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Managing frontline workers in 2024: Who they are and how to empower them

Published

July 8, 2024

Author

Mackie Angat

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Frontline workers

How you manage your frontline workers significantly dictates the company’s performance. Their engagement, morale, and effort drive the outcomes of customer experiences and business operations. So handling these teams properly is vital.

But, organizations often overlook the day-to-day work of frontline employees. Low motivation, high turnover, and limited skills can come from ineffective leadership and a misunderstanding of roles. Let’s solve that together.

We’ll define who your frontline staff is and their responsibilities. From there, we’ll explore the best ways to empower them for success and minimize their struggles.

What are frontline workers?

Frontline workers are at the center of your organization’s product. They’re the ones out there serving customers and clients, directly engaging with them to create lasting relationships.

Frontline workers - What are frontline workers?

These employees are your on-ground team, standing as the face of the company for customers. Frontline staff members help clients by solving problems and delivering positive experiences using their developed skills and expertise.

Who are considered frontline workers?

Frontline workers can be differentiated by the face-to-face role they fill. Their jobs always involve direct interactions and activities with customers and clients.

Here are some of the common industries and roles considered frontline work:

  • Customer service - Telecommunicators, utility workers, delivery services, financial services, bank tellers.
  • Hospitality - Restaurant servers, hotel staff, concierge, housekeepers.
  • Retail - Sales associates, cashiers, inventory associates, merchandisers.
  • Manufacturing - Assemblers, technicians, millwrights, quality control, welders, woodworkers.
  • Construction - Carpenter, painters, engineers, surveyors, masons, machine operators.
  • Food and necessary goods - Grocery workers, food retailers, processors, and distributors.
  • Health care and services - Doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, pharmacists.
  • Public services - Government workers, police officers, firefighters, postal employees.
  • Transportation - Bus drivers, train conductors, flight attendants, pilots, and other travel operators.

Why are frontline workers important? 

As frontline workers are tasked with running your organization’s main operations, managing their work well can maximize the following business gains:

  • Good customer relations - Through positive interactions, frontline employees create lasting relationships with customers who’ll repeatedly pay and generate revenue.
  • Strong brand association - A satisfying service by the staff makes customers associate the organization with positive attributes, increasing loyalty and word of mouth.
  • Problem solutions - As the on-ground team, frontliners resolve the problems they see immediately before they could affect the business.
  • Complete customer feedback - Frontliners gain valuable customer feedback from their direct interactions. These insights bring concerns and suggestions that can improve the service and product. 
  • Business adaptation - Markets and industries constantly change. Since they work at the forefront of operations, these employees can quickly adapt processes and procedures when directed well.

5 Common challenges of frontline workers

Frontline workers can’t be productive when they have to contend with ineffective environments and systems. To build the best teams, here are some problems you should address:

Frontline workers - 5 Common challenges of frontline workers

1. Inefficient operations and communication

Deficient tools, poor equipment, and outdated systems hold back frontline productivity. Their practices are prone to error when access to checklists, assessments, and manuals is limited.

Without clear and systematic communication, it becomes difficult for employees to collaborate and deliver critical information. All these compile for a low quality of work that’s unsatisfactory for customers.

2. Burnout

Frontline workers often face heavy workloads filled with stress from difficult customers, conflicts, and long shifts. Without the right support through communication, shift management, and leadership, they can quickly experience burnout.

In fact, a study by meQuilibrium reveals that the risk of anxiety disorders is 61% higher for frontline staff members due to the greater challenges of their roles. Their tasks are as much mental as they are physical.

3. Physical health and safety concerns

Frontline jobs are physically demanding. The repetitive effort by the body puts workers at risk of fatigue, injuries, and illnesses. With hazardous objects, equipment, and processes in the workplace, 58% of frontline workers feel physically threatened.

These physical health and safety issues take a toll on employee morale. The decrease in active employees reduces team productivity and costs organizations more in compensatory and penalty fees.

4. Lack of career development and progression

Frontline employees become frustrated, dissatisfied, and unmotivated if they’re unable to grow in their roles. They look for new opportunities, responsibilities, and skills to keep them engaged in satisfying customers.

When businesses don’t deliver paths for frontliners to grow and develop, they lose a competitive edge and struggle to retain talented employees. Staff members are also less likely to produce good customer experiences due to their gaps in knowledge and expertise.

5. Low recognition and rewards

Despite their efforts, it’s too common for these workers to feel overlooked and underappreciated. They see themselves as undervalued, without receiving the appropriate appreciation from leadership and the organization.

This impacts frontline workers’ motivation, engagement, and quality of work. Employees are more prone to underdeliver with tasks and may choose to leave the company when this happens.

How to empower frontline employees

When you support frontliners with an empowering workplace, they’re better positioned to deliver excellent customer service and experiences. To improve staff retention, boost morale, and increase revenue-generating productivity, you need to prioritize these frontline employee engagement practices:

1. Present supportive leadership

Supportive leadership addresses the unique challenges and conditions that your staff face. You anticipate problems and supply proactive measures to minimize your team’s issues. It’s up to you to set your team up for success.

