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How to engage and retain offline workers

Shrink the online-offline belonging gap

Updated on July 27, 2023

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Frontline and deskless workers

One-third of employees say their work must be done on site. These workers are often overlooked for key engagement and retention programs, despite being in high demand — HR leaders in offline industries such as retail, healthcare, and education are more likely to say the labor shortage is getting worse.

How can HR better engage this crucial workforce?

Belonging for offline workers

Offline workers are less likely to say they feel a strong sense of belonging at work and are less likely to say that belonging at work matters to them, compared to online workers.

However, when offline workers report a strong sense of belonging, we see the same positive correlations as for online workers. This is a group that is often overlooked when it comes to belonging at work, but when we can foster that throughout the workforce, it drives business results.

Why does belonging matter for offline workers?

Belonging matters for offline workers because it increases engagement, retention, and productivity. Offline workers with a strong sense of belonging are almost 3x more likely to have high job commitment and are 2x more likely to say they are productive at work.

In fact, for offline workers who said they would not job hunt in the next 12 months, the number one reason for staying in their current role was feeling a strong sense of belonging.

Offline workers are less likely to feel a strong sense of belonging

The Achievers Workforce Institute Belonging ModelTM identifies five actionable pillars that drive belonging. According to the AWI research, offline workers lag online workers for every pillar.

Online workers Offline workers
I feel warmly welcomed at my company 38% 27%
I feel known as an individual at my company 31% 28%
I feel included at work 32% 25%
I am supported at work in achieving my personal and professional development goals 29% 22%
I feel a strong connection with peers and colleagues 29% 24%

*Source: AWI HR Preparedness Report

HR action

Focus on one pillar at a time. If possible, survey employees about how they feel and focus on the pillar that has the most opportunity for improvement.

How can I increase belonging for offline workers?

Increase belonging for offline workers with three data-driven principles from Achievers Workforce Institute.

1. Recognition

Aim for at least monthly meaningful recognition for every worker. Offline workers recognized monthly are 33% more likely to have a strong sense of belonging compared to those recognized quarterly.

2. Flexibility

Offline employees who strongly agree with the statement “I am allowed to work in the way I prefer” are almost three times more likely to feel a strong sense of belonging and are 66% less likely to say they will job hunt in 2023.

3. Feedback

Employees at companies that gather feedback at least three times a year are 44% more likely to have a strong sense of belonging compared to those surveyed once or less than once a year. In fact, most employees wish their company gathered feedback more often and three-quarters (77%) say they’re more honest in an anonymous survey than in conversation with their manager.

Read The Ultimate Guide to Engaging and Retaining Offline Workers report for actions you can take today to improve engagement, retention, and productivity for your offline workforce.


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