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5 Challenges That Cause Deskless Workers To Become Disengaged

5 Challenges That Cause Deskless Workers To Become Disengaged

Tara O'Sullivan
Tara O'Sullivan
Chief Marketing Officer
Tara O'Sullivan
April 12, 2023

Any organization’s success depends on its ability to engage its employees and keep them that way. 

Engaged workers are more dedicated, productive, and invested in the goals and missions of the company. However, it can be challenging to maintain high levels of employee engagement, particularly for deskless employees.

The success of any organization depends on its ability to engage and retain its workforce. The most recent research estimates that 80% of the world's workforce are deskless workers. In the manufacturing, retail, hospitality, construction, and healthcare sectors, deskless workers are common. 

5 challenges in Employee Engagement with Deskless Workers

The 5 key challenges organizations with deskless workers face when developing employee engagement strategies for their employees are:

  1. Communication
  2. Turnover
  3. Technology
  4. Recognition & Training 
  5. Trust & Community  

1) Communication

Regular communication with deskless workers can be challenging as they often work in multiple places, travel, and have different shifts. According to research, 80% of deskless workers do not have an email address, and more than 40% do not have access to their organization’s intranet at work. 

Not surprisingly, according to Nudge, only 39% of workers feel heard by their organization. Only 35% of deskless workers agree with the statement that communication at their company is effective, compared to 65% of those who work in an office. Research also shows that nearly all (99%) of C-suite executives believe their frontline workers trust them, while only a quarter of workers entirely trust their organization to communicate company updates and news transparently.

2) Turnover

Depending on the industry, deskless workers can have a very high turnover rate. According to KornFerry, the turnover rate in retail for store managers and assistant store managers in 2022 was 17.7% and 29.2%, respectively. The rates for part-time hourly store employees were as high as 85%.

3) Technology

We see a lot of enterprise technology designed for desk employees. Since only 1% of software funding goes to the 80% of the global workforce that doesn't have a desk, organizations need innovative technology for deskless workers to boost productivity. Due to the lack of appropriate technology, there is often a high rate of paper use in deskless jobs. 

Mobile devices have been very successful in deskless work environments, especially where employees can use their own devices. However, some people don’t want to have a work app on their personal devices and instead rely on their team lead to inform them of any corporate updates or changes. 

4) Recognition & Training

Deskless workers routinely interact with customers, perform physically demanding tasks, and work under pressure. Appreciation is essential to boosting morale and inspiring employees to give their best. Some organizations have been successful in recognizing deskless workers by incorporating recognition systems into mobile applications or other communication channels. According to the Gallup report, “All recognition matters, from simple, day-to-day thank-yous to companywide awards.” But the effectiveness of recognition can vary widely.

Training and development are imperative for engaging deskless employees, especially those involved in customer-facing roles or where safety is important. There is a chance that deskless employees won't have the same access to classroom or online training as traditional employees. Organizations need to figure out how to provide deskless workers with training and development opportunities to improve their skills, product knowledge, safety awareness, and job satisfaction. Employees can improve their knowledge and skills whenever it is convenient for them by using mobile apps that give them access to training modules, videos, and other learning materials.

5) Trust and Community

Perhaps the biggest challenge to sustaining high employee engagement with deskless workers is building a sense of trust and community. Deskless employees may work remotely, set their own hours, and rarely interact with one another. Hence, creating a sense of belonging and community among these workers may be challenging.

Deskless workers need agile managers

Research shows that almost all C-suite executives (99%) think their frontline workers trust them, but only a quarter of workers fully trust their organization to share company news and updates in a clear way. 

This is where the team lead or manager comes in: they need to develop a sense of community across the team, and ensure workers are given up-to-date information. Using social media, organizations can create private groups on platforms like What’s App where deskless workers can interact with one another, share ideas, and provide support. 

It can be challenging to maintain high employee engagement levels with deskless workers, but it is essential to the success of any organization. 

Effective communication, recognition, training, and community development are necessary for motivating deskless workers. 

Learn more about how PepTalk helped Mercury deliver a deskless worker communication campaign to their deskless workers.  

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