Frontline workers - Present supportive leadership

Collect feedback, respond to difficulties, and employ suggestions by initiating check-ins and facilitating team discussions. Setting goals and guiding employees to achieve them helps build good relationships and strong morale, motivating them to work and stay.

2. Deliver relevant training and development

Empowering employees involves keeping them at pace with the changing scope of their roles. 44% of frontline skills need to be refreshed within the next five years. Delivering targeted training for frontline workers enhances your team’s skills and develops them into a reliable workforce that can keep up with industry changes.

Frontline workers - Deliver relevant training and development

Deliver well-planned onboarding to reduce gaps in skills and knowledge right away. Optimize staff practices, processes, and procedures through retraining and refining. Consider microlearning strategies so your team can always sharpen their technical and product expertise, regardless of their work.

3. Equip them with the necessary tools and streamline processes

Investing in the best equipment and resources boosts your team’s confidence and ability to produce excellent work. Accomplish frontline tasks quickly by improving employees’ tools and processes. As a result, you optimize practices and reduce downtime.

Frontline workers - Equip them with the necessary tools and streamline processes

Implement the equipment, platforms, and applications your frontliners need to succeed. Use checklists, assessments, and manuals to avoid costly errors. Share easy access to understandable data on customers, products, and inventory so your team can make informed decisions.

4. Entrust your employees with autonomy and decisions

Trusting your employees to work freely and make their own decisions empowers their abilities. A boost in confidence validates their perspectives and talents, pushing them to be more resilient and resourceful in serving customers.

Frontline workers - Entrust employees with autonomy and decision making

While you still need to guide your staff, entrusting them with independence increases frontline employee engagement with the organization. 90% of studied companies believe frontline autonomy affects success. Experience in solving problems and innovating ideas builds their capabilities to drive the business forward.

5. Encourage feedback from your team

Frontline workers hold brilliant ideas from interacting with customers and operations every day. These insights can improve the organization and its bottom line. Collecting and applying their feedback empowers and encourages them to contribute more.

Frontline workers - Encourage feedback from your team

Regularly hold surveys, chats, and discussions with your team on the issues and opportunities on the site. Be open to their feedback and take action on their suggestions to heighten productivity. Doing this shows you value your team. Use their valuable observations to generate revenue.

6. Recognize and reward good work

Recognizing and rewarding the good work of your frontline staff is a simple practice that affects more than just morale. It encourages hard work from your team, as they know it’ll be worth it.

Frontline workers - Recognize and reward hardwork

Employees take the extra step when they’re sure their efforts are appropriately valued. You can start with genuine praises, shoutouts, and commendations during meetings. Present timely awards and benefits that celebrate the hard work of your team. 

If your team can do so, deliver bonuses and promotions that signal your workplace’s value for hard work.

7. Open up communication between you and your team

Open communication promotes transparency, honesty, and accountability within an organization. Employees prefer a clear flow of information, as they’d like to be updated on business affairs. These are vital knowledge that employees could use to succeed in their roles.

Frontline workers - Open up communication between you and your team

Consistent two-way communication between managers and frontliners helps align everyone to the business’ vision, goals, and objectives. This creates consistency of ideas and practices. The open conversations also tell staff members that their voice is valued, driving them to produce at a high level.

8. Create an engaging workplace culture

As the last entry, this practice combines everything that has been discussed. A culture of frontline employee engagement encourages communication, learning, and collaboration. All these factors create a workplace that facilitates success and impact.

Frontline workers - Create an engaging workplace culture

An engaging workplace culture recognizes the needs and strengths of every member. Each is addressed to maximize growth and performance that serves customers. When everyone is in tune, every effort, idea, and role works to overcome challenges and produce profit.

Invest in your frontline workers with SC Training

Managing and empowering your staff will take a lot of effort, let SC Training (formerly EdApp) get you off and running for the most productive site. SC Training is your reliable tool for engaging frontline workers and optimizing work.

Frontline workers - SC Training

It’s a training platform that brings out your team's best performance and compliance. Their mobile learning design makes frontline training readily available and on-demand. Your workers can complete valuable learning anytime, anywhere, no matter their schedules.

Frontline workers - SC Training Mobile learning

SC Training is your solution for frontline workers training. Grab the power to combine digital learning and in-person assessments in one place with blended learning. Track your team’s growing expertise and improve safety compliance with the help of practical assessments - no extra checklists or documents are needed.

Frontline workers - SC Training Blended learning and Assessments

Keep training courses, manuals, and sheets accessible for optimized procedures using the platform’s briefcase. Engage your employees and get more out of training with their course library filled with procedural and safety learnings. Promote teamwork and problem-solving with in-lesson discussions.

Train your frontline workers for success with SC Training. Sign up today!

Author

Mackie Angat

Mackie Angat is a content specialist for SC Training, an employee training software that puts learning in the hands of everyone, everywhere. When he's not writing for the team, he lifts weights, discovers music artists and albums, watches old films, or supports his favorite sports teams.

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