Frontline work has never been more stressful. The mass exodus of workers who are burnt out due to the realities of the pandemic workplace has taken a toll on frontline industries. With this shift, how can companies change their approach to retain their talent, specifically frontline workers.
The World Economic Forum found that 40% of the global workforce is considering quitting their jobs this year. Many of them are frontline workers — like hospitality staff, health care workers, restaurant employees and retail associates — who are calling it quits. In fact, during every month of 2021 so far, 5% of the restaurant workforce has resigned.
In this increasingly digital world, companies can leverage workplace technology to build a better employee experience for frontline workers.
The Astronomical Cost of High Turnover
Turnover is a problem companies have always tried to remedy; before 2020, voluntary turnover cost American companies $1 trillion dollars annually. Compounded by a global pandemic, the turnover rate is increasing, making it even harder for companies to recover.
Three frontline industries that are experiencing a massive labor shortage include retail, health care and manufacturing. In retail, the National Retail Federation predicts that the industry is experiencing its fastest growth in more than three decades, while retail turnover is at 60%. In health care, as the pandemic rages on, one survey found nearly 43% of nurses are contemplating quitting the profession. In manufacturing, the industry is experiencing a chronic, ongoing labor shortage with many workers retiring and fewer workers entering the field. With extreme supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, this shortage prevents manufacturers from keeping up with sudden spikes in demand.
How can frontline-majority industries combat this massive labor shortage and ramp up operations in a post-pandemic world? Here are three actionable ways companies can re-engage their mission-critical frontline workers, by implementing modern technology solutions to bolster operations and build a workforce that stays.
Make Frontline Work Count
Frontline workers are vulnerable to being left on the fringes of company culture, often left out of corporate communication designed for a desk-based world. Traditionally, most investments in workplace technology have gone toward technology that serves office workers, while only an estimated 1% of enterprise software funding has gone toward frontline workers.
To combat this massive funding gap in technologies that rely on frontline workers, some companies are turning to technology, seeking to implement scalable and secure solutions to improve connectedness regardless of workplace location, from the management level to the store or plant floor.
It’s especially beneficial to increase access to technology for workers on the front lines. One logical way to do this accessibly is to incorporate employees’ own devices, with which they are already comfortable. Leveraging solutions like workplace apps, instant messaging and digital training assets, management can take an inclusive approach to communication that lets frontline workers know their work matters and that they are valued members of the team.
Using Technology to Solve the Frontline Labor Shortage Challenge
Mobile technology solutions can engage frontline workers and boost retention by
creating a channel for two-way communication, so workers can share valuable first-hand insights. They can also make corporate communications more accessible to accommodate multi-lingual teams, with software for online messaging and asset translations. These types of solutions also empower employees with greater control over their jobs and schedules, allowing for a better work-life balance. Finally, implementing mobile-friendly technology solutions creates opportunity for community and camaraderie amongst employees — and social bonds in the workplace are a powerful retention tool.
As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart is one company at the forefront of the trend toward digitization for frontline-majority businesses. Recently, the company announced a partnership with Samsung and committed to providing 740,000 frontline workers with mobile devices to connect with the company. They even built a custom app — We@Walmart — to empower employees and give them the ability to work more efficiently and enjoy greater autonomy in their jobs.
That kind of incentive can serve to invigorate frontline workers and get them to stick around. McKinsey found that when employees believe their work is meaningful, they are 49% more committed to the company and less likely to quit.
Build a Training Program
While a good salary and benefits are still perks that employees look for in a career, many also want to learn new skills. When a job feels like a dead-end, workers are more likely to leave. As 87% of business leaders admit to a current or expected skills gap in their companies, providing workforce training can help hiring managers to fill positions that require a new set of skills and create opportunities for employees to grow in their careers.
A training program can take different forms. Companies can offer in-person classes, on-site apprenticeships or create mobile-accessible training content to distribute to their frontline teams digitally, so workers can fit learning into their own schedules.
Sky Climber Renewables, for example, might seem an unlikely company to offer digitally based training. As a leading global manufacturer of motorized suspended access systems, its employees are often hundreds of feet in the air repairing wind turbines. To maintain a centralized system of communication, they deployed an app-based solution to reach manufacturing teams. With a centralized digital hub established, they now offer online safety training videos that workers can access when they need to.
Empower and Engage Your Frontline Managers
Employee engagement hinges on a healthy worker-manager relationship. In fact, more than half of workers who leave their jobs say their managers could have swayed their decision in the other direction. But according to Harvard Business Review, 66% of managers feel disengaged themselves.
Managers have a massive influence on the employee experience. Simply by championing their teams, recognizing employees for a job well done or boosting morale with a can-do attitude, frontline managers can create an environment that makes workers feel like they’re part of the team.
With frontline teams who are often on the move and dispersed, a mobile-friendly collaboration platform can help managers stay connected and facilitate two-way channels for communication and feedback. Companies who leverage technology can empower their management teams with modern tools that allow them to be effective leaders. In turn, those leaders build a more engaged workforce.
As businesses navigate their way through the turbulent waves of the pandemic and work to find their footing in the next normal, there’s one constant that will ensure their ability to survive and thrive — an engaged and resilient frontline workforce.