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86 pc frontline workers feel their connections to leadership and company culture are weak:Microsoft report

In India, 86 per cent 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, revealed the Work Trend Index report by Microsoft.

The pandemic has strengthened ties and frontline workers have turned to each other for weathering this storm together. Sixty-six per cent of frontline workers say that leadership does not prioritise building workplace culture—and that jumps to 69 per cent for those in management positions on the frontline such as department heads, store managers, and shop-floor supervisors.

Culture of caring is the new currency on the frontline

Furthermore, communication isn’t trickling down—or bubbling up. Sixty-five per cent of frontline workers say messages from leadership don’t make it to them. Things are especially trying for frontline managers (67 per cent) who say their higher-ups are not effectively communicating with them either. At the same time, 17 per cent 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 per cent of frontline workers in non-management positions don’t feel valued as employees, and many workers (65 per cent) wish more was being done to help with physical exhaustion or to support mental health (64 per cent).

Most workers surveyed feel more could be done to help supply chain issues (62 per cent) and say that labour shortages are making their jobs especially difficult (64 per cent). As we embark on year three of the pandemic, 41 per cent 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 per cent), high workload (42 per cent), managing the needs of customers (38 per cent), long workdays (38 per cent), and having a fixed work schedule (36 per cent) 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 per cent 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 per cent), real-time updates (51 per cent), scheduling of team members (51 per cent), managing schedules (51 per cent), and outside communication (51 per cent). Tech also ranks high (64 per cent) on the list of factors that could help reduce work-related stress, just behind better pay (67 per cent) but ahead of flexible schedules (60 per cent). And 64 per cent of respondents say they even value technological tools over mental health support and wellness benefits. 

Opportunity to bridge 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent have had to adapt to using digital tools on the fly.

“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, and Microsoft India.