The proliferation of cloud, mobile, social and analytics technologies have transformed desk-bound work.
It has provided numerous means of instant audio, visual and text communication; scheduling, organizing and analyzing any activity; automating the mundane manual tasks along the way.The digital transformation of ‘white-collar’ work has significantly improved productivity and employee engagement.
As a recent study by The Economist shows, employees whose workplace effectively uses mobile and social technologies are more creative, satisfied, and productive at work than those whose doesn’t - the difference in the score is 16% higher for productivity, 18% for creativity, 23% for satisfaction and 21% for loyalty .
The focus on digital employee experience has been predominantly focused on the head office and at the exclusion of frontline execution improvements. Just like at the desk, digital has a value in frontline operations and can dramatically improve the experience, engagement and performance of workers in the field – whether in a factory, in-store or at a copper mine.
Acknowledging the need for digital transformation of frontline operations is only the first step. Successful digital transformation in the field stems from understanding the responsibilities of frontline workers and providing digital capabilities that assist them at the point of action. Let’s look at five such capabilities and how they can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of a frontline worker in their day-to-day work.
1. Consumer-grade app
Providing frontline workers with a mobile device that supports Excel 97 and an email inbox, or with a digital checklist that requires miles of scrolling might be digitization in theory, but is of little use in practice.
For improved frontline productivity and engagement, workers need a digital experience as slick and engaging as the one they get when using their favourite social, gaming, food ordering or dating apps - offering a user-friendly, intuitive interface.
What would a store associate checking on shelf availability appreciate more:
- an endless (albeit digital) list of product names to tick off one by one
- a neat screen of product images which can be multiselected and ticked off as available or individually clicked – like a friend’s facebook profile – for more product information or guidance on how to fix an out-of-stock?
2. Offline reliability
Imagine having spent two hours recording the results of a store call in a wireless-dependent app only to realise that the internet connection failed halfway through and the data was never saved! So, field reps for a CPG might instead record their findings on paper or in an Excel sheet while in the field and then manually re-enter the data in the system they’re expected to use at the end of the day – so much for time-saving and efficiency and improved employee experience.
A mobile application with full offline capabilities enables frontline workers to execute tasks anytime anywhere. For example, a field worker can perform a health and safety check at a copper extraction mine and then have that data automatically sync with a server when they re-connect to the internet. In the meantime, no information will be lost, eliminating the need for backup.
3. Real-time feedback
What if your Fitbit told you that you didn’t run at the optimal pace only after you’d completed your workout? A static digital form that only indicates whether data was successfully collected after pressing the submit button is the equivalent of a post-hoc Fitbit.
A green tick next to accomplished tasks on the field worker’s list, a pop-up confirming that an image has been captured or a report has been submitted are a lot more than UI improvements. They provide real-time feedback on frontline workers’ daily activity – whether it’s an environmental officer performing an inspection at a manufacturing facility or a merchandizer checking promotional compliance in a supermarket.
4. Prompts, alerts and guidance
‘White-collar’ workers get reminders of scheduled calls, meetings and important deadlines. A frontline worker in a quick service restaurant, for example, can equally benefit from such alerts and reminders pushed to her mobile device. This way, the risk of omitting time-sensitive tasks such as a fridge temperature check or a daily clean is minimized.
What is more, a mobile application can help frontline workers to learn more efficiently (and enjoyably!) from videos, slide decks or quizzes. Gaining access to such interactive resources on their mobile devices enables frontline staff to quickly find relevant guidance while executing a task, further reducing the margin for error.
5. Progress bars and leaderboards
Whether working in an office, on a shop floor, playing a video game or completing their LinkedIn profile, people like progress bars – they are proved to improve engagement and sense of accomplishment.
A progress bar can help transform the 30 store calls a field rep needs to perform weekly into a gamified mission. Adding a leaderboard, reflecting colleagues’ performance and awarding points for the number and quality of visits made, helps to further increase employee engagement.
Explore Zaptic's Operations Improvement Platform!