10 reasons why frontline organizations need a social platform

June 14, 2017 - 8 minute read

Yes, an internal social platform is perfectly suited for knowledge sharing and therefore innovation. But, maybe even more importantly, it fixes very common communication flaws within organizations with a lot of frontline employees.

Various internal social tools, such as Jive and Yammer, often focus on knowledge workers. Of course this focus makes sense, because our type of solution indeed stimulates sharing of knowledge. Internal social tools improve cooperations across departments and therefore will drive innovation. For these organizations, we strongly support this way of communicating and cooperating.

But we also strongly believe that there are yet a lot of organizations where internal social tools could be very useful for the improvement of processes and streamlining of information. This is especially relevant for companies with substantial amounts of frontline employees.

Non-desk employees are underserved

Let’s not forget that although most software providers are focussing on knowledge workers, an overwhelming part of the worldwide labor force does actually consist of non-desk workers. Out of a worldwide working population of 3.1 billion people (increasing to 3.5 billion employees in 2020), 2.5 billion people don’t have an office job. Developing software on the sole purpose of satisfying knowledge workers therefore has big consequences.

Research has found that eight out of ten non-desk employees claim they hardly receive digital company messages. 83% of the non-desk workers doesn’t have a company email inbox, 45% doesn’t have access to intranet. 58% rarely receives any messages from senior management. Consequently, six out of ten non-desk employees are completely in the dark as to where their company is trying to position itself in relation to their competition.

10 reasons why frontline organizations need a social platform:

So therefore, we gladly explain to you why our internal social platform is (also) serving the needs of frontline employees. We are talking, amongst others, about retail and hospitality staff members, flight attendants, blue collar workers, drivers and health and child care professionals.

1. Because frontline employees often don’t have access to a computer

Whether they are on the road, at a school, in a store, restaurant or in a plane; many frontline employees do not use a desktop computer. Therefore, they can only check company information through their mobile devices.

Internal social platforms, consisting of a high-quality mobile app, ensure that employees can access (important) company information at every location. Through their smartphone or tablet.

2. Because frontline organizations consist of a lot of part-timers

Part-timers often do not possess a company e-mail address. Companies consisting of part-timers regularly also have to deal with a high employee turnover. A high-quality internal social platform solves both problems: you can onboard employees with their personal email addresses,  and simply offboard them when they leave the organization. But even better: social platforms ensure employees are able to (emotionally) engage in/with their colleagues' thoughts, ideas, feedback and activities. Commitment/engagement is limiting the employee turnover.

3. Because frontline organizations often use different software solutions

Whether we talk about pay slips, applications for leave, duty-rosters, or ERP's, a lot of frontline organizations deal with different software solutions to run the work processes as smoothly as possible. But all these solutions often lead to separate login procedures.

To solve this, you could introduce an internal social platform with an open API that can connect with all the existing systems. Employees can then run all the solutions from one platform, through a single log-in session.

4. Because frontline employees need to express their emotions

Waiters, in-store personnel and flight attendants are continuously facing customers. To do a good job and thus provide the right kind of consumer experience, they need to modify their emotions in such ways that the expressions they show on the outside more or less match their sentiment on the inside.

To be able to modify their emotions, frontline employees often need to express their emotions to their coworkers and manager. If they can’t share thoughts and feelings, the level of their customer service is seriously affected. An internal social network could function as an emotional gateway, as there are not many opportunities for frontline employees to have face-to-face interactions with their colleagues.

5. Because frontline organizations often deal with last-minute changes

Shipments that arrive (too) late, dealing with a sudden influx of goods.... These are just a couple of examples of situations that are often occurring within the retail industry. Especially at those moments, it would be useful to conveniently and directly inform the right people.

6. Because frontline organizations often operate as franchise structures

Successful frontline organizations, such as McDonald’s, Media Markt, Rituals, Ikea, Intercontinental Hotels or Maersk, often operate as chains. Branches could belong to the same owner, but often franchisers are involved. By using an internal social platform, all these branches could interact within one environment. If they like, franchisers will possess their own closed network. But at the same platform, they could directly communicate with the head office and vice versa.

7. Because frontline organizations fail to break down communication barriers

Messages from the senior management are often sent to executives at certain branches, who forward the information to their employees. This is not only tedious, but it also creates a lot of noise. An internal social platform enables you to directly communicate with all the employees, from the top to the bottom. This bottom, the front line, can immediately respond to messages and senior managers will be notified.

For the sake of efficiency and speed, it's also important to effectively communicate with certain departments, branches or groups. Instead of sharing information extensively, through email, brochures or even fax machines, it would be more sufficient to send messages within an internal social platform. Every involved employee/recipient will be notified about a new message.

8. Because frontline organizations could face the existence of privacy sensitive shadow IT

As frontline employees tend to communicate through their smartphones, there’s a chance employees discuss company issues at Facebook or Whatsapp. Corporate European organizations probably know that the American privacy regulation regarding the storage of app conversations is quite unsatisfactory. The regulation doesn’t comply with European Union standards.

Therefore as a company, you face two big problems regarding Facebook, Whatsapp or Snapchat. Without a better alternative, a growing amount of employees could have business conversations through these apps. The consequence is that you don’t oversee and control the communication anymore. Facebook, Whatsapp and Snapchat are not built for business conversation purposes. At the same time, you expose your organization and your employees to non-compliant and privacy sensitive data storage.

9. Because frontline organizations operate with teenagers and twenty-something people

The younger generations, Generation Y and especially Generation Z, are continuously checking their private social media throughout the day.  As digital natives they have grown up with social networking. Their digital habits have also influenced their perception of business communication. If there’s one generation expecting to be treated equally and seriously, within a transparent environment where we are able to learn from our colleagues, openly respond to messages and provide feedback to each other, it’s Generation Z (read our white paper about this generation).

Social media are a powerful type of media that doesn’t only facilitate both two-way and open communication, but is also capable to sideline traditional media in such ways that even ‘fake news’ overshadows the facts. All the future generations will even be more demanding when it comes to transparency, two-way communication and all kinds of digital interactions.

10. Because e-mail and printed media do not show video messages

Compared to printed business media, or e-mail, social media meet the demand of younger generations to watch videos. And frontline employees can watch videos quite easily through their smartphones.

Of course, you could include a YouTube link within an e-mail message, but then you overlook one of the key successes of for example Facebook: being able to directly press the play button is decisive for the extent of employee engagement. Internal social networks, such as Speakap, have the genuine capability to play videos instantly.

Gmail is one of the few e-mail clients that can offer the same experience, but the video still is displayed at the bottom of a message. Last but not least, the open environment of a social platform is the best place to talk about a video.


Written by Katy

Katy is shaping the new voice of Speakap. When she's not writing for work, she's writing for fun. When she's not writing, then she's probably out looking for the best taco in the city.