The old vs. new way to connect with your deskless workforce

The way companies currently connect with their deskless workers is broken, causing significant problems like high employee turnover and low productivity. In this blog post, we will dive into the current critical challenges for organizations with frontline workers, the old vs. new way of connecting with your frontline, and what you need to do to win the hearts of your deskless employees and, ultimately, your customers.

Ruben Wieman

The old vs. new way to connect with your deskless workforce

Table of contents

Critical challenges for organizations with frontline workers

Before we dive into the old vs. new way to connect with your frontline, I believe it’s important to first note the current challenges in the market. Organizations with frontline workers, including the retail and hospitality sectors, have a couple of critical challenges to overcome.

A quick look at any labor market analysis will show that these sectors are currently coping with what’s called The Great Resignation. Most “quitters” are switching roles, using the tight labor market to their advantage as they seek better employment opportunities. Simply put: there are more jobs available and fewer people who are willing to do the jobs. This evidently leads to more competition among organizations to win the fight for talent.

Another major challenge is that, more than ever, the frontline workforce is dominated by Millennials and GenZ (67% of the total workforce).  This group of workers has totally different needs compared to older generations. Where money and status were key drivers for earlier generations, the Gen Z generation values things like a healthy work-life balance, an inclusive workplace, and a good onboarding process. Also, this younger, tech-savvy generation expects organizations to provide them with solutions that fit this day and age.

For organizations, it’s critical to understand and adapt to these key challenges to improve the way they attract and retain their employees. Frontline employees are the cornerstone of the business and a critical competitive differentiator. They are the ones who are in contact with the customers and form the face of the brand. Making them engaged and successful has a direct impact on customer satisfaction and your business’s success.

However, the way most organizations currently connect with their frontline workforce needs to improve in order to win the hearts of the employees. How? Below, we will dive into the old (current) way of connecting with frontline employees and its pitfalls.


The old way to connect with your frontline

Time to look into how most organizations with frontline employees currently connect and engage with their workforce. Our experience in frontline industries, like the retail and hospitality industry, teaches us the following about the current way of connecting with frontline employees:

1. Fragmented employee experience

Many organizations have different solutions for every part of the employee experience. Whether it’s for internal communication, onboarding, eLearning, surveys, forms, or checklists, you name it. Frontline employees are simply forced to work with a jungle of different systems and apps for what is mostly their part-time job. This logically leads to an information overload, where it’s hard to ensure information reaches the right person at the right time. The fragmented employee experience clearly leads to low engagement and adoption rates.

“The main challenge we had was that we shared too much information in too many ways. Think of email, newsletters, an intranet, a Facebook group, and internal phone calls. It was quite a challenge to combine all this information and ensure that all employees received the right information at the right time.”
Natascha Poncia-Kilsdonk, Recruitment & Development Manager at H&M

2. Outdated solutions

Another factor is that companies find it hard to adapt to the current ways of working of the younger generations. Bulletin boards, an outdated intranet, or paper handouts do work for some people, but if you work with younger employees, these ways of communication aren’t in line with their preferences. As mentioned, the Millennials and GenZ workforce are used to having their smartphone with them all-day, why not make them use them for work purposes too?

“Our old intranet and training system no longer met the needs of the new generation of employees, who are used to doing everything on their mobile phones.”
Liza de Vos, HR Manager at Stayokay

3. Solutions that aren’t made for frontline employees

Then there’s another issue that often arises. Employees are required to use solutions that aren’t made for frontline business. Tons of employees are thrown into WhatsApp or Facebook groups without giving permission. Next to the fact that these solutions aren’t made for business communication, you’re intruding on their personal lives and ruining their work-life balance. They use Whatsapp for their private comms and simply don’t want to receive constant notifications from large work app groups with all sorts of people they barely know. Furthermore, many solutions focus solely on desk workers; think of intranet, onboarding, or eLearning platforms that aren’t mobile-friendly or require a business email to log in.

“Reaching the employees was a major challenge. For example, a swimming pool employee stands by the pool the entire shift and can therefore not check his laptop/PC to communicate or find important information on the intranet.”
Brenda Kovac, HR Manager at Optisport

4. One-way communication

Last but certainly not least, the old way of connecting with frontline workers is mainly centered around one-way communication. A newsletter, one-way communication. Shift handovers written on paper, one-way communication. Onboarding manuals, one-way communication. Business updates via mail, again one-way communication. Well, you get the point. It’s almost always communication that is created and sent by HQ to the frontline employees. There’s no form of interaction, and it’s hard or impossible for employees to engage with these messages, let alone with each other.

Results of the old way of connecting with frontline employees

It’s safe to say that the way many organizations connect with their frontline employees is broken. The internal comms chaos leads to an unengaged, unsuccessful, unproductive, and unloyal workforce. Needless to say, this will eventually lead to an increase in employee turnover, negatively impacting your business’s success.

