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Building for the future workplace
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Building for the future workplace

The last two years have seen more change than the prior 20, but change will keep coming, quickly. In this third of three articles, we look at how to keep on top of the changing work world.

This is part three of a three-part series exploring the experience of frontline workers and new workplace tools being deployed to support them.

Changes born out of a crisis have upended every single workplace in the last two years. The old rulebook has been torn up, and new rules were written about how to communicate with and keep employees happy. Investing in effective communications technology has become core to that new world of work.

Three in four frontline workers believe good technology that keeps them in touch with their higher-ups is a must-have for any good business. And in turn, managers are recognizing the need for change. 94% feel they have to prioritize upgrading and changing their frontline technology to stay up to speed with the rapidly changing workplace.

“Are you offering them the ability to provide their feedback, and their input, and be a part of the products or solutions that you're building? Will you recognize them?"

It’s a concern that’s well-known to many. Workplace, a business communication tool from Meta, recently commissioned research to try to understand the changing relationship between frontline staff and their back-office bosses. “What we've found is that there's a critical gap in communications [that] frontline workers, and particularly frontline managers, waste on average 387 hours a year,” said Abby Guthkelch, Head of Global Executive Solutions at Workplace. “That's equivalent to 9.3 working weeks on this disconnect, this lack of ability to get in touch with and connected with head office.”

Workplace Tech - The Future of the Frontline youtu.be

Tackling that gap is something organizations need to do now to stay competitive and not fall behind.

Four in five managers feel frontline employees’ experiences are shaped by how good their interaction with technology is. And that number is likely to increase as tech is woven further into the workplace, keeping us all connected. Half of U.S. workers would leave their job if the frustration of getting their workplace technology to work got too difficult, according to Workfront. One-third of workers already have.

That’s bad news for some businesses, but good news for those that are preparing to future-proof themselves, and offering the technology and support that frontline workers crave so much after the last two years of stresses and strains in their place of work. “It's a really poignant question right now: how to attract talent,” said Christine Trodella, head of Workplace from Meta. “It's one of the biggest challenges that all companies and all industries are facing. We've seen a real dramatic shift in the values of the employee population as those demographics change.”

That means clear lines of communication, enabled by the clever use of technology. It also means deploying tech at certain moments to improve performance at work — a survey by Meta found that 53% of frontline workers believed technology that could monitor things like sales goals and that customer service ratings could help improve their performance at work, making them more productive and enabling them to feel better about the difference they’re making to their business.

It’s all brokered by technology, which is why investing in and bringing to bear the best use of such tech is a crucial component of building the business of the future. “Are you offering the flexibility that they're looking for?” asked Trodella. “Are you offering them the ability to provide their feedback, and their input, and be a part of the products or solutions that you're building? Will you recognize them? Will they be able to have access to leadership in a way that is constructive and productive?” All are key questions that current employees will be asking their bosses in the workplace of the future, and are ones that prospective employees will ask potential employers before signing on the dotted line.

Such changes shouldn’t occur in a vacuum, however — and just because an executive in the C-suite thinks it should happen doesn’t mean it should. Before investing large amounts of money overhauling your business practices to make them more future-focused and integrating smart new technology to help open up lines of connection between the front line and the C-suite, make sure to talk to those for whom any change will be felt the most.

“Talk to your people,” said Guthkelch. “It's as straightforward as that. Don't try to second-guess what they want, unless you are actually doing the job yourself. Ask them what they want. Ask them what's going to make their work better. What's going to enable them to feel more connected to the organization, which is going to enable them to do their job most effectively.”

There will likely be a long list of complaints and concerns, and niggling issues that ought to be tackled. Developing a future-proofed workplace isn’t easy, after all. But thinking calmly and clearly about which issues to tackle — and in what order — can reap benefits. “Look at your processes, look at your technology stacks and understand where you have gaps,” advised Guthkelch. “Then from that, look at where you can make some quick wins that will be most impactful for not only you as leadership, but more specifically for your people that is going to really enable them to turn up, to work and to thrive in the role that they're doing.”

Read the series: