Tech Vendors Back-Burner Deskless Workers Just When They Shouldn’t

Construction Workers

Deskless workers represent a significant proportion of the workforce—up to 80%, by many estimates—but technology vendors haven’t prioritized meeting their needs. As the pandemic increases the number of employees working outside the office, however, developers have more reason to focus on users whose computer is more likely to be in their pocket than on their desk.

According to Skedulo, a developer of software for managing deskless workers, 76% of IT executives say tech vendors largely overlook these users in their product development efforts. In the healthcare space specifically, 80% said deskless workers have been short-shrifted. Whether by design or instinct, it seems vendors more concerned with serving office-based workers.

Software vendors neglect deskless workers, just when they shouldn't. COVID-19 gives them reasons to change course. #HR #HRTech Click To Tweet

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% operates outside of an office. Over the next two years, nearly two-thirds (62%) 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, 67%, have to find additional software to provide deskless employees with complete solutions.

Deskless Workers in the Dark

By many accounts, this disconnect takes a toll on communications and engagement, That, in turn, can pressure a company’s business results. Because deskless employees are highly mobile—working in the field as service technicians, for example, or roaming hospital corridors as nurses or aides—they need tools that offer 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 one task. At the same time, 72% say the tools are tough to use, and that hurts productivity.

Not surprisingly, 62% of the CIOs prioritize tools that will increase deskless workers’ productivity. Improved communications and a better employee experience were the next highest priorities, at 52% and 51% respectively. Addressing those issues requires a dedicated platform that focuses specifically on the needs of deskless workers, 86% believe.

Shifting Opportunities

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

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

With the workplace morphing and business conditions shifting by the week, HCM tech vendors must take a holistic view of their customers’ needs. In some cases, workforce-related chores need to be streamlined while in others, a completely new approach is needed to facilitate connection, communications and engagement. Employers say the challenge of maintaining culture and a sense of structure is particularly acute now that workers are geographically scattered.

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