsoft 365 Enterprise for Firstline workers here, and sign up here to be the first to hear about Inside HR events in the future!