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The age of the deskless workforce

The way we work has fundamentally changed. The pace of change has been exacerbated by everything from the pandemic to AI. L&D leaders had been preparing for a new way to work with the onset of social learning and a multi-generational workforce; however, few ever predicted a deskless workforce.

“Work” simply won’t ever be an office job again. Employees can work anywhere, at any time, and at any place. This means learning needs to happen in all those times, places, and spaces too.

Welcome to the age of the deskless worker.


What is a deskless worker?

A deskless worker, also commonly referred to as a frontline worker, is an employee who doesn’t have a designated office or work environment, including those who work in mobile, remote environments away from the traditional office. Making up 80% of the global workforce, you can find deskless workers in any role and any industry, including technicians, managers, sales teams, construction workers and service workers. There’s now even an increasing number of knowledge workers who are also going deskless.

Technically, to be considered deskless, that person must be doing mobile work at least 80% of the time. However, in a post-2020 world, where globally, 78% of people in your typical ‘office-based roles’ are either remote or hybrid (those who work remotely without a traditional office), can also fall under the deskless category.


The challenges of a deskless worker

The term ‘deskless’ is new, but the conversation surrounding the treatment of this workforce has been around for years. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ may be a harsh way to phrase it, but on the other hand, it can ring true. Because many deskless workers are more than just a click away, they are often excluded from company communications, performance management programmes, and learning opportunities. The chances are that many deskless workers are overlooked and under-appreciated as a result.

With 80% of the workforce now classed as deskless workers, what challenges does this present?


Employee engagement and retention and the link to professional development

According to research from Gallup, companies with an engaged workforce have 23% higher profitability compared to those with a disengaged workforce. It’s no secret that many industries with deskless employees have struggled with engagement and turnover. In fact, 43% of deskless workers are currently looking for a new job. Now, as the global level of deskless workers increases, it’s crucial for companies to have a solution. It’s a challenge for managers and supervisors to engage with deskless workers across different or remote environments. You can’t easily pop your head around someone’s door to ask how they are, check up on deadlines, or discuss plans. However, just because your workforce isn’t in the same environment, it doesn’t mean they don’t need check-ins. If companies fail to look after deskless and remote workers and equip them with tools for success, they risk losing them.

41% of deskless workers will leave due to a lack of career advancement, and even 48% of workers do not feel they have an opportunity for career growth. Why is this happening? With dynamic work schedules and environments, it’s not easy for professional development and employee reviews to be made a priority. This leads to a lack of career focus and even motivation among deskless workers, causing low productivity and retention.

The problem? Your deskless workforce does not have the managerial support to see a clear career path for them at the company. More than 28% of workers said that 1:1 support from their manager contributes to their overall success and happiness at work. Your deskless workers need regular check-ins and communication with managers to discuss matters such as performance, goal-tracking, and career aspirations. This way, your workforce has a clear understanding of the career path ahead of them at your company, motivated by the support and genuine interest of their business leaders.


Learning opportunities

Completing mandatory learning such as compliance and safety training is crucial, and possibly even more crucial, to deskless workers due to the nature of their industries and roles. Deskless workers need to be able to access learning wherever they are, at whatever time is best for them.

However, a lack of employee training was cited by 38% of deskless workers and managers, and 46% of workers do not feel they have the chance to learn new skills/roles. A lack of training not only affects compliance rates and risks of accidents, but also hinders their personal growth and job efficiency developed by upskilling.

A dispersed workforce also means it’s extremely difficult to track and report learning and training. With workforces not even being in the same time zone, let alone the same building, it’s impossible to check in with what learning has and hasn’t been completed without the support of the right technology.


L&D technology to help deskless workforces thrive

We know that deskless workers make up 80% of the global workforce. And we keep repeating because, well, it’s an insane percentage of the global population! So, how can it be that even though the majority of the working world is deskless, only 23% of deskless workers have access to the technologies they need to do their jobs? Better yet, why is only 1% of the software market dedicated to the deskless workforce?

There’s a recurring theme with the challenges being faced – deskless workers are not being prioritised or invested in, causing poor job satisfaction rates and, therefore, high turnover. The solution? Provide easily accessible-for-all opportunities for development, career growth, and upskilling.

So, how are we getting development opportunities into the hands of people who don’t have access to the big platforms that traditionally supported our office-based workforce?

Investing in a learning management system that acts the same way no matter how you access it.


Introducing Learn LMS

Kallidus Learn LMS takes all the above into consideration and has been re-engineered to fit the nuanced needs of deskless workers, making it not only an accessible and smart experience for those without access to a desk but also an engaging experience for those who do.

Learn LMS was designed to satisfy three groups inside every organisation:

The Learner. The learner can easily access any learning experience, including our own content courses, which serve the compliance need out of the gate. Learners can engage with their managers through dashboards and alerts, and link their learning directly to the performance portal. This integration allows learners and managers to use the technology in daily, weekly, and monthly conversations. Gone are the days of annual reviews. The development conversation needs to happen every day.

The Manager. Managers must no longer consider the development of their people a “second thought”. The technology reminds you just how important it is for your team to be compliant and to focus on career development. The transparency and alerts eliminate chasing down your employees and serve as conversation starters about their progress.

The L&D leader. The L&D leaders we spoke to all had one thing in common. They wanted to focus less on administrative tasks, like reporting and enrolment, and more on career paths and development. Done. Our workflows and reporting capabilities give you all your time back so that you can be the hero when it comes to keeping those talented employees with your company.

And that’s not all! Learn enables you to integrate your Learning Management System with all your crucial HR software, including your existing performance management tools and course libraries, to produce intuitive dashboards that give the company a complete perspective of individual and team progress, knowledge and skills gaps. Learn LMS lets you assign the learning they need to your people based on user data, so achievements and course content become tailored to everyone.


The statistics around the deskless workers will only intensify without a comprehensive solution. There is a way to reach everyone with a complete experience. Reach out today.

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Written by Claire Moloney

Claire is an enthusiastic and meticulous content writer whose passion is to support growth and continual learning for everyone.


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