Tips for Increasing Employee Engagement for the Deskless Workforce, the Forgotten 80%

Geraldine Osman, CMO, StaffConnect, considers how employers can engage employees who don’t work in an office environment.

Employees deployed remotely and offsite, or “deskless” workers, comprise 80 percent of the global workforce. Unlike onsite staff, these 2.7 billion individuals face additional restrictions with respect to communication and access to corporate systems. Subsequently, this huge group of workers often suffers from even lower levels of employee engagement than those in the office, impacting team collaboration and morale while the bottom line takes a hit. The Bureau of National Affairs reports that $11 billion is lost each year due to employee turnover—an expensive consequence of employee disengagement.

What Is Driving Disengagement?

A number of factors have led to the global deskless employee engagement crisis.

  • Lack of access. Deskless employees often lack even basic communication and tools. Tribe Inc. has reported that 84 percent of deskless workers have no viable way to receive the communication and resources they need to perform effectively. They often can’t retrieve corporate documents, company news, and the latest updates, or access computers, company email, and corporate intranet or notice boards which limits their ability to communicate, collaborate, and share feedback with others.


  • Poor reach. A more mobile workforce means people are based remotely or in varied locations, which often leads to inadequate reach to these deskless employees. Many businesses have yet to prioritize a systematic approach to facilitating reliable, two-way communication—not just from managers to deskless staff, but vice-versa as well—that increases engagement.


  • Mission disconnect. Modern Survey reported that when workers know and understand their company’s values, they are 51 times more likely to be fully engaged than those who don’t. Organisations need an effective platform for two-way communication, allowing management to not only communicate mission-based messaging, but also ensure that people understand and support it.


  • No two-way channel. If deskless workers, who represent the vast majority of the workforce, have no reliable way to be heard by sharing their perspectives, and can’t receive company information they need to stay informed and do their jobs well, then engagement is at risk. This trickles down to customers as well. Research from Accumulate shows that disengaged employees are responsible for 65 percent of all lost customers, making it imperative that companies prioritize implementing a platform that allows full participation through interaction and feedback regardless of where staff are located.


Engagement Across the Entire Organization

Research shows that companies with engaged workers significantly outperform those without by 202 percent. When personally invested in the company’s mission, employees are more motivated to help it succeed. Full-company engagement improves trust in leadership, job satisfaction, accountability, and attitude, all of which can lead the entire organisation to better performance, increased productivity, and higher profit.

Engaged employees play a big role today in boosting brand advocacy. Consider how quickly negative perceptions about your company can now be shared on social media and review/feedback sites like Glassdoor, damaging a company’s reputation in seconds. To remain competitive, organisations must care more than ever about creating a positive employee experience (EX) for everyone across the company, including those who are deskless.


Mobilizing to Engage ALL Teams

Organisations that want to stay competitive should prioritize taking steps to achieve full-company engagement. Mobile technology is a key to reducing disengagement among the deskless workforce by inspiring engagement and meaningful connection companywide, no matter where employees work and what their roles are.

Mobile-enabled apps can come to the rescue of disconnected deskless workers in a multitude of ways, one of which is by giving them a voice in the company even if they don’t work in the office, allowing them to share feedback with management and best practices with peers. At the same time, since the communication is two-way, the deskless contingent can receive real-time updates from the CEO and leadership team, and receive recognition from their supervisor or others in their work community instead of feeling isolated and siloed. Additional benefits include:

  • Creating a tangible connection to the corporate mission, and helping all employees become brand advocates.
  • Facilitating communication within workgroups and communities via social media, sharing content/support, and knowing where to turn with questions.
  • Instant easy access for every employee to needed documentation, including instructions, videos, training materials, safety procedures, and crisis communications.
  • Gamification through online polling and surveys to give management insight on EX.
  • Measurement tools to help keep engagement high over time, as employers can use gathered data to guide culture changes based on employee feedback.

While HR communications training can help, with the right mobile engagement platform, businesses can support their deskless and office-based staff equally, ensuring connection and communication for every worker—with each other, with management, and with the organisation as a whole, to avoid the many perils of disengagement.