Jun 06, 2022

Three Tips For Empowering And Supporting Frontline Employees

By Steven Kramer, WorkJam CEO and Co-Founder, originally written for the Forbes Business Council

I recently spoke with an analyst who put a new spin on the Great Resignation, calling it the “Great Re-Evaluation.” I have to agree with her and here’s why: Employees are re-evaluating their career, financial and family goals. This new trend puts a healthy focus on life-work balance, and it’s here to stay. Business operators are doing a similar re-evaluation by working toward creating a corporate culture that is in line with their frontline workers’ needs and goals.

To add to that, I believe there is a silver lining in the Great Resignation, and it’s that employers have been forced to reconsider how they empower and equip their frontline workers, whether they are restaurant servers, hospital maintenance staff or retail employees. This could prove to help the long-term success of businesses that do it right.

A culmination of external factors has led to frontline employees working in taxing environments for far too long. As a result, a large portion of the labor pool is shuffling around, and employers are scrambling to fill the gaps that departing workers leave behind. Now, employers are faced with the challenge of achieving productivity targets with a limited workforce, and that means identifying new ways to empower existing employees to do more with less.

Money alone can’t fix a difficult work culture.

The pandemic intensified the challenges frontline workers face, including inadequate channels of communication, long work hours and a lack of advancement opportunities. Many workers burned out as a result, which hurt both their mental health and job performance.

It’s no surprise that hourly workers paved the way for the Great Resignation. These workers are more likely than their high-wage counterparts to consider leaving their current job. As employers scramble to retain and hire frontline employees in today’s competitive labor market, many companies have even resorted to offering sign-on bonuses and incentives to entice new hires. But it isn’t enough.

My company provides a digital platform for frontline workforces, and from my perspective, to combat labor shortages and prevent further employee attrition, employers now need to help employees streamline their day-to-day tasks. By taking steps to help facilitate work and reduce workplace stress, you can empower your employees and motivate them to remain with your organization longer. With that in mind, here are three ways you can get started.

1. Offer flexible scheduling.

Scheduling changes are a fact of life. Whether employees are dealing with sickness, childcare, burnout or a family emergency, they appreciate the ability to take time off and make up missed shifts when needed. Yet, many employers who manage shift workers communicate schedules using pen and paper, which can make it difficult to make shift changes on the fly.

To improve efficiency, businesses can consider using shift management tools that allow workers to release, swap and request shifts. (Full disclosure: My company provides these tools, as do others.) Giving employees a say in when and where they work can improve your company’s ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances. For example, let’s say a pharmacy brand has three locations in a given city, but it looks like one location is short-staffed. The business’s shift-management tool could enable its workers from the other two locations to fill the gap, in turn giving workers an opportunity to work additional shifts and earn more money.

One thing to keep in mind when doing this, however, is to ensure workers only apply for shifts for which they are qualified. You can ask your tool provider whether the solution allows you to filter and control who sees which shifts.

2. Provide ongoing learning opportunities.

For all employees—regardless of role or industry—nothing is more frustrating than feeling ill-equipped to do work and feeling unsupported in a role. I’ve seen firsthand through my company’s employee learning solutions that training opportunities can help.

Suppose the worker who picked up a shift at another pharmacy location needs a refresher on how to work the register. By watching a training video, they can get up to speed quickly and avoid distracting their manager.

In addition to role-specific training, hourly workers value upward trajectory. A Gallup poll (download required) found that 61% of U.S. workers say upskilling opportunities are an important reason to remain at their jobs. As such, ensure you provide access to certificate programs as well. If you don’t invest in your employees’ growth, don’t be surprised if they look for career-advancing opportunities elsewhere.

One way to stay abreast of your frontline workers’ career goals is by using surveys and polls. Asking the right questions will ensure that you’re providing learning opportunities that are in line with their personal objectives.

3. Streamline communication.

Flexible scheduling and improved learning and development opportunities are important, but they can only be so effective without a communication strategy that includes frontline employees. Too often, communication is fragmented; schedules are posted on bulletin boards, company announcements are communicated through email, daily tasks are paper-based, etc. It’s no wonder information gets lost in the shuffle.

For this reason, you can consider adopting a direct, digital communication strategy. Additionally, keep workers in the loop about things like learning and development courses. This makes it more likely they’ll take advantage of them—a win-win for employers and employees. And once you’re segmenting communication, the same targeting and delivery method can be applied to task management, training and other critical functions.

This is a good time to reinforce the importance of two-way communication. Keep in mind that the most important aspect of communicating with your frontline is listening. Allow them to ask questions or express themselves. Building strong relationships with your frontline further fosters a solid corporate culture.

The daily demands of frontline operations have changed. Today’s hourly workers demand more from their employers, and employers are calibrating what it means to do more with less. By empowering your hourly workforce and keeping a few best practices in mind, you could improve retention, productivity and efficiency.

Forbes Business Council

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