They’re the ones delivering critical services, taking on the burden of risk and responsibility for caring for others, and ensuring those at home can continue accessing essential items or services. How can we show appreciation for our frontline workers?
Today’s workforce who are continuing to go out to work are overwhelmingly frontline and deskless employees operating in industries like healthcare, transport, retail, or providing essential services such as waste management, postal services, or vital support services. As restrictions begin to lift, there will be more returning to their roles in the coming weeks and months.
Making these different faces happy is a constant goal for any organization, but never has it been more important than right now.
However, by the very nature of their roles, they’re often removed from HQ and hard to reach. With the added challenge of social distancing and lockdown measures, keeping those staff connected and engaged is harder than ever.
How can you, as an organization, show gratitude to those that you aren’t seeing every day? The ones not tied down to a desk at corporate – or, as the case may be, connected to your organization from the comfort of their own homes – but instead, standing on the frontline?
How to deploy an intranet in ten days or less
The frontline worker appreciation challenge
Our frontline workforce is made up of a range of employees, all taking on different challenges and roles during a pandemic that adds further stress to their roles.
These are the people who mainly handle physical goods or work directly with customers, clients, or patients. They face the highest risk, and often, the lowest reward in terms of remuneration.
According to Google, 80% of the global workforce, which is approximately 3 billion people, performs physical or deskless work.
Frontline employees are the face of your brand with a direct line to customers, and as such can see things that corporate cannot: an issue that can lead to resentment, frustration and the view that corporate is out of touch and ineffectual.
This lack of connection to the corporate often leaves them feeling distant, out of the loop and worst of all, unappreciated. As the pandemic continues to impact our staff, they are frequently being asked to go above and beyond; and those feelings may be perpetuated further.
There are a variety of creative ideas and campaigns currently coming from the public to recognize and celebrate those on the frontline: whether that’s the weekly #ClapForOurCarers, fundraising campaigns, yard or window signs, or much-welcomed donations and messages of support. But what about signals of appreciation from their organization?
Because frontline workers are often on the move and need to be able to connect to information at any time or place, traditional approaches to engagement will not work. 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. It requires some outside-the-box thinking.
Your front-line workers are crucial to the overall success of your company, so you need to be sure that you are catering to them. Here are some ways you can show your frontline staff the appreciation they deserve.
Give them senior exposure
The biggest complaint among frontline 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, and competing priorities presented by the current circumstances of COVID-19 mean non-compliance-based communication with the frontlines may be slipping off the radar.
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, your senior employees need to have visibility of, and engagement with, those staff.
Current restrictions may mean leaders can’t physically visit or have a day on the frontlines. However, there are existing lines of communication already occurring that senior leaders can tap into: whether that be shift briefings, team meetings, or daily/weekly stand-ups.
A senior leader requesting to virtually join these meetings, even just for a few moments at the beginning or end, gives insight and valuable facetime. Management can then bring attention and praise to the efforts of these employees.
60% of employees feel their relationship with their employer positively impacts their focus or productivity at work.(Virgin Pulse).
Task senior leaders with engaging with and then spotlighting those staff – whether through intranet blogs, a public shout-out in virtual town halls, or through cascading down via manager meetings. Senior exposure is a free yet powerful tool to boost morale, engagement, and feelings of appreciation among frontline staff.
How to deploy an intranet in ten days or less
Show everyday appreciation
Another method of effectively showing appreciation is through a dedicated rewards system.
However, unlike traditional recognition programs – which are often results-focused, run over longer periods, and offer formal recognition often behind closed doors, a reward system for frontline staff should focus on everyday appreciation.
Recognition – formally defined as ‘appreciation or acclaim for an achievement, service, or ability’ – is positive feedback based on results.
Appreciation is more about the person and who they are, rather than the result(s) they’ve achieved.
Normally, these small instances of appreciation – the “thanks for all your help and input”, or “cheers for the effort you’ve put in recently” – are given in the moment, typically face-to-face, and therefore are missed by those on the frontlines.
With a reward program run via your mobile and accessible intranet, the distance between employee and manager is no issue; managers and other colleagues can easily show appreciation for the work done by those on the frontline.
Better still, the gesture is public and viewed by others: creating a culture of appreciation that induces a ripple effect, motivating others to follow suit.
Rewards in action: MidPen Housing
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 receives 20 virtual ‘keys’ each month to award to peers, with a note of acknowledgment displayed on the intranet each time keys are awarded to publicly recognize the individual in question. These virtual rewards are then later redeemed for gift cards: ideal in current circumstances where many shops or services aren’t current fully operational.
It’s proved an invaluable tool for an organization whose staff typically work in dispersed offices or out in the community. Since implementation, MidPen Housing has seen employee recognition increase from just 1%, to 94%. In its first five months, more than 11,300 keys were distributed with more than 3,000 expressions of gratitude and recognition shared.
This very public display of recognition is precisely what front-line employees need to feel like a valued member of the team.
How to deploy an intranet in ten days or less
Make a gesture
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a real difference. There’s a reason members of the public have taken to claps, cheers, social media shout-outs and window or yard signs: they’re simple, yet authentic gestures that speak to how much they appreciate the efforts of those on the frontlines.
Senior leadership and organizations can take on this mentality and utilize creative – yet simple – ways to say ‘thanks.’
This may be, for example, sending staff a personal card in the post, sticking a message of gratitude on the staff noticeboard, or creating a one-off banner to surprise staff logging into your intranet.
With many local businesses stepping forward to offer support and services at this time, why not consider a one-off order of breakfast bagels, or a Friday lunch? A case of beers or round of cakes to share out at the end of a long shift?
It’s also worth considering the needs of staff during this period: due to demands on their time and additional pressures caused by social distancing, many may not have opportunities to get essentials in, or do normal ‘life admin’ tasks.
We’ve seen reports in both the US and UK of hospitals repurposing gift shops or turning hospital spaces into ‘corner shops’ for staff, with everyday items including food essentials, toilet paper, cleaning items, and more.
There are also local volunteers offering their time to pick up or drop off shopping, run essential errands, post cards, and more: point your staff to existing programs or consider running an in-house initiative can make a huge difference.
Empower your front-line: give them a voice
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 frontline employees properly.
Although individual managers may be aware of frontline sensitivities, there are few established communication procedures for sharing with upper management. At a time when staff are operating to new protocols, restrictions, and facing unique challenges managing the covid-19 response, understanding those grass-roots issues is paramount.
This may be, for example, through conducting tailored pulse surveys to tap into employee sentiment and provide opportunity for feedback. Hosting team stand-ups with line managers feeding up any concerns or trends emerging creates an effective cascade.
For those staff who may be reluctant to speak out verbally, forums and open discussion via the intranet are a great way to generate a stage that will be available to any staff wanting access or needing to raise concerns. We see this 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 frontline 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 forum is proof that having a two-way feedback approach and empowering every individual worker is vital to the success of any company.
How to deploy an intranet in ten days or less
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. Thanks to the many creative ways of digitally connecting now being utilized to manage lockdown during the coronavirus crisis, staff themselves can document and share their everyday experience with photos, vlogs, interviews, selfies, microblogging, videos, and more.
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 frontline 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 frontline employees are indeed the face of your company, but ironically, they are often a company’s lowest paid and most neglected staff members.
At a time when we are depending on them most, they are also critical to your organization and should be treated as such. They hold customer relations 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 frontline 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.