Glossary of HR Terms

Looking to brush up on all the latest HR acronyms, buzzwords, and common terms? This glossary is for you, sort of like the ABCs of HR. It's everything you need to know in the realm of employee experience and human connection, defined in easy-to-understand language.


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Deskless Workers

Deskless Workers: An HR Definition

What Are Deskless Workers?

As much as 80% of the global workforce — a whopping 2.7 billion people — doesn’t sit behind a desk for work. Deskless workers dominate the workforce, yet many companies struggle to connect with and engage them.

The COVID-19 pandemic put deskless workers in the spotlight for a time, but today many frontline workers are leaving their current jobs. One of the top reasons they cite for leaving, according to research from the Boston Consulting Group, is a poor relationship with their manager. Connections matter, and deskless employees are at higher risk of disconnection.

Explore who deskless workers are, learn how to connect with your deskless workforce, and discover company success stories across industries.

Defining Deskless Workers

Deskless workers are employees who don’t have a desk or office space to work from and instead perform their job duties remotely or in the field. They’re often in industries such as retail, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, or supply chain, and they may be responsible for a variety of tasks, such as customer service, maintenance, or delivery.

Employees who work remotely or in office settings typically are called knowledge workers. These people work with information, concepts, and ideas. Examples of knowledge workers include scientists, engineers, lawyers, financial analysts, economists, and software developers.

Deskless workers often rely on mobile technology to communicate, track work, and stay connected to their employers. As a result, they can be more independent and flexible than traditional office workers. However, that technology hasn’t always been effective in meeting the needs of a deskless workforce, which can leave these workers feeling isolated and disconnected.

What Causes the Deskless Workforce to Feel Disconnected?

Deskless workers likely have strong connections with ‌colleagues they regularly interact with. However, they might have less of a connection with the organization, knowledge workers in the organization, or other colleagues across locations.

A recent Workplace survey found that only about half (55%) of frontline workers feel connected to what goes on in their employer’s corporate headquarters. And nearly half (48%) believe their colleagues at headquarters get better perks and benefits. That type of disconnection can lead to resentment and ultimately disengagement.

Learn about reasons offline workers feel less connected to parts of the organization that are outside their daily scope.

Internal Communication Can’t Reach Deskless Workers in Real Time

The deskless workforce is on the front line of many companies, often working with customers. They don’t typically have access to a desk or computer, and they often don’t stay in the same place for long. One of the challenges companies face when trying to engage with the deskless workforce is that traditional methods of internal communication aren’t suited for timely outreach beyond a fixed office environment.

Frontline workers have noticed that gap: 77% of workers responding to the Workplace survey believe that good communications technology (including tech tools to share updates, keep in touch with the team, get updates from HQ, etc.) should be standard.

Communication solutions for deskless workers haven’t historically been as reliable as the tools and technologies available to workers in a fixed office environment, such as email, the intranet, or other internal communication channels. This means that even if messages could be sent to them, they may not have the means to read and respond to them in a timely way.

Finally, deskless workers may have to rely on their own devices, such as their cell phones, to access the internet, which can be unreliable and slow. That can be a problem, especially when team members have to download communication apps or juggle several passwords just to receive standard messages that may not even apply to them.

All of these factors make it difficult for deskless workers to receive real-time communications from other employees.

Corporate Communication Doesn’t Resonate on the Front Lines

Real-time communication isn’t the only barrier to connection between deskless workers and ‌office-based corporate leaders and knowledge workers. Sometimes it’s a matter of different cultures. The messages that do reach deskless workers may not be relevant to their work or may not be communicated in a way that resonates with their priorities.

In fact, 40% of frontline workers report that, based on the communications they receive from HQ, they believe management to be “out of touch” with their role, according to a recent SafetyCulture survey.

This can lead to a feeling of disconnection from the rest of the company‌ — which can have negative consequences for both the deskless workforce and the company‌‌. Employees who feel disconnected from their company are more likely to be disengaged and less productive. This can lead to higher turnover rates and increased costs for the business. Additionally, customers who interact with disengaged employees are less likely to have a positive experience.

Training for Deskless Employees Is Out of Touch with Their Needs

One-size-fits-all approaches to training often leave deskless employees feeling like they aren’t valued or heard. It can make frontline employees feel that their needs aren’t being understood or met, which can lead to higher disengagement rates.

For example, corporate training for a nurse in a hospital setting may be delivered via online modules, even though that’s not where most of their work takes place. That can make it harder for that knowledge to stick. Lack of learning options can cause deskless workers to feel that they’ve peaked in their role. In fact, the Workplace survey found that 43% of frontline workers felt that they’d reached the limit of what they could learn at their organization.

Alternative training modules for a deskless workforce might include altered or virtual reality training or microlearning modules backed up by coaching from managers, mentors, or buddies, as well as opportunities to apply learning outcomes on the job.

Why Is It Important for Deskless Workers to Feel Connected?

