Your workforce is made up of a range of employees, all taking on different challenges and roles within the company. Making these different faces around you happy is a constant goal for any organization. But what about those faces that you may not see every day? The ones not tied down to a desk at corporate, but instead standing on the front-line?
If you take a look at today’s workforce, you’ll see a growth in the number of front-line and deskless employees, especially in industries like healthcare, hospitality, and retail.
These are the people who mainly handle physical goods or work directly with customers. According to Google, 80% of the global workforce, which is approximately 3 billion people, performs physical or deskless work.
Front-line employees have a direct line to customers, and as such can see things that corporate cannot – an issue that can lead to resentment and frustration and the view that corporate is out of touch and ineffectual.
Because front-line workers are often on the move and need to be able to connect to information at any time or place, the traditional approach to engagement will not work.
Does the solution to your problem lie with better internal communications?
That means shying away from email threads, newsletters and other forms of communication that don’t align with how these workers prefer to (and are able to) ingest information.
Your front-line workers are crucial to the overall success of your company, so how can you be sure that you are catering to them? Here are some ways you can show your front-line staff the appreciation they deserve.
Senior exposure and praise
The biggest complaint among front-line workers is something that you may have guessed – a lack of support from senior management. Because these workers often feel out of touch with their corporate offices, the lack of clear communications between the two can be blatant and exasperating.
This is the challenge facing organizations whose employees are largely on the move. Supporting deskless workers requires a complete reconsideration of the communication methods between corporate, managers, and their employees.
60% of employees feel their relationship with their employer positively impacts their focus or productivity at work (Virgin Pulse). To bring these isolated employees closer to the core of your organization, senior management must take a more active approach and dispel the rose-tinted view they have of the realities of these roles.
The first step is gaining a proper understanding of what your front-line workers face. For this, some of your senior employees may consider stepping into their role for a day. Employees love when stakeholders and upper management get involved. They should document and share the event with photos, vids, etc. Walking in the shoes of these workers is the quickest way to understand their day to day, and by sharing their experiences via the company intranet, management brings attention and praise to the efforts of these employees.
Another method of showing appreciation would be to implement a rewards system. With a reward program run via your intranet, the distance between employee and manager is no issue; managers and other colleagues can easily recognize and show appreciation for the work done by those on the front-line.
Rewards is a widely-used Interact feature, illustrated by our customers like MidPen Housing, who took a creative approach with the adoption of their ‘ICARE keys’ awards program. Every employee received 20 virtual ‘keys’ each month to award to peers and a note of acknowledgment displayed on the intranet each time keys were awarded, publicly recognizing the individual in question. These virtual rewards could then later be redeemed for gift cards.
Since implementation, MidPen Housing has seen employee recognition increase from just 1%, to 94%. This very public display of recognition is precisely what front-line employees need to feel like a valued member of the team. Learn more about MidPen Housing and their innovative intranet in our guide.
Empower your front-line
All of your employees deserve to feel like they play a crucial role in their organization. Nearly 80 percent of workers will look for another job if they don’t feel like they’re valued.
The best way to ensure your employees are empowered is to give every individual a voice.
The rise of technologies such as mobile apps, social apps, and intranet platforms have been closing the gap between remote communications and can provide just the platform needed to recognize the efforts of front-line employees properly.
Although individual managers may be aware of front-line sensitivities, there are few established communication procedures for sharing with upper management.
Forums and open discussion via the intranet are a great way to generate a stage that will be available to any staff wanting access.
South East Water and their use of forums for Pipe Up! is an excellent illustration of allowing all members of your workforce to express their views reasonably and without fear of dismissal.
Staff from all parts of the organization banded together to create the central ideas generation network: Pipe Up!
This forum was managed by an elected panel and housed ad-hoc suggestions to senior management which were then voted on. These ideas attracted likes and comments from staff across their 28 locations and quickly became a secure way to share viewpoints, experiences, and recommendations throughout the business, from the front-line staff all the way to corporate.
We see a similar approach to open two-way communication with Mattress Firm’s intranet BEDpost and their Gr8 ideas forum.
Staff shares frustrations and suggestions in the ‘Gr8 Ideas’ section and receives likes and comments on their raised issues. A Performance Optimization department is then tasked with monitoring the posts and reaching the appropriate department contact to provide feedback to the submitter within 24-48 hours.
Using these forums for ideation across the organization, management can tap into ideas from front-line workers and propel the business forward.
However, due to the “them vs. us” mentality that naturally occurs in large organizations, maintaining “authentic” communications can be a difficult task. Mattress Firm overcame this issue with their very own inspired and knowledgeable employee, Randy.
A couple of months after the launch of the BEDpost, Mattress Firm noticed Randy, a very active member of the Gr8 Ideas forum. He often posted with the answers to pressing questions and fantastic insights into the implementation of specific ideas. Recognizing that Randy was already gearing up to be a spectacular internal influencer, the comms team coached him on their preferred tone, gave him guidance on stock answers he could use, and connected him with content managers that could assist with the questions he did not already know the answers to.
He became a power user, conversing with associates across the organization via the intranet and building a reputation of transparency and authenticity in their online community. Because his views aren’t “corporate speak”, his colleagues can relate to and value his perspective, feel free to voice questions and express their views and be sure that their ideas are receiving the proper attention from the organization.
Due to this open approach to communication, Mattress Firm has been able to take employees ‘off mute’, inspiring a welcome exchange of ideas and boasting more than 252 threads created and 8,556 visits to GR8 Ideas section since launch.
The Gr8 Ideas and Pipe UP! forums are proof that having a two-way feedback approach and empowering every individual worker is vital to the success of any company. Read more on Mattress Firm and South East Waters’ award-winning intranet success story here.
Personalize those in the role
It is almost impossible to appreciate and respect the challenges and successes of a position that you know absolutely nothing about. Having distanced employees that you do not work closely with can lead to a sense of apathy when considering their role in the company or the way it may directly influence you.
Commonly, companies aim to familiarize staff with the different roles in the organization through features on the intranet like ‘day in the life of’ posts. While these posts do play a role in highlighting the work of dispersed teams across the organization, some employees tend to view them as forced or one-dimensional.
Even in this era of technology, 56% of communicators still struggle to keep employees engaged and informed.
What is the cause? Research by Dynamic Signal found that 52% say ineffective communication tools and channels have caused them to miss vital information.
The times are changing, and video and images have risen in the ranks of favored communication methods. According to LinkedIn, 60% of people prefer video over reading text.
Taking advantage of this, organizations are now finding that vlogs made on mobile phones, then posted onto the company intranet are becoming popular among staff. By doing this, front-line employees can spread the story about their day to day, with unenlightened colleagues in a way that they can quickly and easily absorb.
Empower your employees by exposing everyone to the realities their role and encouraging your front-line workers to share a short video shadowing their work life. When management and colleagues finally recognize the many contributions of these workers, you can reinforce behaviors that support your organization’s overall goals.
Once you adapt your approach to include these visual highlights and expose everyone to the realities of working on the front lines, the scale in which other divisions will watch your content and value your front-line employees will steadily increase.
The face of your brand
Your front-line employees are indeed the face of your company, but ironically, they are often a company’s lowest paid and most neglected staff members.
Your front-line employees are critical to your organization and should be treated as such. They hold customer relation in the palm of their hands and can literally make or break your business image.
Corporate strategy and goals are only as good as its execution, and this execution is dependent on front-line employees excelling. Give your employees the tools they need to thrive with the above tips. Remember, to improve your company culture express appreciation for your front-line workers often.