It’s time for organizations to adapt to the current challenges, trends, and needs of the market and embrace the new way to connect with frontline employees. But how do you create the strongest possible magnet and turn your strangers into brand ambassadors? In the following subchapters, we will further dive into this topic and give you a head start in improving the employee experience at your organization.

old vs new way to connect with your employees
The old vs new way to connect with your deskless workforce

The new way to connect with your frontline

If there’s an old way to connect with your frontline, that must also mean there’s a new way and better way to connect with your frontline. Time to fix what’s broken and offer your employees a fully integrated experience. An all-in-one employee app gathers all ingredients you need to make your frontline employees successful and engaged in one platform. Let’s dive into this new way of working and its benefits.

1. Unify the employee experience into one app

There are a lot of apps out there focusing on single components of the digital employee experience. Think of stand-alone apps for internal communication, eLearning, onboarding, surveys, forms, and checklists. The other option is to combine the entire digital employee experience into an all-in-one employee app. By gathering all aspects of the employee experience into one app, you can offer your employees a structured and well-orchestrated employee journey. The key benefits of an all-in-one app versus a point solution include the following:

  • Better adoption and engagement
  • Easy to manage
  • A modular platform that can be customized to fit your business
  • Centralized data analytics
  • 3x more cost-efficient

Want to read more on the benefits of an all-in-one employee app versus point solutions? Visit our Why go with Oneteam vs. Point Solution page.

“With Oneteam’s all-in-one employee app, we have everything for work gathered in one app instead of using 6 different apps for all parts of the employee experience. People are already overloaded with apps these days, so you simply won’t install 6 apps for work. Nobody does that.”
Cyrelle Rutten, Online Marketeer at Dudok Horeca Group

2. Offer your employees a mobile-first solution

To fit the needs of the modern-day frontline workforce, it’s simply a must to offer your employees a mobile-first solution. Time to stop handing out those printed manuals or pinning employee schedules to the bulletin board in the canteen. It’s still good to offer hybrid solutions, like a mix of eLearning modules accessible via an employee app combined with live training at one of your locations, but in the digital era, you should think mobile-first.

Offer your employees a mobile-first solution that fits the need of the frontline workforce

3. Maintain a healthy work-life balance

Restore the unbalanced work-life relationship, quit the Whatsapp groups, and honor your employees’ free time. Let them decide on where and when they want to communicate, follow digital training, fill in employee surveys, etc.

“Communication within branches mainly took place via Whatsapp. Many employees became frustrated because they couldn’t maintain a healthy work-life balance. Often being part of ten different app groups, they were bombarded with texts 24 hours a day, regardless of whether they were working or had time off. Thanks to our employee app, we are now able to offer our employees a healthier work-life balance.”
Thijs Meijnen, HR Advisor at Leussink Retail Group

4. Engage and train employees even before their first workday

The employee journey starts even before the first workday. Make sure to start engaging your employees far before they start working for you with an interactive preboarding experience, and continue to offer an environment in which they can develop themselves throughout their time at your organization via initiatives like eLearning programs or on-the-job training.

5. Two-way communication

The good old one-way communication from the HQ to the work floor belongs to the history books. The new way of connecting with your frontline should embrace a culture where two-way communication is the norm. Engage with your frontline, listen to them via employee surveys, and offer them a platform that stimulates internal engagement regardless of location or function.

“With our physical newsletter, we had no idea if and by whom it was read and how it was received. Now we can see exactly who is reading the messages and we regularly receive dozens of responses, virtual high-fives, and valuable feedback from all over the organization.”
Kevin ter Maten, Head of Marketing at Verhage

Results of the new way of connecting with your frontline

Now is the time for modern organizations to shift away from the old way of connecting to the new way of connecting with their frontline. The new way leads to increased employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty. And it’s a given fact that if a business has engaged, well-trained, and happy frontline workers, customer satisfaction will follow, as well as better returns on investment.

Map your current employee experience and uncover areas for improvement

After all this, you are probably curious to see where your organization stands. At Oneteam, we’ve created an Employee Experience Canvas to help you map your current state of employee experience and the areas for improvement. Are you ready to unleash the full potential of your frontline workforce? Request your very own Employee Experience Canvas and start improving the employee experience within your organization today:


Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman is the founder of Oneteam. He mainly writes about the future of deskless employee experience and key frontline HR trends. Fun fact about Ruben: He started his professional career as a deskless employee at supermarkets and a pizza delivery guy. The frustrations he encountered lead him to build an employee experience app focused on making the deskless workforce successful and engaged.

Stay ahead

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on blog posts around the topic of employee experience.