The Future of Frontline Work with Matt Fairhurst
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a popular meme (among many others) circulated the realms of the internet. It read:
“What COVID-19 has taught us: Half of our jobs can be done from home. The other half deserve more credit than they’re given”.
It hit home. The place we’ve all been spending a lot of time. Yes we realized that being in the same office wasn’t completely necessary, but more importantly, we realized just how important frontline work is. We gained a new found respect for our essential service workers, our first responders, our food and grocery workers and so many others.
What may surprise you is that the frontline workforce, or deskless work actually make up eighty percent of the global workforce.
So when the facts are set straight, COVID-19 has taught us that 20% of our jobs can be done from home. The other 80% deserve more credit than they’re given.
Knowing just how many people make up the deskless workforce ponders the question, what is the future of frontline work? Matt Fairhurst, founder and CEO of Skedulo and guest at the AskNicely Frontline Summit is here to explore this question.
Matt believes the future of frontline work is shaped by three fundamental challenges:
Challenge #1: The Management & Organization of Frontline Teams
Managing and organising the frontline isn’t easy. “This is a complex administrative process”, Matt says. And boy is he right. From an organisational perspective, we must learn how to best organise work itself, when that work happens and where it happens. We must learn how to organise people, based on their abilities, constraints and availability. From a management perspective we must learn how to create a collective vision amongst frontline employees, work towards aligned KPIs and offer ongoing coaching and support. The management and organisation of frontline workers is a mammoth challenge that when sufficiently achieved results in smooth internal operations and awesome customer experiences. So how do we get there? We’ll get to that...
Challenge #2: The Engagement & Communication of Frontline Work
The second challenge Matt identifies is how to truly engage frontline teams in their work. How do we engage deskless workers to find true purpose and fulfilment? How do we motivate, encourage and increase productivity? How do we communicate customer feedback, and develop a genuine desire to deliver ultimate value and experience?
Challenge #3: Analysing & Improving Frontline Work
Thirdly, Matt identifies the challenge of analysing and improving frontline work.
“How can we use data from day-to-day operations in a way that can improve and optimize frontline work and organizations in the future?”
What data do we need to be looking at? And how can we use that data to improve the experience of the customer as well as the frontline worker?
Additional Challenge: COVID-19
Of course it would be impossible to talk about the challenges of frontline work, without talking about COVID-19.
“I think we’ve all grown to respect frontline workers, as they’ve been such an important part of mission critical service delivery.”
In a survey by Matt’s company Skedulo, he found that 1 in 3 frontline workers had contracted COVID-19, or knew a colleague that had.
“I think this doubles down on this premise that frontline work is not only incredibly critical as we deliver services and value in our markets, but also the responsibility we have as leaders and as technology companies to ensure that it can be delivered and performed as safely as possible, and that this incredibly large portion of our workforce are well-connected, well engaged, and feel very supported”.
Frontline workers have a lot on their plate, regardless of global pandemic. They have the pressure of driving value for stakeholders of all kinds — themselves, their customers, the organisation they work for and all of the other people they relate and engage with every day.
So we’ve talked about the challenges of frontline work, but what about the solutions? Where is frontline work headed? Matt believes solutions will fall under two key themes:
#1 Artificial Intelligence, Technology & Algorithms
Matt believes a huge part of the solution lies within artificial intelligence and technology (A.K.A - the future).
Skedulo, for example, develops web applications for workforce management, resource scheduling and mobility. Matt’s goal at Skedulo is to reduce friction between organisations and their frontline workforce, streamlining and automating processes.
“Artificial intelligence and algorithms can truly support businesses and organizations of all shapes and sizes as they optimize the future of service delivery for their customers at scale.”
The AskNicely Frontline feature is another example of a software that is designed to address the challenges around not only the engagement and communication of frontline work, but also the analysis and improvement. The purpose of the platform is to coach, motivate and empower frontline workers to make every customer experience memorable.
#2 Human Interaction, Communication & Engagement
The second solution Matt identifies is anchored around the idea of human interaction, communication and engagement. Move aside, robots.
“Human interaction, communication and engagement will become more and more important in the future, not only within the workforce, but outwardly as businesses communicate with customers and lean into this rapidly changing set of expectations.”
Matt believes the future of frontline work will rely on the worker themselves, and the interaction they have with the customer. Communication, collaboration, messaging, face to face interactions and very human aspects of getting work done will become a more critical part of the delivery of frontline work and ultimately the delivery of customer experiences.
Let’s circle back to that (corrected) meme: “What COVID-19 has taught us: 20% of our jobs can be done from home. The other 80% deserve more credit than they’re given.
What do we mean when we say credit?
Well, if you look at the investment profiles over the last 30 to 40 years, just over 1% of capital funding has gone into technology and companies that serve the true fundamentals of frontline work, an incredible statistic when you consider 80% of the global workforce is deskless. So capital funding is a start, but we’re also talking about providing solutions that directly address the challenges of frontline work. Solutions that are both tech-powered and human powered. Solutions that help frontline workers to feel supported, motivated and empowered in their work.
Want to keep learning from experts? Discover the 7 habits of world-class brands that rely on frontline workers to deliver optimal customer experience.