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12 Min Read

Six research-backed tech strategies to elevate frontline productivity

December 7, 2023 / Unisys Corporation

Short on time? Read the key takeaways:

  • Organizations should invest in and optimize frontline worker-specific technologies to expand functionalities beyond task management, such as issue reporting and documentation, for increased productivity.
  • Accessibility to technology for frontline workers is crucial; minimizing time spent locating and using devices can significantly save time over a shift, enhancing efficiency.
  • A direct correlation exists between adopting frontline worker-specific technologies and improved customer satisfaction, with faster response times to queries leading to higher CSAT scores.
  • Leveraging frontline worker-specific technologies for employee engagement and training can enhance job satisfaction and align skills with industry needs while facilitating direct communication with leadership.

Frontline worker-specific technologies are at the forefront of innovation, transforming the terrain of productivity with significant impact. As businesses rapidly evolve, the focus sharpens on the critical role of empowering these essential team members.

Engaging insights from a study conducted with ISG, which surveyed 160 industry leaders and line-of-business managers across sectors in Germany, France, the U.S., and the U.K., reflect the emerging trends and demands. These professionals, responsible for frontline oversight in fields from manufacturing to healthcare, offer a rich perspective on integrating technology into daily operations.

Entitled Frontline in focus: Amplify frontline worker output with tailored technology, the research reveals critical insights into how organizations can boost workforce efficiency and job satisfaction. From addressing accessibility gaps to recognizing the impact on customer satisfaction, here are the report’s six leading insights and actionable steps for transforming your enterprise technology approach to increase frontline workforce productivity and improve business outcomes.

1. Invest in frontline worker-specific technologies — AND fully optimize them.

Key insight: Most organizations (71%) surveyed across the four geographies and industries currently leverage frontline worker-specific technologies. But of those respondents, nearly half use the technologies only to support day-to-day operations, such as shift and task management, rather than expanding the scope to support additional functionalities such as issue reporting and documentation (18%), health and safety (16%), payroll (10%) and onboarding and training (9%).

Organizations equipping their frontline workers with issue reporting and documentation software on their devices find that issues are communicated faster than companies without such tools, leading to increased productivity and faster problem resolution. Of the surveyed companies, those in the manufacturing industry are more likely to use frontline worker-specific technologies for issue reporting and documentation (22%). 

Next steps: Identify and invest in technologies that cater specifically to the needs of your frontline workers that can improve their efficiency and productivity, such as tools for communication, task management and customer interaction. Look beyond the basic functionalities of shift planning and task management to streamline operational workflows and boost frontline productivity.

2. Address accessibility gaps.

Key insight:  About 95% of survey respondents report that their frontline workers need to access a device at least once every four hours, with most companies offering shared and non-portable devices. Of that group, 62% say their frontline workers require access to a device at least once every two hours, and 21% report a frequency of at least once per hour.

However, 42% also say that although a device may be available within walking distance, it can take their frontline workers up to 10 minutes to locate it, log in, complete their task and return to the field. This extra time can quickly add up over an eight-hour shift. A healthcare worker, for example, may lose more than an hour each day that otherwise could be spent caring for patients.

Next steps: Make sure the technology for frontline workers is readily accessible and offers a straightforward user experience. Replace cumbersome, fixed devices with portable options that streamline issue resolution and enable easy and secure access. For stationary devices like shared kiosks, enhance accessibility by increasing the number of units and placing them in close proximity throughout the facility.

3. Recognize the direct link between frontline worker experience and customer satisfaction.

Key insight: Integrating frontline worker-specific technologies can lead to faster resolution of customer queries. This fact is not surprising when you consider that organizations with these technologies report a 10% increase in “extreme agility” of their frontline workforce. As a result, 31% of these organizations say their workforces can react to customer queries and complaints in less than 24 hours, compared to only 23% of companies without specialized technologies.

The result? Companies whose frontline workers can respond to customer issues within 24 hours see a significant increase in customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings. About 56% received a CSAT score of “excellent,” while only 19% of companies without frontline worker-specific technologies reported an “excellent” CSAT rating.

