Podcast: Deskless Workers Get Noticed by HR Tech Developers

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Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer.

This week: HR technology and deskless workers. Who’s leaving who behind?

That’s on this week’s edition of PeopleTech, brought to you by Criteria. Finding and retaining great talent is a challenge – and Criteria can help. Their assessments help you make better talent decisions by identifying high-potential candidates.

Learn more. Visit www.criteriacorp.com. That’s www.criteriacorp.com.

And now…

Last week, I spoke with Martin Hartshorne, the CEO of When I Work. They’re a workforce management platform that provides scheduling, time tracking and team messaging for shift workers. One of the things we talked about was how, over the last decade, HR systems have evolved from being systems of record to systems of engagement. But what’s that mean for workers who don’t have desks or computers or tablets. The closest thing they’ve got is their phone.

These workers are a significant portion of the workforce—up to 80%, some estimate. But to date, technology vendors haven’t prioritized their needs. As their number increases, however, developers have more reason to focus on users whose computer is more likely to be in their pocket than on their desk.

Podcast: As their numbers increase, #HRTech vendors have more reason to focus on users whose computer is more likely in their pocket than on their desk. #HR Click To Tweet

Today, HR software is knitting itself into the systems used to conduct business throughout the organization. Employees are increasingly the end users of HR tech. So, vendors pay more attention to how their products contribute to the employee experience, in ways that go beyond simple interface design.

Analyst Josh Bersin thinks that this year HR technology developers will focus on apps that are easy to use and that integrate with existing tools. This “EX layer,” as he calls it, includes communications, surveys, case and knowledge management, as well as platforms that simplify the building of workflows, chatbots and portals. One result of all this: Deskless workers might begin to feel more love.

According to software provider Skedulo (Schedule-O), 76% of IT executives believe tech vendors largely overlook these users in their product development. In the healthcare space specifically, 80% said deskless workers have been short-shrifted. Whether by design or by instinct, it seems vendors are more concerned with serving office-based workers.

Skedulo polled 100 IT executives between June and July 2020. So the results reflect Covid-19’s realities. About 14% said at least half of their workforce is deskless, while more than 75% said at least 10% operate outside of an office. Over the next two years, nearly two-thirds expect the number of deskless workers to increase.

Overall, software vendors have a ways to go if they’re going to catch up. Only 39% of the CIOs use software designed with deskless workers in mind, and just 13% say those products meet their workers’ needs. More than two-thirds have to find additional software to provide deskless employees with complete solutions.

This disconnect takes a toll on communications and engagement. It can also pressure a company’s business results. Because deskless employees are highly mobile, they need dependable communications, fast response time and simplicity.

They also take a different approach to their technical tools. Since sitting at a computer isn’t a core part of their job, they use technology when they have a specific need to address. It follows, then, that 55% of CIOs say deskless employees use tools that have been designed around a specific task. At the same time, 72% say those tools are tough to use, and that hurts productivity.

And, not surprisingly, 62% of the CIOs prioritize tools that increase productivity. Improved communications and a better employee experience were the next highest priorities, at just more than 50% each. And 86% believe addressing those issues requires a platform focused on deskless workers.

The shift to remote work provides technology providers with an opportunity to expand their horizons. If anything, the surge of employees working from home has increased the need for solutions designed for those who don’t work from a single, defined space.

It’s also expanded the use of technology by small businesses. Many were quick to use collaboration solutions like Zoom, Google Meet or Slack to keep their employees in touch with other. Meantime, telecommunications firms like Mitel have emphasized the capabilities of their technology to support both field-based personnel and remote office workers.

With the workplace morphing and business conditions shifting by the week, HR tech vendors have to take a holistic view of what their customers need. In some cases, workforce chores need to be streamlined. In others, a completely new approach is needed to facilitate connection, communications and engagement. That’s especially true, employers say, because the challenge of maintaining culture and a sense of structure is particularly acute now that workers are scattered.

This has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report, a publication of RecruitingDaily.

This edition is brought to you by Criteria. Resumes and interviews aren’t good at predicting job success, and they lead to bias that gets in the way of hiring a diverse, high-performing team. Visit criteriacorp.com to see how Criteria can help you unlock the potential of your candidate pool. That’s www.criteriacorp.com.

PeopleTech is a member of Evergreen Podcasts. You can check out other shows at www.evergreenpodcasts.com.

And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www-dot-hcm-technology-report-dot-com.

I’m Mark Feffer.

Image: iStock

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