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5 Questions with Sandra Moran, CMO, WorkForce Software

Improving Employee Experience for Deskless Workers

Employee experience for deskless workers

This month Dash Research was able to catch up with Sandra Moran, Chief Marketing Officer at WorkForce Software, a global provider of cloud-based workforce management solutions that can adapt to each organization’s needs to deliver positive employee experience (EX). Moran and I spoke about current trends and challenges in the EX space, particularly for deskless workers.

Sandra Moran, Chief Marketing Officer, WorkForce Software

Can you provide some background on your personal or professional experiences that have shaped the way you approach your role of Chief Marketing Officer at WorkForce Software?

I have always been in technology. I started my career as a systems analyst and a programmer, and I think starting my career in systems has served me well. Technology is such an integral part of every company’s success today. I have had experience implementing software in a variety of industries and during a number of periods of innovation. For example, during the rise of the use of analytics to drive business outcomes. And in one particular role I was working in, supply chain analytics, as machine learning was beginning to be used in ways that companies are just beginning to understand.

I am excited to use my background in using technology to drive actions in my role as Chief Marketing Officer at WorkForce Software. I have been with the company for over a year and half, joining during Covid. What I love about this role is exactly what we are going to be talking about today. Being part of using technology to not only drive effectiveness, but to also improve the lives of employees.

I think we are still in the middle of a giant future-of-work experiment. The great resignation can really be looked at as a great awakening. People are at long last recognizing that their work value proposition is not meeting their needs. We have yet to see the long-term implications to businesses and workers.

What are the biggest challenges facing your customers or potential customers?

Even with the looming economic slowdown, organizations are still dealing with supply chain obstructions, as well as the inability to hire and retain employees at pace to maintain business operations, let alone grow. The pandemic really brought a near overnight shift in everything employers and employees thought was true about how they work. The balance of power has really shifted towards the worker.

Some of the struggles that we are seeing have not been caused by Covid but have been exposed by the pandemic and will not be going away. Our role now is to help companies respond to this challenge in a meaningful way to navigate through this new reality.

Another challenge is the historical focus on desked, in-office employees. Deskless workers are 80% of the workforce, but topics like Zoom fatigue are at the forefront. A challenge is how to engage an employee that does not even have a corporate email address or access to a company intranet. When Covid first hit, there weren’t communication tools for questions like – is the store open? Is the manufacturing plant open? What are the procedures that will keep us safe? There was a complete inability to execute. Now we know it and the need for communications and flexibility has risen to the forefront.

Unfortunately, some companies have systems that were designed 20 years ago. So sometimes, it’s not that the company or manager doesn’t have the desire to improve, they have an inability to do so based on their current technology stack. This situation has accelerated the HR digital transformation.

As an example, deskless employees want scheduling flexibility. The reality is this can be difficult. We work with a manufacturer that needs 150 people to run one production line. Their scheduling system just didn’t allow for the capability to break scheduling into units. So, if 50 people want scheduling flexibility and 100 don’t care, their system cannot enable easy combinations of shifts to meet employee needs and the reality of running the line.

Many of our customers are large, multinational companies and they are really trying to adapt to a different paradigm. Our customers are now seeing the gaps in their systems and working to fix it. This is not just about flexibility, but also includes communications and the need to quickly see a change that is needed and escalate it to the people in the business who need to know it.

What are some barriers to successful implementations and how can WorkForce Software help overcome these?

A company really needs to have the ability to absorb and manage change. Because at the end of the day, it is people using the system. Especially with technology like ours, you must get the employee to actually interact with it daily. How it is delivered is really crucial. Some companies are struggling with getting workers to use their own device for accessing an application. That’s generational. Seventy five percent of the workforce is now digitally native, and they don’t have a problem using their own device. The question is, do you hold back the large population because a small percentage doesn’t have that same comfort level with technology.

The first struggle for a company is, can we even ask employees to do this? Many of the customers our company works with have frontline employees, and sometimes they have to work to get these employees to use the system. Those companies that are most successful embrace a mobile strategy at the outset. Their communications are that they are asking employees to communicate with managers using their own mobile devices, and they are unwavering about it, while still offering some other alternatives to employees who can’t or won’t agree. With this combination, they see extremely high adoption.

WorkForce Software has found that there are a few actions that can really set a company up for a successful technology implementation.

  1. The technology must be delivered to employees though a device they have all the time
  2. It must be easily accessed via an application they are using daily (ex. Software used to clock in/out)
  3. There should be minimal/zero training required. It should feel familiar and like a consumer-grade technology.
  4. Employees must see the benefit from it quickly and understand why it’s being offered. There must be an effective communication strategy. Explain – why is this change being made?

