Digital equality for Frontline Workers

Viva Connections enables information-sharing for everyone.

It is good to see that those who were previously tied to their desks can now also work “on the go.” But what about their colleagues in production, in the warehouses and in retail spaces, who have always worked outside an office but had to organize their work entirely without digital aids? Is it not time they caught up to the rest?


A day in the life of a production worker

To be honest, a lot more needs to be done for this group: Let us take a look at Paul, a production worker (who is now referred to as a Blue Collar or Frontline Worker, whereas CS prefers to use the term Firstline Worker). 
He works at a large consumer goods manufacturer and is on his way to work. He puts his cell in his pocket as he approaches the plant premises. On the train, he used his favorite mobile app to get information about interesting topics. His first stop is the bulletin board, which shows the shift schedule for the week. He notices that the schedule has been changed, and he takes out his personal cell phone to ask a question in the “unofficially created” messaging group for his location. After briefly speaking with some colleagues while standing at the bulletin board, he finds out that the company released changes relating to his unit on the Intranet. 


Is there not a better way?

Why does Paul have to leave behind the digital world he knows so well from his personal life each time he enters the workspace, and instead must rely on shadow IT and random meetings to find out what is going on in his workplace? When we consider that employees such as Paul in production and the many other employees in warehouses, retail premises and logistics make up the majority of company employees, we have to ask, “Is there a better way?”.  

How did this even happen? Why does the digitization of work proceed faster in the office than on the shop floor? A look at the development of digitization with respect to corporate communication reveals that the basic needs of this target group with regard to information, social information-sharing and collaboration were ignored at some point. It started when information from the employee magazine was moved to the Intranet, which became more dynamic and more social - creating a situation where employees on the shop floor were cut off due to a lack of devices. 



At some point, employee apps picked up on the basic use case “Information.” Staffbase, Beekeeper and others offer a platform for sharing news with all employees. It is often based on the idea of BYOD, i.e., using the private devices of users. This type of employee app is a solution that is maintained alongside the Intranet, and which also requires extensive branding and maintenance. 


Yes, there is a better way - with Viva Connections as the employee app

In a previous article, my colleague Daniela Kruse-Reinemann discussed the idea of connecting the classic Intranet with the mobile world using Viva Connections in Microsoft Teams. Companies receive a modern interface with a high degree of usability for mobile applications (which people are already be familiar with from their personal environment). The solution also does away with double maintenance and is fully integrated into the Office 365 environment. 

Therefore, Connections is an O365 solution that depicts exactly this information scenario with news for all - and much more. Certainly, the new Connections dashboard is very much a part of this “and much more” concept, but while obtaining information is important, employees also want to exchange information in the group, or directly with other employees. Companies often use WhatsApp as the next-best solution. However, the implication of this alternative could recently be seen at banks, which were hit by billions in penalties imposed by the US market regulator, because employees were using private messenger apps to share information about business matters. 

The options provided by O365 also offer a perfect platform in an environment that is controlled by the company. It not only enables communication between colleagues in production or logistics (hence real Blue Collar scenarios), but also communication with office employees, creating connectivity and equality between the two different worlds. Both employee groups have access to the mobile Intranet as well as the same user experiences and features.  


A first step towards full digitization

Often, companies wishing to digitize Firstline Workers look for a new process or specific solutions. The two scenarios - information for all and social information-sharing in chat mode - create the perfect entry point to the world of digitization for all employees. They consist of two clearly-defined application cases and require the relevant experience for implementation and roll-out. Done successfully, they open the way to other solutions. The more one moves alongside the scenarios, the more the Microsoft world and Team Client are able to play to their strengths. Examined as a whole, no other tool delivers as much added value; moreover, by using Viva Connections, it is has quickly become more than an alternative to the classic employee apps.  



Martin Weinhardt

Head of Competence Center Employee Experience