Anthill Connects Frontline Workers to Company Assets via SMS • businesskinda.com

If the pandemic made us completely rethink the way we work, that we – the mass of workers at home in pajamas who come to meetings on Zoom – omits a huge chunk of the workforce that shows up at work in person every time. As knowledge workers explore the intricacies of the virtual office, frontline workers from a cross-section of critical industries still lack the basic tools they need to perform simple tasks like switching shifts, asking HR a question, or seeing when their next one is. salary comes in.

“This workforce cannot be overlooked, there is a business imperative now…[and] there is a really exciting opportunity to create more paths to the middle class,” anthill co-founder and CEO Muriel Clauson told businesskinda.com.

Clauson and Anthill co-founder and CTO Young-Jae Kim met in a PhD program in industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Georgia. Through their shared academic research interests, they identified what Clauson described as a “huge gap” in communication between frontline, deskless workers and their employers — a gap that employees often fall into, at the expense of everyone else:

[There are] 2.7 billion people worldwide, who never sit in front of computers to do their work. So they’ve never worked from home during the pandemic and they never will because they can’t really do their job that way. So most of the time people think of production, distribution – basically anyone who works with their hands on the field on the floor.

These people don’t use software, and especially no software, they generally don’t and the reason for this is that they’re not sitting in front of computers, they’re not going to use anything on a desktop. They probably don’t use email [and] they probably don’t even have an email address. And they also increasingly don’t download or use apps on their phones – or they don’t even have a phone on which you can use an app.

For employers who manage a personal workforce, attrition is a major issue. Many employees don’t necessarily speak the language of their workplace and face other barriers to contact at work, creating problems if they are unable to communicate effectively. Anthill, who was on the Startup Battlefield stage on Disrupt, offers employers a non-app way to communicate with employees — and vice versa — via SMS, the only reliable platform that reaches everyone and doesn’t let anyone through the cracks.

“We knew as researchers that if we wanted these people to talk to us and stay in our studies, we had to text them,” Clauson said. “And so we’re super optimistic about technology that meets people where they are, works within the fiber of how they already work and live their lives, and doesn’t force them to learn a new set of technologies.”

The idea is to give employees a way to access all the information they need — payment schedules, contact with a manager, sick leave — all via text message. And a way on the employer side to automate as much as makes sense, all while providing a full portal of resources without forcing people to download apps or jumping through hoops that not everyone can manage.

To make access to those resources fairer, Anthill automatically translates its services into more than 100 languages ​​— a feature that could also help employers retain employees who may be alienated from the workplace lingua franca.

“Many of us have family members who haven’t been able to participate in benefit approval or who don’t know how to have any kind of intercourse outside of work through their employer around all those critical things like tax season and schedules and just the basics — because language was a barrier,” Clauson said.

“There are a lot of people who can work in English, but that doesn’t mean it’s their preferred language and it doesn’t mean it will be the language they can best navigate their ability to work in.”

Anthill plans to focus on a handful of core industries, including manufacturing, distribution (think Amazon warehouses), and agriculture. Kim and Clauson also see opportunities to connect deskless workers with employers in retail and healthcare, but note that those areas already have a bit more technology than some other sectors.

“We really focused on the needs at the individual level [and] what they really need is communication,” Kim told businesskinda.com. “Those workers actually need very simple things, but they need the answer right away,” Kim told businesskinda.com. Anthill allows managers to store recent answers to frequently asked questions and personalize resources in ways that more technology-centric solutions might overlook.

It’s probably hard to imagine for knowledge workers or big tech companies, but Clauson says the two communication tools Anthill most often replaces are AM radio, followed by an old-fashioned bulletin board.

“We’re trying to stay focused within the verticals. So we are now very focused on production workers in factories or distribution workers in distribution centers or truck drivers,” Clauson said. “That’s where we saw the biggest pain points and that’s where we focused first.”

Anthill first opened in alpha in late 2020, with paid pilots and a beta of the product the following year. The company launched a full version of the platform in 2022 and is currently active on more than 300 job boards in the US, with global contracts in the pipeline before 2023.

According to the company, large employers trying out Anthill often test drive a single distribution center or cluster of regional offices and scale from there. They can buy Anthill per user and per month, making it relatively easy to scale the platform up and out if it’s a good fit for you. The services are opt-in, not required, but Kim and Clauson have seen rapid adoption through word of mouth, starting with the first employee successfully answering a necessary question.

“It’s a really fun problem to solve — we’re going to work with, I think, the most overlooked, undervalued population of the workforce that’s getting an increasingly important voice,” Clauson said.