In today’s workplace, it’s more important than ever for deskless workers to feel connected to the organization they work for. Check out some of the reasons this connection is so important.

Teams Members Feel Aligned with the Organizational Mission

When workers feel aligned with the company’s mission, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work and have a sense of ownership over their contribution to the company. Additionally, a sense of connection to the organization’s mission can motivate workers to be brand ambassadors for the company.

When workers feel connected to an organization’s mission, they’re more likely to stay with the company for the long haul. If you have a strong emotional connection to your workplace, you’re less likely to want to leave and pursue other opportunities. This loyalty can save businesses a lot of money in turnover costs.

Deskless Employees Find Greater Belonging and Purpose

Employees who feel a sense of belonging and connection to their company’s mission are more likely to be engaged in their work. And when you’re engaged in your work, you’re more likely to put forth your best effort and produce high-quality results.

A sense of connection to the organization’s mission can also inspire workers to go above and beyond their job descriptions. If you believe in what your company does, you’re more likely to feel motivated to do whatever it takes to help the company succeed. This extra effort can make all the difference in achieving success.

Frontline Employees Feel More Valued for Their Vital Contributions

Feeling connected to the organization’s mission gives you a sense of ownership over your contribution to the company; you’re not just another cog in the machine — you’re playing an important role in furthering the company’s goals.

Employee Experience Software: Your Solution for Connecting Deskless Workers

Providing deskless workers with the same caliber of experience you provide to in-office or remote workers can be a challenge. There are many ways to connect employees, but not all of them are effective for offline workers. However, with the right employee experience software, you’ll be empowered to better serve a deskless workforce.

Deskless workers often lack access to company-wide communication channels. Employee experience software, like Enboarder, provides them with a platform to connect with other employees and share their experiences. Deskless workers often work in isolation, but connecting people through software facilitates more effective collaboration between deskless workers and other departments. The stronger employee connections are, the greater the sense of belonging people will feel — regardless of where they’re working.

Deskless workers often feel disconnected from the larger organization. Employee experience software can provide them with an avenue to stay engaged and be part of the organization’s success. It can also give deskless workers access to training and development opportunities that they may not be able to find on their own. This can help create a more well-rounded workforce.

The relationship between team members and managers is one of the most to maintain. To make the most of employee experience software, set up a regular engagement cadence between managers and employees. Deskless work environments can become busy quickly, and managers often have their own tasks to handle. Use your employee experience software to send managers timely nudges to check in with team members, helping them stay connected.

When looking for employee experience solutions, consider features such as user experience and the ability to customize distribution. Deskless employees may prefer to receive communications via push notifications on their mobile phones, for example.

3 Connection Success Stories for Offline Workers

Connecting deskless workers doesn’t have to be a challenge. Many of the companies that have implemented software to connect offline workers have seen startling results. Hugo Boss, for example, saw a 77% decrease in <3-month turnover, 65% increase in productivity, and 75% decrease in absenteeism.

Explore some of the ways organizations like yours have engaged deskless workers across the organization.


MercyAscot, a hospital in New Zealand, needed to improve flexibility and digitally optimize engagement during the onboarding process. The MercyAscot HR team implemented Enboarder to engage with people well before they turned up on day one, and also to ensure all the necessary tasks were being completed without relying on managers to run the processes individually.

Feedback from new hires and managers has been overwhelmingly positive — and participation rates are through the roof (for January-March 2019, employee participation rate was 94% and manager participation at 88%). Since implementing Enboarder, managers are saving up to two hours of work for each person that they hire (a reduction of at least 50%).

Wyndham Hotels

Wyndham Hotels enlisted Enboarder to improve its new-hire onboarding experience and increase employee engagement. Working with Enboarder’s intuitive technology and with help from the customer success team, the Wyndham team translated their employee experience into an incredible digital onboarding journey.

Wyndham’s decision to use Enboarder resulted in positive outcomes for both the company and employees. The company decreased new-hire turnover, and employees reported increased satisfaction with the onboarding process.

Hugo Boss Australia

Hugo Boss Australia implemented Enboarder to connect deskless employees and distribute critical information during the pandemic. The flexibility and adaptability of Enboarder’s software meant the team could tailor communications for specific employees — from warehouse to retail and office-based employees — as well as making sure everybody received company-wide updates.

In addition to ensuring critical information is being received, the Hugo Boss team harnessed the ability to create crucial two-way communication between HR and employees. “We received a lot of positive feedback and we’ve had employees reach out to the HR team to say thank you, feeling valued and that Hugo Boss really cares,” said Abbey Watson-Smith, Human Resources Coordinator at Hugo Boss Australia. “It’s been a great way for our retail employees to communicate with us.”

Connecting Deskless Workers Across the Business

Connecting deskless workers is essential to the success of any business. By connecting deskless workers, businesses can ensure that everyone is on the same page, resulting in better business outcomes — and happier people.