Shift plans on paper, company news at best on the blackboard, talking in the corridors instead of social networks: this is how the information supply of most employees in production and service looks like. While the employees in the office are digitally networked, the colleagues in the so-called "first line" have to accept inadequate means of communication.
The term "firstline worker" may not be familiar everywhere. Firstline workers are employees who work in direct customer contact or in production. This occupation group includes, for example, employees on production lines, nursing staff in hospitals, drivers, security and cleaning staff, as well as cashiers and sales staff.
The inadequate digital connection of these employees currently shows an important indicator: Firstline workers have a frighteningly low social collaboration maturity level of 3.54. With a maturity level of 4.23, office colleagues are far ahead of them. This is the result of the latest findings of the German Social Collaboration Study 2019. The study also shows that nine out of ten companies are working on digital transformation. But why are first-line workers so often left out of the equation?
Integration via digital communication
From my point of view, companies benefit if all employees can actively participate in the development of the company. If firstline workers have simple digital tools, they are better integrated. It enables them to inform themselves independently and participate in discussions. In this way, they are more fully integrated into the company. One example: Through these digital channels, management can easily and continuously communicate their vision, mission and values - constant contact instead of a single employee meeting a year! As a result, first-line workers who have been poorly integrated feel more part of the organization, can more easily understand corporate goals, and can better support these goals themselves.
Internal drivers of innovation
Employees in production or logistics know the internal processes and can uncover weak points in everyday work. If they communicate practical suggestions via digital channels, which they have long used in a similar way in their private lives, the company can tap into additional innovation potential. Sharing ideas must be as easy as sharing a picture of WhatsApp. Firstline workers will then also be involved in solving problems and organizing themselves more independently among themselves.
Small investment with big impact
Many companies initially express doubts: the investments are far too high and the process too time-consuming. Employees need their own hardware and special training to use such tools properly. In my experience, these concerns are unfounded. Smartphones have become an everyday tool for virtually every adult. Reading messages, sharing photos, commenting on contributions - all this has become the norm. These skills can be quickly and easily transferred to the world of work. And if the company offers these employees the opportunity to use their own equipment, the actual investment is manageable.
Support is an entrepreneurial and social task
Firstline workers are fundamental to business and society. They contribute directly to the company's success through their work in production or in customer contact.
Technologies have a variety of effects. They can produce completely new business models - but they can also simply connect people and stimulate improvement processes. One aspect is particularly important to me: In a modern society, all company employees should be able to inform themselves appropriately and make a contribution. This lowers the risk of people feeling lost and increases their ability to develop their own judgement. If simple digital tools are used to reach and involve employees who have so far been largely left out, it will be worthwhile for everyone. This is where companies need to invest.