Technology Record - Issue 22: Autumn 2021

184 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E T raditionally undervalued and underap- preciated, the world’s two billion frontline workers have emerged as the true heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months. Collectively, they have provided life-saving medical care to patients, continued to keep fac- tories running to manufacture critical products, maintained vital delivery services, and kept retail stores operational to provide people with access to food and other essential goods. Now that retailers have realised the pivotal role their frontline workers play across their entire supply chain and in the end-to-end customer experience, they are investing in empowering these employees with the tools and technologies they need to work more productively. For exam- ple, Microsoft and Harvard Business Review Analytics Services’ Building for Success at the Firstline of Busines s survey found that 78 per cent of executives said their organisations must connect and empower their frontline workers with technology and data to drive future success. “The pandemic has made many people priori- tise their personal well-being and statistics from the World Economic Forum show that 83 per cent of workers now rank ‘meaning’ as one of the three most important factors in their job,” says Anya Minbiole, global business strategy leader of worldwide retail and consumer goods at Microsoft. “We’ve seen through Microsoft WorkLab research that the key to boosting the well-being and resilience of employees is to give them a strong sense of purpose and control over their work experiences. This is particularly true for the mission-driven Generation Z workers that have recently joined the workforce and are now influencing their co-workers and customers.” Consequently, it is critical that retailers pro- vide employees with the tools, knowledge and information they need to work effectively, com- plete tasks efficiently, and make decisions that will enable them to better serve customers, says Minbiole. Retailers should also automate basic repetitive tasks to free up employees to engage in higher-value tasks, such as assisting customers. “Being productive makes us feel empowered and increases the value we feel in our work, which leads to joy and resilience, but carrying out BY R E B E CCA G I B SON Breaking frontline workers Microsoft’s Anya Minbiole outlines how empowering employees can help retailers to boost workforce productivity and develop innovative customer experiences to ensure success in the rapidly evolving retail environment new frontiers for