Six in 10 frontline workers worry that they could lose their jobs if they don’t adapt to new tech
New Delhi, January 13, 2022 – Microsoft India today announced the findings of a special Work Trend Index report focusing on frontline workers, which reveals insights, challenges, and opportunities for frontline workers across industries. The report also provides recommendations to balance business outcomes with the health and wellbeing of employees and highlights the opportunity for technology to help ease the burden on essential workers.
“Over the last two years, our frontline workers have borne the burden of the pandemic like no other segment of the workforce. Even as we continue to endure pandemic uncertainty right now, frontline workers are standing up to the challenge of keeping the wheels of the economy running,” said Rajiv Sodhi, COO, Microsoft India. “Across our research in the Work Trend Index, there are clear signals about the opportunity to align business outcomes with the wellbeing and growth of frontline employees. It’s encouraging to see that technology can help at this inflection point.”
The Work Trend Index revealed the following trends among frontline workers in India:
A culture of caring is the new currency on the frontline
Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella talks about the importance of strengthening the connections between employees, a company’s mission, and their managers. The research shows that the pandemic has strengthened some of these ties, while fraying others.
The pandemic has strengthened ties and frontline workers have turned to each other for weathering this storm together. In India, 86% of frontline workers report that they “feel very bonded to co-workers” because of shared stresses brought on by the pandemic. But their connections to leadership and company culture are weak. Sixty six percent of frontline workers say that leadership does not prioritize building workplace culture—and that jumps to 69% for those in management positions on the frontline such as department heads, store managers, and shop-floor supervisors.
Furthermore, communication isn’t trickling down—or bubbling up. Sixty five percent of frontline workers say messages from leadership don’t make it to them. Things are especially trying for frontline managers (67%) who say their higher-ups are not effectively communicating with them either. At the same time, 17% of frontline workers feel their voice is not being heard when communicating workplace issues.
As companies balance pandemic realities with employee needs, the research shows an opportunity to focus more on the wellbeing of frontline workers. 23% of frontline workers in non-management positions don’t feel valued as employees, and many workers (65%) wish more was being done to help with physical exhaustion or to support mental health (64%).
Most workers surveyed feel more could be done to help supply chain issues (62%) and say that labor shortages are making their jobs especially difficult (64%). As we embark on year three of the pandemic, 41% of frontline workers believe that work stress will either stay the same or worsen in the coming year. In addition to economic challenges, frontline workers in India cite Covid protocols (44%), high workload (42%), managing the needs of customers (38%), long workdays (38%), and having a fixed work schedule (36%) as the top five reasons for their work-related stress.
Frontline workers are at an inflection point
Frontline workers in India cited the following top three reasons for considering a job change: to make more money, to look for a position to develop new skills, and for better employee benefits. When it comes to frontline managers—the glue between corporate and the frontline—the data suggests they are especially feeling the strain of bridging the culture and communications gap. As more frontline workers rethink the role that work plays in their lives and engage in the Great Reshuffle, organizations have a massive opportunity to create an operating model and culture that attracts the best managers and employees to their ranks.
Optimism for tech is high
For years, many frontline workers have been concerned that technology―especially automation and AI―would make their jobs obsolete. According to the research, 88% of frontline workers are excited about the job opportunities that technology creates. The aspects of work with which they believe it can help “a lot” include team usage of VR/AR (52%), real-time updates (51%), scheduling of team members (51%), managing schedules (51%), and outside communication (51%). Tech also ranks high (64%) on the list of factors that could help reduce work-related stress, just behind better pay (67%) but ahead of flexible schedules (60%). And 64% of respondents say they even value technological tools over mental health support and wellness benefits.
Across industries, tech is already helping frontline workers navigate a rapidly changing landscape of work. Among frontline workers, there has been a 400% spike in monthly Microsoft Teams usage globally from March 2020 to November 2021. Monthly use of Teams globally increased by 560% for the healthcare industry, and by nearly as much in financial services and media and communications.
There’s an opportunity to bridge the tech-equity and training gap
There is still more that can be done to help ensure frontline workers are as well-equipped as workers who sit behind a desk. Twenty one percent of Indian frontline workers say they do not have the right technological tools to do their job effectively.
For many, falling behind has become a major concern: 63% of frontline workers worry that they could lose their jobs if they don’t adapt to new tech. Even among those workers who do receive the latest digital tools, many of them haven’t been properly trained in how to use them: 56% have had to adapt to using digital tools on the fly.
“There is an urgent need to focus more squarely on supporting frontline workers. Workplace culture is built upon a strong connection to company mission and purpose, transparency, strong lines of communication, recognition of great work, and positive workplace relationships. Companies should create avenues for two-way communication, so frontline workers are empowered with the information they need to both succeed and feel like they are being heard,” said Sodhi. “Microsoft is committed to making the employee experience more seamless for frontline workers with custom industry-cloud solutions, as well as innovations in Teams and Microsoft Viva that help employees to concentrate on what matters most.”
Frontline workers are eager to get the training they need to adopt new technologies that will help them do their best work. At Microsoft, we want to help every organization provide equitable and accessible training to every worker. With resources like Microsoft Viva Learning, business leaders can empower frontline workers to upskill and learn right in the flow of work.
This Work Trend Index Special Report survey was conducted by an independent research firm, Edelman Data x Intelligence, among 9,600 full-time or part-time employed frontline workers across eight industries and eight markets, between October 28 and November 19, 2021. A total of 1,200 frontline workers were surveyed within each industry. Frontline workers were defined as those that were required to work in-person or on-site in a physical space, and do not perform any work remotely. Industries surveyed include: automotive/transportation, communications (comprising media/entertainment and telecommunications sub-sectors), energy, retail, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing. Markets surveyed include: Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.