SharePoint & Microsoft Resources

M365 Can Engage Frontline Workers Too

By Alex Graves, CEO

M365 Can Engage Frontline Workers Too

Frontline workers have an essential role to play for any organisation and, to date, have been woefully underserved by technology. With the pandemic throwing a spotlight on the importance of the frontline workforce, and the long overdue need to engage and support them, more organisations are looking at tools they can put in place to improve the wellbeing of these vital employees.

Frontline workers are employees who must be physically present to carry out their role. They often perform vital tasks, directly interact with customers or patients, typically don’t have desks and are usually mobile, either inside or out. As a result, they have specific IT needs including purpose built or selected mobile devices and integration with vertical specific systems.

As well as offering a broad range of applications to support the engagement of your office and remote workers, M365 also delivers valuable benefits for frontline employees meeting these needs with Teams, Microsoft Viva, and vertical specific apps integrated to Teams.

There are 5 ways that you can use M365 to improve frontline employee engagement and wellbeing.

1) Give them a sense of purpose

Understanding your place in an organisation, and the value you bring to that business, is a huge part of employee engagement. Your frontline employee wants to have clarity of how their role fits in delivering the business core purpose, what value they bring and how they are seen by the wider business. There is a high rate of employee turnover in the frontline – from 40-50% within 6 months – largely because these individuals feel disconnected, don’t receive communication from the wider business, and – because they often don’t know the team they are working with – can lack a sense of community and belonging at work.

How M365 can help

Using Yammer via Teams, and Viva Connections

Using Yammer via Teams it is easy to create groups aligned around human interest topics like walking, cycling or even film and TV. Using these groups, you can encourage your frontline employees to connect with other employees creating networks across the company and helping to build a culture.

The latest update for the Viva Connections app for Teams includes enhanced communication capabilities for frontline workers, worker shift scheduling, virtual appointment management, and GPS support that can trigger auto notifications to locate misplaced devices.

2) Give them the power to control and organise their workload

Frontline working patterns are often shift-based or flexible, with staff paid hourly. This means that one of the key requirements for managers and team leaders is managing rotas, delegating daily tasks, and ensuring that employees know what is expected of them from shift to shift. With these employees often working in the field, and rarely meeting face-to-face with managers, they need to have a clear and engaging way of seeing what is expected of them and communicating back and forth with supervisors.

How M365 can help

Shifts, Tasks, and Approvals apps in Teams

Microsoft Teams delivers simple, intuitive, and secure app-based solutions to help frontline workers control their work and organise their time. New product development specifically designed for the frontline include Shifts, Tasks, and Approvals. Shifts has been created mobile-first and is focused on fast and effective schedule management and communications. As well as allowing managers and leaders to assign shifts, frontline staff can view their team members’ schedules and request to swap shifts within the app. It’s no surprise that Shifts usage in frontline workers has grown 10x since the start of the pandemic.

Tasks is also available both as an app and a channel in Teams – reflecting the different ways that people work – and Approvals allows frontline and office or remotely located leadership to work seamlessly together by giving the capability to create, share, and manage approvals directly from the Teams platform.

3) Give them a sense of security

Cyberattacks on information and frontline workers have grown significantly since 2020. Ransomware, for example, grew over 1,000% between 2020 and 2021 and Harvard Business Review reported that, in 2021, 43 percent of the 6,000 companies surveyed had suffered a cyberattack the previous year. With the substantial increase in remote working, and the growth of frontline workforces over the course of the pandemic, the number of potential attack surfaces has rocketed.

Frontline workers need to feel secure and confident that they won’t be exposed to cyberattack (and as a result, subject to any repercussions from the business). Implement a Zero Trust security model in your frontline technology and you can remove any ambiguity of trust in your frontline workers, significantly reducing their responsibility in managing the security of their customer data and application integrity.

How M365 can help

Security and access

To confidently implement a Zero Trust security model, you need to be able to distribute compliance or security policies to allyour managed devices, and M365 makes this easier. Using Microsoft tools on devices – with single sign-on and sign-out – makes it easier for frontline workers to share devices across shifts, which saves your business the cost of owning and managing multiple devices and assigning them to individuals. M365 can also power customer experience, allowing them to self-serve more through customer facing devices – particularly around IoT devices that aren’t tied to (and the responsibility of) your employees.

4) Give them the right tools to do the job

Your frontline workers are often the only employees with the opportunity to engage your customers directly. They represent your company’s brand and are the mainstay of your company’s services, using or selling your products day-to-day. They are nurses, electricians, sales associates or store managers, personal trainers, consultants, and your – increasingly essential – delivery team. These individuals need tools – in their hands – that allow them to organise their days; communicate with leadership, customers, and each other; and service customers’ needs by completing a product sale or delivering their services in an efficient, professional way.

M365 has been delivering a number of these apps from the start and the surge in popularity of Teams has proven that these hit the mark with a 150 percent increase in Microsoft Teams usage among frontline workersfrom March 2020 to November 2021. But with specific needs springing up from frontline workers in different verticals, how can Microsoft address such a diverse set of requirements while maintaining efficiency and streamlined experience?

How M365 can help

MS Teams, vertical specific employee and customer facing apps

Microsoft Bookings saves frontline workers time and creates efficiency – freeing them up to spend more time with customers – and empowers customers to self-serve. This scheduling application is integrated into M365 Calendar to help customers find appointment times and booking slots with your frontline workers and can even integrate with Teams if you want to make those appointments virtual.

For vertical specific needs, there are a vast array of specific apps that align directly to frontline worker engagement and integrate with Teams. These include management apps such as Reflexis Shifts connector for Teams, communication tools like Walkie Talkie on Zebra Devices – now available on all iOS and Android devices – and Workday for managing expenses, time off and recognition.

5) Help them to expand their horizons

An engaged employee is one that not only has the scope to do what they do best every day but also has the opportunity to learn and grow. Access to training and development is a massive part of an employee’s wellbeing, giving them a sense of being supported and valued by the organisation.

How M365 can help

Viva Learning

Microsoft Viva Learning can enable your frontline employees to find, access and track learning from right within Teams. You can use Viva Learning to quickly onboard new employees with induction and training, and update the entire workforce on new policies, industry standards, and developments. The newly available learning management system (LMS) also enables the business to assign training and learnings from partner solutions (such as SAP SuccessFactors and Cornerstone OnDemand) and for frontline workers to access these on any device through Teams.

Microsoft has recently released data that shows a definitive shift and a rising optimism about the way technology can improve engagement and wellbeing on the business frontline.

63% of frontline workers – they report – are excited about the opportunities that technology creates for them, and it is ranked third of all factors that can reduce work-related stress (just behind better pay and holiday). By continuing to innovate in ways to empower and enable frontline workers, your business will improve engagement and be able to turn the dial on attrition in the most visible, powerful part of your workforce.

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