The top 7 challenges when training deskless workers

Deskless workers - man wearing hard hat and bright orange safety jacket and talking on cell phone
In our post-pandemic reshuffle, employees with jobs that are not performed in an office are often singled out in discussions about the future of work. This makes sense, as most of the world's workforce performs crucial tasks outside of an office, and it’s time we collectively adapt to these challenges!

The digital workplace is rapidly evolving, with many employees working outside of traditional office environments and lacking access to a workstation or computer. These workers play essential roles in our society, whether in the factory, warehouse, field, behind the wheel, at stores, in classrooms, or hospitals.

But there are some common barriers that impede these employees from enjoying the same flexibility as office workers. And employers must utilize digital workforce management technologies to enhance the employee experience for these deskless employees.

Who are your deskless workers?

Deskless workers are frontline employees that perform tasks outside traditional office settings, such as retail associates, restaurant servers, healthcare professionals, and construction workers. They are often mobile and work in environments that do not offer access to a computer or desk.

A worker must work via mobile device for at least 80 percent of the time to be classified deskless. These professions need you to work outside and are available in almost every sector. Some examples include:

  • In the medical field, these professionals include surgeons and nurses. Even while nurses utilize computers for charting, most of their work is done away from a desk.
  • They work on the production line in manufacturing.
  • Regarding logistics, they are your truck drivers, dock workers, and warehouse workers.
  • And they are your frontline employees in the hospitality industry, working in restaurants and hotels.

Challenges of training deskless workers

Generation X, Y, and Z comprise 70% of the workforce, which makes sense as they are “digital natives.” They’ve grown up with technology, particularly millennials and Gen Z, and they’re entirely comfortable using it. But this doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re missing. Employee experiences for these digital natives must match up with traditional worker requirements, or else!

Deskless workers - people using laptops on a desk

Deskless workers expect the identical EX as the office and remote workforce, requiring a well-designed employee journey independent of their rank or expertise. HR managers must consider all employee journeys when designing onboarding materials.

The ‘average’ deskless worker’s experience may be hard to pin down, so every business must conduct surveys and focus groups with their deskless staff. At the same time, it may not be easy to create a complete picture, but the effort will pay off in the long run.

Deskless workers are more likely not to have access to email (83%) and to be unfamiliar with the business direction (50%). Although 84% of non-desk workers agree that they don’t get enough information from their company’s executives, 76% feel that consistent communication from upper management is crucial. That’s a significant, and telling, disconnect.

Here are some of the most cited challenges faced with training deskless workers:

1. Limited access to technology

The inability to access technology poses a challenge for deskless workers, as they may only be able to reach online training resources with a computer or smartphone. Companies can easily set up a learning path and design courses in their learning management system (LMS) for deskless employees, but they need to solve that access component first.

Without it, their career development timelines are significantly impacted. They’re also less likely to have the most up-to-date training, which can lead to costly and sometimes dangerous errors.

2. Limited time

Deskless workers often work irregular schedules, making it challenging to schedule in-person training sessions. This can result in employees missing essential training sessions or not receiving the training they need to perform their jobs effectively. This can be incredibly challenging for employers who must provide consistent and comprehensive employee training.

Deskless workers - utility/construction workers working on construction poles

3. Communication barriers

Deskless workers are not always in the exact location as their managers or trainers, making it challenging to communicate important training information effectively. And they can feel less valued because of poor communication with their employers and managers.

4. Lack of motivation and commitment

Deskless workers may feel disconnected from the organization and need to see the value of completing training courses. This can result in employees not taking training seriously or not completing training at all.

5. High turnover rates

Deskless workers often have higher turnover rates than office-based employees, making it challenging to ensure that all employees receive consistent training.

The turnover rate is alarming among deskless workers compared to their office counterparts, with a 36% rate annually. This can result in significant costs for employers, including hiring and training new employees.

6. Language barriers

Due to language barriers, employers may need to help manage a diverse workforce of employees who speak various languages. Providing training materials in multiple languages can be costly and time-consuming. A report by Chron showed that nearly one-third of HR professionals cite language barriers as a significant obstacle to training deskless workers. And surveys show that 51% of deskless workers believe that language barriers prevent them from receiving practical training.

7. Safety concerns

Deskless workers - person using welding gear while welding

Deskless workers may work in hazardous environments, making safety training critical. shares that 61% of deskless workers believe safety training is essential. Although in most cases, this training is rarely done, leading to more hazards and, as such, a low retention rate.

How to address the challenges

The effectiveness of operations and value offered to customers is based on how well-equipped deskless workers are, as they are the closest to customers. Are they trained well enough to represent the company’s mission and culture? How well are they advocating for and representing the company in day-to-day customer interactions?

Here are some effective strategies to train a diverse workforce without leaving anyone out:

Improve on technology: Providing access to secure internal communication channels, such as company messaging apps or business email, can improve internal communication and engagement among deskless workers.

Bridge communication gaps: Deskless workers face corporate communication challenges due to the nature of their jobs. Still, organizations can bridge corporate communication gaps using digital tools such as instant messaging apps, intranets, and mobile collaboration platforms.

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Regular face-to-face communication opportunities like team meetings or town hall events help deskless workers connect with their colleagues and management, ask questions, and share feedback.

Incorporate flexible training options: Offering flexible training options to accommodate the irregular schedules of deskless workers is one of the best approaches to promoting career development. This can include providing training during different shifts or offering online courses that can be accessed anytime.

Language training: Offer training materials in multiple languages can be an effective solution.

Acces to institutional knowledge: Capturing and storing important information and expertise from previous employees and passing it down upon new employee onboarding is a great way to tackle training challenges. One practical approach is to create a centralized repository of information and expertise that all employees can access and contribute to.

Motivation and engagement: Increasing motivation and engagement among deskless workers can help reduce employee turnover rates and improve retention. Employers can achieve this by offering incentives for completing training courses, such as bonuses or promotions.

Additionally, developing employee value propositions that align with the needs and goals of deskless workers can help to build loyalty and advocacy over time. By investing in the professional development and well-being of deskless workers, organizations can create a positive and supportive workplace culture that encourages them to stay and grow within the company.

Collaboration and feedback: Encouraging collaboration and employee feedback can improve communication and engagement, resulting in a more productive and satisfied workforce. Employers can create online forums or social media groups where employees can ask questions and share ideas.

Management can also benefit from employee feedback, as it provides insights into what works and what doesn’t in the company’s operations. This creates a culture of open communication, making it easier to address problems, track progress, and implement solutions.

Simpplr provides an intuitive and secure intranet platform to help organizations train their workforce, including deskless workers, and bridge the knowledge gap. Creating an environment where everyone is included and encouraged to simply flourishTM is incredibly impactful on any company’s culture and, ultimately, its ROI.

Get started with our AI-powered intranet, which is part of our larger employee experience platform, today. We’ll help you get your entire company organized around one cohesive mission, regardless of where they’re located or how their work day looks.

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