3 ways to listen to the “voice” of employees in deskless workplaces

From engagement tech platforms to one-on-one catchups, in this blog, we outline some key ways to do capture employee feedback in shift-based, deskless work environments.

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your customers.” It’s a phrase that most HR leaders have probably heard many times before, and have no doubt tried to put in place strategies and initiatives to ensure that’s exactly what happens. However, the world of work is complex – especially in this post-pandemic era – and in many ways it’s even more complex in shift-based, roster-driven (or “deskless”) workplaces.

What does it mean to “take care” of employees? How do you know what they expect from their experience at work? How do you know what drives and motivates them, or what annoys them? Perhaps the most important step is to listen to their “voice”.

Defining “employee voice”

The employee voice is defined as any input from employees, formal or informal, related to the structure, culture, strategy, operations and processes of an organisation. It’s the main way employees communicate their views to their employer – and it can provide a wealth of information for business leaders. For example, the employees can provide feedback on:

  • What customers are thinking, doing, and buying

  • The best way to drive sales

  • The fastest, most efficient way to execute tasks

  • The most effective way to keep people motivated and engaged

Having a voice and being able to make suggestions on those elements can help with engagement; it closes the loop – instead of all communication and feedback being one-way, from the top-down, having the right tools and listening methods in place enables employees to provide bottom-up feedback.

Listening to the voice of employees can show that the employer considers workers as people, not just employees – which of course can aid in terms of building a culture of psychological safety whereby people feel they can speak out without fear of reprimand. The current environment, characterised by high employee turnover, low engagement and discretionary effort, means that any opportunity to enhance the employee experience should be prioritised.

Additional challenges in deskless work environments

Like most issues relating to communication in deskless work environments, gauging the voice of employees is easier said than done. People on the same shifts or team might have never met or have very little contact time together, or with their managers or team leaders. There might be limited opportunities for managers to form any sort of meaningful connection with their team members, and vice-versa.

In many deskless work environments, staff do not have access to technology like laptops so email communications and methods used in deskbound work environments are not effective. Instead, managers will rely on old-fashioned ‘suggestion boxes’ placed in common or shared areas or more formal performance conversations in order to get feedback from team members. Research has found this traditional approach to gathering feedback is not working, especially in deskless workplaces where it seems the predominant theme is for workers to be seen but not heard.

One study found that 39% of deskless employees do not feel heard by their organisation; 24% said their organisation asks them for feedback often, and 76% said they’re asked only sometimes – or never. The study also revealed:

  • 52% of deskless workers want to give feedback on problems with the workplace / co-workers, etc.

  • 47% want to give feedback on efficiency / protocol feedback (how to do things better)

  • 35% want to give feedback on health / safety concerns

  • 30% want to give feedback on knowledge gaps

  • 68% said they have opinions on how to make their organisation better or more profitable

How to capture employee voice in deskless workplaces

The opportunity to learn from employees is everywhere. And not only do different groups have different needs, but they often bring suggestions that managers haven’t considered. Who better to suggest improvements to processes or policies than those in the frontline? Today, there are many ways to gather and analyse that feedback. Here are some feedback methods to consider.

1.   Manager / employee catchups

While short, snappy pulse surveys and less frequent (annual or bi-annual) engagement surveys are crucial for gauging overall employee sentiment and to assess what’s being done well and what could be improved, in terms of direct feedback nothing beats regular catchups – either one-on-one between manager and employee or whole-of-team meetings. Even in the world of retail and hospitality, team meetings are a crucial part of mitigating the risk of disengaged employees. They break down silos, allow for real-time feedback, and keep people aligned with broader company goals.

Additional benefits flow from 1:1 manager/employee catchups. The 1:1 is a way for managers and their direct reports to connect on pressing issues, enhance their relationship, and ensure that appropriate feedback is being provided – in both directions. While scheduling these meetings is challenging in deskless workplaces, a 15-30 minute weekly or fortnightly chat can be invaluable for raising issues before they escalate, and providing recognition for a job well done. Managers might ask:

  • How are you feeling?

  • What is on your mind?

  • What are you most frustrated / worried about?

  • What are you most excited about?

The success of these catchups will come down to the level of trust between manager and team member. While anonymous feedback means should always be provided – yes, even the old suggestion box has a place – it’s difficult to improve things for (or provide praise to) individuals if we don’t know who has provided the feedback. That’s where the manager/employee relationship is most valuable. To build trust, managers should aim to be visible, approachable, and open to any concerns raised by employees. However, managers should also encourage employees to come up with solutions, not just present problems – and the follow-through (or action taken) on any feedback received is vital.

2.   Employee communication and engagement tools

It is important to consider how deskless employees can communicate with their peers and their manager on-the-go, in real-time. Humanforce, for example, has an easy-to-use mobile app that gives teams instant access to key information like rosters and shift changes.

It incorporates two key features purpose-built to enhance internal communication:

  • The “chat” function – this feature allows managers to chat one on one with an employee. Employees can also message other employees directly.

  • The “notifications” function – this notification feature enables managers or administrative team members to broadcast information such as team events or staff updates to a larger group of people.

Senior staff can oversee all communications, which enhances visibility over what’s going on in their company while helping employees feel seen and heard.

3.   Stay conversations

Exit interviews are commonly conducted in many organisations and remain a useful feedback channel. However, it’s too late to make any changes for the individual providing that feedback – they are already heading out the door. More organisations are relying on stay conversations to identify what’s working, what’s not working, and how things can be improved – while employees are currently engaged in their work roles. As the name suggests, stay interviews focus on all the reasons why an employee wants to remain with their current employee; it can provide valuable feedback for managers about what motivates each team member and what they want from their work experience. Read more on stay conversations in this Humanforce blog.

No matter the feedback methods used, if managers go to the effort of asking for feedback, they need to ensure they follow through with action or at least provide updates on what steps are being taken to make changes or improve the situation.

Improving engagement and retention, while empowering employees? Clearly, listening to the voice of employees provides major benefits to both parties.

How Humanforce can help

Humanforce is a leading provider of shift-based workforce management solutions that simplify onboarding, scheduling, time and attendance, employee engagement, and communication. Customers in more than 23 countries use Humanforce to optimise costs, realise compliance confidence, empower their team, and drive growth. Humanforce was founded in Sydney in 2002, and today has offices across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.

Learn more about how Humanforce can automate and simplify workforce management processes in your organisation. Contact us or schedule a demo.