One of the success stories that emerged from within the pandemic was how easily office-based workers were able to easily shift their work to home. In contrast, frontline workers were limited in their ability to work flexibly, even within their worksite.
Globally, 80% of the workforce are frontline workers – they are the retail sales assistants, doctors and nurses in hospitals, pharmacy workers, construction workers, farmers and forestry workers, food processing workers and real estate agents.
However, Australian companies struggle to support frontline workers with the same level of technology enablement as their office-based colleagues.
A CIO.com survey of Australian managers in November 2021 revealed the top reasons frontline workers aren’t given the same technology as office-based colleagues:
- 44% – cost to deploy new technology
- 33% – inability to provide in-person induction and training
- 29% – difficulty managing end-user technology fleet at the frontline
The irony is that virtually all frontline workers already carry a powerful computer in their pocket – their smartphone.
But when it comes to work, they are often limited to using fixed point of sale terminals or desktop computers, running monolithic software that isn’t designed for collaboration or free exchange of ideas and knowledge.
The truth is, there has generally been lower investment in IT innovation for frontline workers than in corporate environments. This is partly because it’s more complicated to deploy ambitious IT systems outside of the controlled environment of an office building. Providing IT support can be more challenging and company information can feel more uncontrolled.
As a consequence, issues faced by these workers include not having a personal login (or email address) for the corporate network, which leads to insecure identity sharing and in turn hampers the ability for systems to provide results tailored to the worker’s role or task progress.
It also pushes them towards using non-approved applications that provide the ease of messaging other staff that they need, and allows confidential corporate and customer information to leak out onto publicly available systems.
Corporate intranets are often targeted largely at office-based workers and this means that frontline workers often have less access to corporate knowledge or the ability to feedback ideas they’re hearing from customers directly to office-based colleagues developing products and services.
The Google Workspace vision for frontline workers
Providing great technology for frontline workers relies on it being quick and easy to deploy. It shouldn’t require any specific device; provisioning of user accounts should be simple and the software familiar to use yet secure, without requiring repetitive logins throughout the day.
That means whatever device is available to a frontline worker should be approved for use – whether that’s a low-end or flagship smartphone or tablet, for example.
The technology issues faced today by frontline workers can be effectively mitigated with cloud-based software. ‘The office’ becomes the inside of a web browser rather than the four walls of a building, and the majority of user provisioning work is done on a server rather than a device.
Google Workspace Frontline edition is designed specifically for frontline workers and includes Google Drive, Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Meet and Chat, while administrators have controls to manage staff devices so data isn’t accidentally lost.
It’s instantly familiar to any of the three billion users of Google Workspace who already rely on it in their personal, education and work life every day, and can be accessed on any device with a modern web browser. That means everybody can spend less time onboarding, training and managing, and more time getting things done.
It also has easy-to-setup single sign on, meaning once employees are signed on to their device, they’ll be automatically signed into applications, and important ecosystem apps like Docusign, Salesforce, Slack and many more can be auto-provisioned.
Supporting an agile workforce
One of the unique features of the frontline workforce is that staff are often moving between sites and there can be high levels of staff turnover.
To support this, with Google Workspace Frontline, devices can be provisioned and deprovisioned multiple times inside the same business day.
Devices can also be easily shared in the workplace – a tablet, for example, can be used by many people throughout the day with full security, simply by signing in and out of their account.
This ease of access to the platform needed by frontline workers means the problem of unauthorised apps being used for company communications is mitigated. The entire workforce – desk-based knowledge workers, frontline workers and staff that do both – can use the same platforms to collaborate.
One of the things that frontline workers really need is the ability to communicate online with each other on a person-to-person basis. Given devices for frontline workers are often provisioned with shared, generic network identities, this capability has been missing.
Workspace brings this capability to the frontline, with Google Meet and Google Chat provisioned for every user, enabling seamless communication throughout the day.
Live collaboration is also really easy in Workspace – it has been built from the ground up online, so documents can be worked on with someone else in real time without having to send them round as email attachments.
By the end of 2021, video calling will be built into Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, so there’s no need to open a separate app to communicate with a colleague. This makes working on lower-end devices with limited screen size responsive and easy.
Most importantly though, Google Workspace lays the foundation for innovation to occur right where your customers are. Frontline workers with a unique network identity and access to modern apps can easily compile feedback from customers and collaborate with business leaders to make rapid improvements.
Woolworths is one organisation planning to take full advantage of this. “Going Google will transform the way our employees interact with technology and collaborate with each other at every level of the organization,” the company says, explaining why it chose Google Workspace for its workforce.
Learn more about Workspace Frontline.