As business evolves, so do the needs of the workplace, and it’s important for management teams to understand these changing needs — especially for frontline workers. Because they’re often disconnected from the home office, warehouse workers, truck drivers and other frontline employees can feel out of touch and out of the loop. Worse still, sometimes information can trickle in through the proverbial grapevine. Like the classic game of telephone, when information is shared from person to person this way, messages get distorted into half-truths and myths. Myths turn into fear. Fear turns into irrational decisions. Which turns into good workers quitting.
As companies enter this new era of employee management, it’s essential to address these disconnects to build and maintain a resilient and motivated workforce.
As much as 80% of customers say that a company’s experience is as important as its products or services. In a day and age where the customer experience carries such significance, taking care of those in charge of it is crucial.
Frontline workers are exactly that: the front line. They’re the first ones interacting with customers, and their own working experience will inevitably shape the customers’ buying experience. When employees are engaged and empowered, that energy carries through to the customer, creating positive experiences for both. Similarly, when workers are not empowered and disengaged, that energy carries through. So if you want to gauge how successful your customer experience is, start by looking at the workers’ experience.
While many employers think they know what frontline workers want, research shows they aren’t always right. In a recent survey by McKinsey, researchers found that most employers have an “incomplete picture” of workers’ needs, especially when it comes to career advancement.
For example, employers tend to emphasize a higher job title more than job growth or learning opportunities, while employees prioritize them differently — for workers, job growth and learning opportunities were ranked as important factors for job growth, while job title was less important. Another example: Employers do not value pay as highly as frontline employees, and they tend to overvalue vacation and sick time, which are generally less important to workers.
With just these two examples alone, it’s easy to see how these assumptions by employers can lead to decisions that might fall short of worker needs.
Instead of assuming, it’s important to communicate with teams clearly and frequently — not only to keep them informed and to capture information from them that can help management teams make decisions that will improve their working experience.
Communications are more than just content. Real, impactful communication goes two ways, and it starts with listening. You simply can’t make the right impact if you’re not actively listening.
Pulse surveys and cultural initiatives have their benefits, but if they uncover problems or other issues in the workplace, it’s often too late to do anything about it. So, despite the best intentions of listening to the workforce, these kinds of surveys don’t typically result in action. Kind of like putting emphasis on a job title instead of job growth. Surveys and feedback solicitation can also backfire when no action is taken. If somebody asks you for your thoughts but then proceeds to ignore what you said, it’s human nature to feel devalued. If they ask you again, do you think you’d respond?
The good news is you don’t have to guess what workers really want — you can ask them. Open a direct line of communication with your workforce to spot trends and learn about problems in real-time. But most importantly, take action in real-time and report back to workers what’s been done and why, closing the feedback loop and helping your workforce understand how valuable they are.
In 2023, businesses are shifting from a focus on new business and customer acquisition to a growth mindset and customer retention. In this same vein, there should also be a focus on worker retention, reinforcing the front line by empowering employees and creating a culture that puts their experience first.