If you work in any kind of organization, you know that frontline workers are essential. Almost every industry needs someone at the front lines, whether that involves factory and warehouse labor, security inspections, or customer interactions. Frontline workers are vulnerable to the same problems as any other employee (including institutional inefficiency and inadequate training), but must also content with elevated risk of theft, assault, or accidents.
In response to these conditions, frontline worker technology has matured rapidly, manifesting as both proprietary hardware and modifications of pre-existing platforms. Read on to learn about four key ways your organization can leverage these new technologies for enormous financial, safety, and logistic benefits.
1. Reduce Risk of Worker Injury (Lone Worker Protection)
Working alone can be dangerous, and the most important duties for frontline workers often require physical isolation (such as late-night security inspections) or physical confinement (such as one-on-one house visits with clients). Modern forms of so-called lone worker protection provide fast and easy ways to call for help (known as “panic-button” functionality), even when a worker is incapacitated or under extreme duress.
You can provide lone worker protection through proprietary hardware (such as smart badges), or by leveraging already-owned smartphone technology. Modern dedicated smart badge hardware (like the SoloProtect ID Pro) often includes tracking capabilities and discreet panic buttons in the form-factor of a standard name tag. Smartphone software (such as SoloProtect Mobile), a more economical alternative, lets employees request help rapidly via shortcuts on the smartphones they already use.
In addition to being a best practice, “panic-button” protection may soon be required in the jurisdictions where you and your employees work. Major tourist destinations have mandated that all hospitality workers have a way to immediately request help, and industry experts anticipate that such ordinances will soon be standard practice.
Lone worker protection extends to situations in which workers are physically unable to request help. For instance, smartphones running applications such as FallSafety Pro can detect and respond to major falls on behalf of their owners.
2. Protect your company’s information security
Your company’s information security can be compromised anywhere, especially on the front lines. Especially for lone workers, device theft can be a major issue; in turn, stolen devices provide unauthorized users with the means to remotely access your company’s networks. Plus, unauthorized physical entry to a workplace can be a major issue for any company, and the exposed spaces where frontline workers often work are especially vulnerable.
In regards to preventing unauthorized office entry, face scanners and other forms of biometric authentication provide a strong authentication method to complement traditional keycards. New frontline worker technology enables additional security based on physical activity. For example, smart badges can track worker location and much more; if a badge detects that it has been removed from an employee’s body, it can even require authentication to use when it is next picked up.
Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) software suites offer a strong defense against remote infiltration. UEM technology can allow administrators to enact policies on devices based on location and time, so that device functionality and access can be blocked if taken off-site. Administrators can also lock and wipe stolen devices, if necessary, using a central UEM console. Another promising technology for preventing remote information theft is continuous authentication. Powered by machine learning, software such as Behaviosec monitors user behavior while using a device, and rejects the user if behavior (such as mouse or keyboard speed) suddenly changes. This provides a decisive way for companies to detect and reject thieves even in the event those thieves have bypassed all other security measures.
3. Train frontline workers better and faster
Frontline worker training requires workers to learn a great deal in a short amount of time. Typically, frontline workers remember very little from their training sessions because of boredom and mental fatigue. Thankfully, frontline worker technologies can make the training process more interesting and less demanding while imparting and assessing knowledge more effectively.
By wearing virtual reality head-mounted displays (VR HMDs), employees can immerse themselves in virtual representations of their work environments. The immersion employees experience in this environment boosts performance and information retention. Plus, VR HMDs can simulate emergency situations with a scope and level of realism that would be difficult to stage in real life.
Major corporations like Wal-Mart have begun training employees using VR HMDs, a testament to the efficacy of the technology.
Using related technology, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) HMDs superimpose digital information over real-life objects in ways that facilitate on-the-job training. HMDs like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 can provide digital guidance that changes dynamically as the user interacts with their environment. AR and MR HMDs have been shown to dramatically cut the error rate when employees train to adopt new workflows.
Not only can employees learn faster with frontline worker technologies, but the amount they need to learn can be reduced as well. New technologies and software suites (like ManoMotion) can integrate with smartphone apps to read worker gestures via camera and accept them as valid system inputs. Companies can make operating complicated interfaces easier, reducing the amount of new information employees must process to master their tasks.
4. Make Your Team Better-Coordinated and More Responsive
No matter how well-trained your employees are, they cannot succeed if anyone fails to properly communicate what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. A necessary step for maximizing the productivity and accuracy of your frontline workers is ensuring that every message is relayed as quickly as possible to the most relevant employees. Frontline worker technology can optimize your team’s communication in a few important ways.
Some smart badges function as high-tech pagers, relaying urgent messages in settings (such as hospitals) when personal device use would be unprofessional. These badges go beyond traditional pagers, as emergency staff can selectively alert the team members who are currently closest to a given medical emergency. This can ensure that the people who get the message are the ones in the best position to offer help.
Voice dictation technology is not new to frontline workers, but recent years have seen the technology make significant strides towards improving accuracy. Voice dictation can enable communication when workers would otherwise be unable to type, such as when their hands are full. Additionally, if a frontline worker types at a slow rate, voice dictation may be a better way for the employee to quickly communicate with others.
High team morale can drive better communication as well, and gamifying work (adding elements of play, such as friendly interdepartmental competitions) is an effective way to raise morale. Implementation can be simple, as gamification applications run with standard smartphone operating systems. Additionally, collaborative planning platforms (like Basecamp and monday.com) can supplant traditional email communications and enable every team member to participate in project-planning, providing another way to increase communication and understanding.
Each of the frontline worker technologies described above is helpful on its own, but they are especially useful when deployed in tandem. This means that you will need to manage a range of software and hardware endpoints in order to provide the most benefit to your frontline workers.