Next steps: Define clear metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the impact of frontline worker-specific technologies and training programs. Establishing feedback loops with frontline workers and customers helps leadership understand the evolving needs of both groups and tailor workplace technology solutions to meet those needs. In addition to monitoring CSAT scores, review other KPIs, such as productivity and employee retention trends, and refine your approach as needed.

4. Optimize employee engagement initiatives.

Key insight: About 70% of organizations surveyed offer workshops, team events, community boards and other initiatives to drive frontline engagement and enhance job satisfaction. However, those with frontline worker-specific technologies have a slight edge over companies without this technology. About 29% of organizations with frontline worker-specific technology offer daily or weekly engagement opportunities compared to 23% of organizations without.

Yet, most organizations have yet to fully utilize this technology to enable direct communication or engagement with leadership, including immediate access to corporate announcements or sharing information or feedback with management.

Next steps: Deploy technologies to help foster employee engagement and cultural association between frontline workers and the rest of the organization. Enable communication, recognition, feedback sharing, and collaborative decision-making. Empowering these workers goes beyond tools – it requires creating a work environment where people feel valued and want to stay. Implement holistic engagement and retention strategies to increase employee satisfaction and retain valuable talent.

5. Streamline frontline workforce onboarding, training and skill development.

Key insight: A significant proportion of organizations (72%) recognize the value of continuous skill development for frontline workers, with industries like transportation and retail leading in training prioritization. However, a disconnect emerges in the execution of these training programs. A substantial number of companies still rely on traditional, more time-intensive training methods. The use of advanced technologies in this realm not only slashes the time spent on training but also accelerates the onboarding process, translating into heightened worker satisfaction and efficiency. By embracing these technologies, organizations can significantly enhance the proficiency and readiness of their frontline workforce.

To demonstrate, 85% of organizations lacking specialized technologies report that training takes four to nine hours per frontline worker annually. In contrast, two-thirds of companies equipped with these technologies allocate four to nine hours for training, while 14% affirm that frontline workforce training can be completed in a more streamlined one to three hours.

Similarly, most organizations without specialized technologies report that frontline employee onboarding is completed in six to nine months. However, those with frontline worker-specific tech see a reduced onboarding timeline of only three to six months.

Next steps: Leverage frontline worker-specific technologies to deploy and optimize training and onboarding programs, certification courses and skill enhancement opportunities. Create communities of subject matter experts to facilitate knowledge sharing among frontline employees and accelerate professional development.

6. Leverage emerging technologies.

Key insight: Many organizations already leverage one or more emerging technologies, such as AI and machine learning (ML), robotic process automation and blockchain, to improve frontline workforce productivity and task management. Most that do not currently leverage them plan for adoption within two years. Of the organizations surveyed, those in the healthcare and transportation industries lead the way in terms of using emerging technologies. Conversely, half of the manufacturing companies say investments in emerging technologies are a low priority.

Next steps: As emerging technologies pose great potential for disrupting how frontline workers work, enterprises with sizeable frontline workforces should explore integrating AI and ML to support daily operations. Specifically, consider technologies that streamline issue resolution, improve productivity and enhance customer interactions.

Prioritize frontline workforce empowerment to drive business outcomes

Frontline workforce empowerment extends beyond implementing technology; it's a comprehensive approach encompassing training, cultural alignment and a commitment to continuous improvement. Companies should embrace this multifaceted process to elevate organizational performance, creating an inclusive, technologically advanced environment that supports frontline workers and nurtures their growth and job satisfaction.

For success, it's vital that leadership fully understands the significance of empowering frontline workers by investing in tailored technologies and cultural initiatives. Collaboration between IT, HR, and line-of-business leaders is essential to ensure that technology solutions and empowerment strategies align with operational needs and workforce development. By following these principles, companies can foster a thriving, empowered frontline workforce and reap the benefits of enhanced business performance.

Download the full research report for more insights and learn how Unisys can help you optimize frontline worker productivity.

Download report