Wall Street analysts spend considerable time attempting to identify the next technological innovation that will transform entertainment, social media, transportation or communication. The media is filled with interesting stories about the next Google, Netflix, Facebook, Uber, Tesla or Apple. Unfortunately, there is less excitement and focus on extraordinary innovations that are transforming the way everyday people work. Every now and then, as the director of the FDU Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, I come across an innovation that promises to transform the way people work. I recently discovered a dynamic company, 4insite, that is revolutionizing the way companies train, inspire, engage and support the frontline workers in the custodial and service industries.
Ricardo Aguirre, a custodian for a soft services provider at a Merck campus here in New Jersey, has been using the 4insite app for over two years. He feels like his engagement, because of the phone app, is closer to the level of an experienced executive. “Before the phones, we had to form a line, one behind the other, to punch-in using the same clock, and if I needed something I would have to track down my manager to ask for it.” Also, for Ricardo and his fellow workers, training was almost non-existent, and his performance was rarely reviewed. Ricardo says. “The software on the phone gave me the liberty and freedom among other things to clock in and out from anywhere. It not only made me feel safe to not be around so many people during the surge of the pandemic, but it also trained and inspired me at the same time.”
Low wage workers in the janitorial, security, landscaping and other industries want to be empowered and valued but, until now, they have been overly managed and mostly ignored. This is what makes the software on Ricardo’s phone so special. Most custodians have limited tools and technology to define their roles and achieve success. However, Ricardo’s employer, SBM Management Services, has provided him with a smartphone preloaded with the robust app, 4insite, that not only makes him feel like a professional, but also helps him perform his job at the highest level, and effectively aligns Ricardo’s individual performance expectations with that of SBM and its customers. Having a real training program and an understanding of how they are performing, makes these workers feel valued.
Through the app, Ricardo can take pictures and report issues, like a leaky restroom faucet or broken glass in the breakroom, through a reporting tool that tracks open issues to completion. This gives Ricardo greater responsibility by contributing not only to the cleanliness of the facility, but also to the safety and functionality of it. The 4insite technology has features that promote positive work environments. One feature gives workers visibility to compliments they receive from customers, and another tracks progress toward performance bonuses.
Currently, 6,000+ SBM employees benefit from their smartphones with 4insite’s technology, and it seems like every custodial employee is equally excited about it. “One of the tools that helped us survive and navigate the pandemic was the 4insite mobile platform,” says Milagros De La Cruz, another employee serving Merck in New Jersey. “When the six feet of social distancing was put into place, there was no way to communicate and feel safe, but we still needed to do our work. The app made my job safer and much more satisfying.” That sense of safety largely comes from 4insite’s training delivery system. SBM is able to load original content onto the app where Ricardo and Milagros take the courses assigned to them, and where they can eventually become certified in specific skills critical to their success.
Perhaps the most impressive solution 4insite offers is that of the language function. SBM employees at Merck are multi-lingual, which presents major challenges. However, 4insite solves most of those challenges because users can interface with their smartphones in their native languages. Users choose from over 100 languages available on the app, enabling instantaneous translation both verbally and in writing. This means a person can send a communication in one language that is then translated into the preferred language of the receiving party. This allows Ricardo, Milagros and their coworkers to communicate effectively and feel confident and safe doing their jobs. This is a game-changer. Not only does it create efficiencies in communications, it has the potential to open up so many opportunities for those who speak little or no English, and effectually breaks the language barriers that preclude non-English speakers from gainful employment. It also reduces confusion and frustration among workers, managers, and customers, that can be demoralizing for a worker struggling to communicate.
According to a Pew Research study, “Roughly three-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (29%) don’t own a smartphone. More than four-in-ten don’t have home broadband services (44%) or a traditional computer (46%).” By giving every employee a smartphone, SBM is bridging the digital divide by empowering employees, who otherwise would not have access to a smartphone or broadband services, with the ability to participate in the online world of commerce, social media, education, and access to other life enhancing tools.
Why do I believe this ground-breaking technology is so important at this time? The Biden Administration has communicated that their number one priority is to spend more than $16 billion on infrastructure and thereby create hundreds of thousands of jobs, with many being equivalent to jobs like those held by Ricardo and Milagros. The 4insite app, and other like technologies, are more important now than ever because they will empower every employee working on infrastructure projects to easily understand expectations, complete critical training programs, report facility-related issues, and receive and respond to important messages from their supervisors.
Marie Espinoza, 4insite’s President, says the company’s mission is to “improve quality and create efficiencies that raise industry standards, while also improving the life experiences of service workers, both at work and at home.”
According to Dave Sweet, senior vice president of operations, whose division covers the Merck campus in New Jersey, SBM has seen the results of 4insite’s mission firsthand: “We are, in fact, creating a connected, empowered, ownership culture like never before. Through 4insite, we have the ability to facilitate meaningful trainings that we can track, and ensure our workers are in compliance with service protocols. We have found that 4insite’s features are professionalizing the workforce, driving efficiencies and improving safety. With it, we are achieving extraordinary results.”
Like most people, I love hearing about the sexiest new technology companies. However, innovative technology that makes average workers more satisfied and productive, while improving the quality of their lives, will have a much bigger and lasting impact on the future of this country than the latest entertainment innovations.
Dr. Dale Caldwell is a professor and the executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship where he researches, supports and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.