November 18, 2021
The Josh Bersin Company a research and advisory company focused on HR and workforce trends and issues, has released its latest report based on insights from its ongoing Big Reset executive working groups. The report, The Big Reset Playbook: Deskless Workers, focuses on the recommended practices needed to create optimal work experiences for “deskless” employees in retail, healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, and other sectors.
“Although the global deskless workforce makes up 80 percent of the working population, much of the recent media focus and research has been around remote and hybrid working arrangements available to relatively few employees,” said CEO Josh Bersin. “Because so little attention has been given to the working and personal needs of deskless employees, companies are now seeing mass resignations, unionization efforts, and scores of unfilled jobs.” In fact, current research from multiple sources shows that hourly workers take the lead in quitting statistics.
This most recent report expands on Bersin EX research and identifies the seven critical components for creating excellent employee experiences for deskless workers and the associated people-related practices. These range from providing adequate health and wellbeing support to providing meaningful work to offering career and development opportunities. The report also compares how the practices related to each of these components differ between deskless and deskbound employees based on their priorities and work requirements.
Case studies from Royal Caribbean and Wincome Hospitality delve into the workforce challenges experienced by these two companies and how they’re now addressing their employee needs. Wincome is providing on-site vaccinations and testing, revisiting compensation and benefit plans, and prioritizing team building and coaching. Royal Caribbean, which is just now ramping up its operations after an almost two-year shutdown, is focusing on continual employee communications, training, and reskilling. The case study also discusses the company’s employee assistance and support programs, which included distribution of $21M in relief funds to approximately 33,000 employees.
Seven critical components of deskless work
1. Enable human connections and time for creativity. Deskless workers are the closest to the customer, but a mere 6 percent of manufacturing companies and 7 percent of consumer companies design jobs to allow people time to rest, reinvent, and innovate, compared to 21 percent of technology firms and 29 percent of professional services companies.
2. Train managers to better coach deskless workers. Deskless workers need always-on feedback to perform their best, but managers are often disconnected from the actual work itself and therefore have limited insights. Managers also have many direct reports; for instance, nurse managers often have 100 or more direct reports. Many companies don’t adequately support managers in developing and coaching people. Just 11 percent of hospitality companies invest in developing leaders at all levels, compared to 75 percent of pharmaceutical companies.
3. Make the commute easy and establish belonging at work. Because remote work is not feasible for deskless workers, they need extra support with easy and safe commutes. A feeling of belonging is especially important in the light of the current resignation trends and labor shortages. Leaders need to demonstrate that they are actively listening to employees and taking actions as appropriate. Also important is the creation of schedules that employees can plan around.
4. Support the deskless worker’s entire life. Work flexibility is often not an option for deskless workers, so they need backup for taking care of families and support for balancing finances. The vast majority live paycheck to paycheck, and only 13 percent of the 2.7 billion deskless workers worldwide have paid sick time. Three in four have worked while sick, and many are left without child or dependent care if a family member gets sick. In addition to expanding wellbeing benefits, companies should also be considering daily pay options and more predictable work schedules.
5. Help deskless workers build fulfilling careers. Deskless workers—especially those who may be in jobs ripe for automation—need pathways to future-proof careers. Many companies use internal talent marketplaces, but too often deskless workers don’t have easy access to the tools. Tuition reimbursement programs typically require people to pay tuition in advance, which is not feasible for many deskless workers.
6. Build on the mission and create a deskless-first culture. A sense of belonging and community is critically important for deskless workers, yet many are often disconnected from the overall corporate mission and values when communication channels are designed for deskbound employees. A people-first approach means prioritizing investments in people at all levels and in all job roles. Research shows that companies that do that see higher financial performance and customer satisfaction.
7. Provide tools and services geared for mobile. HR and work tech is geared toward browser-based access for the deskbound employee: deskless workers are often left behind with no access to communication, tools, or resources. That doesn’t make sense anymore, as technology has evolved so there are many solutions with mobile-first or adaptable approaches that come to the employee any way they might want to engage.
Commenting on the findings, Josh Bersin, global HR trends analyst and CEO of The Josh Bersin Company, says: “As we go into the second winter season of the pandemic, hybrid work continues to be especially important, and much work remains to be done to design a new paradigm. In parallel, we must not forget the 80 percent of employees around the world have a work reality that is drastically different from their managers. Work strategies must keep in mind the needs of shop floor employees, restaurant servers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, teachers, truck drivers, and warehouse workers.
“Let’s build a new deskless reality that’s not a second-class version of deskbound work”
“Many things have changed since March 2020, and deskless workers are at the receiving end of many of the most difficult work challenges. In some industries such as transportation or hospitality, large numbers of people were furloughed or laid off. Healthcare employees had to face extreme health risk in coming to work. Designing a new work reality for these deskless workers is a lesson in empathy, listening, learning, and communication.
“Let’s build a new deskless reality that’s not a second-class version of deskbound work but, instead is first class and second to none. We owe it to the people who power our lives.”
Kathi Enderes, vice president of research for The Josh Bersin Company, says: “To improve the deskless worker experience, company leaders need to first fully understand the reality of deskless workers and how their experiences are different from deskbound employees. HR teams must learn what the concerns and priorities are for these employees and what needs to be done to improve their work experiences.
“Our research highlights the importance of designing an excellent deskless work strategy. Companies that make this a priority see better financial performance, higher levels of employee retention and engagement, and increased customer satisfaction.”
Image:Josh Bersin Company