Where do you think the deskless worker industries are in terms of maturity/adoption of employee experience technologies such as recognition, feedback, listening technologies, and community-building tools?

Adoption is slowly building – but the slow build is more on the part of the company than it is on the employees, who are requesting employee experience technologies. The employees have already heavily embraced these concepts and are using other third-party platforms to find each other, communicate, complain, etc. The opportunity is for employers to meet employees where they already are from a technology standpoint and engage in topics and actions that are meaningful to them.

Industry does play a role in it. As an example, the retail market has a lot of younger workers who are on mobile devices, and they have less barriers to using them for work. A WorkForce Software customer, Five Below, has wholeheartedly embraced a mobile approach and their employees overwhelmingly adopted the system. Speed matters to people on the front line. The company is using short videos to keep employees engaged, trained, and informed. The employees see how to set up the store via pictures and video, not from a paper manual. There is social media built into it and they can interact with each other’s posts. The software has become its own self-fulfilling reward system.

We have also seen some interesting developments in usage for frontline managers. Managers are being asked to do a lot lately, and the pressure on managers is tremendous as there is no precedent for what businesses have gone through over the past couple of years. One customer created a peer-to-peer group, and the managers communicate with each other and use examples from their own real work life. The group is now self-organized around idea sessions and people can share advice and work on challenges together.

The ability to deliver information to managers and employees via different mechanisms is growing in importance. In large, decentralized organizations, when there is not a consistent communication mechanism, it can be very challenging to deliver information. During the pandemic, policies were changing on the spot which left managers in a difficult position. Our software allows companies to send a mini video with additional communication and you can see who opened it and only do follow up with the people who haven’t viewed it yet.

What are some things you are personally excited about in terms of the future of EX?

I am excited that we are even having this conversation about EX. Pre-pandemic we might be having a conversation about how one day we will address this. You know, one of the things that has happened because of the pandemic is that for many, our jobs got personal. We were seeing into each other’s homes. It humanized the work experience. This, combined with the rise in employee awareness of what works for them and what doesn’t is causing companies to address employee issues in a more urgent way. If this hadn’t happened, perhaps companies would still not be prioritizing EX until further down the road.

I welcome the opportunity to really dig in to support deskless workers, many of whom don’t really have the same “moments” that office workers have, including their first day in the office and setting up their work computer, email, and technology. We have the opportunity to focus on the everyday and support them with technology that helps take some of the friction and annoyance out of the daily work grind. The benefits of having a great first day or attending an interesting training session are wiped out if an employee keeps getting asked for overtime when they don’t have a childcare option, or if they are missing information they need to be successful as they’re doing their work.

Additionally, I am excited about the use of data to be able to push timely information to managers. Technology drives not only efficiencies, but empathy. I can give you an example. Let’s say an employee is late to work. This is something that does not typically happen in this employee’s history. Maybe it starts to happen again and again. The manager can have this combined data picture sent to them in real time so that they can check in with this person, And make sure their scheduling and workload are OK. We can create empathy at scale with this information flow.

All employees – in office, at a desk or on the front line – want to feel valued. You need to give them an outlet and mechanism to provide feedback about the work you are asking them to do. We also need to tap into the people actually doing the work. It’s good for the business and it helps them feel listened to and valued. Employee experience is incredibly unique and personal. For example, working overtime. Some people rejoice as they welcome the extra income. For some people, their life gets derailed if they have personal commitments that can’t be rearranged. We need to know how they feel, and an employer needs to close the feedback loop and put the data into action.

I am excited that we are really at a point where we can do things differently. We are increasingly seeing C-level visibility into these issues. There is an appetite for change, and the technology is available. When these things are true, real progress can be made. I am excited about where we are, and we have technology that will solve these problems if companies just start the journey.

Author Information

As a detail-oriented researcher, Sherril is expert at discovering, gathering and compiling industry and market data to create clear, actionable market and competitive intelligence. With deep experience in market analysis and segmentation she is a consummate collaborator with strong communication skills adept at supporting and forming relationships with cross-functional teams in all levels of organizations.

She brings more than 20 years of experience in technology research and marketing; prior to her current role, she was a Research Analyst at Omdia, authoring market and ecosystem reports on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and User Interface technologies. Sherril was previously Manager of Market Research at Intrado Life and Safety, providing competitive analysis and intelligence, business development support, and analyst relations.

Sherril holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University.


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