Talent | Are you Overlooking the Game-Changers? Unlocking the Power of Frontline Workers

Are you Overlooking the Game-Changers? Unlocking the Power of Frontline Workers

By Phil Pringle, XM Consultant, Qualtrics

The escalating discontent among frontline employees poses a critical challenge for businesses. Delving into the issue reveals a disengagement due to lack of appreciation, support, and trust.

Frontline Workers: The Value of “Experience Creators”

The global pandemic highlighted the undeniable importance of frontline workers. As they ensured the continuity of essential services, their role in society and businesses' success became ever more evident. We continue to see their crucial position in shaping company reputation and driving a competitive edge through their daily interactions with customers.

Growing Discontent Among Frontline Employees

Despite their significance, many organisations still treat frontline workers as assets to be managed rather than individuals to empower. Qualtrics' July 2023 research involving 37,000 employees from around the globe underscores the growing dissatisfaction among frontline workers. They're in the fray of being underappreciated, under-supported, and lacking trust in upper management.

Reasons Behind the Frontline Frustration

Numerous macro-pressures post-pandemic, such as conflicts, economic downturns, inflation, and layoffs, have put additional strain on frontline employees. Both workers and the customers they serve feel the burden of rising costs. The data suggests organisations are not addressing frontline workers’ needs for recognition, financial satisfaction, growth, and empowerment. Only 53% feel capable of challenging the status quo for improved customer service—9 percentage points lower than their non-frontline counterparts. This sense of disempowerment has bred disconnect and distrust towards senior leadership.

Leadership's Disconnect from the Frontline

This divide isn't surprising considering the little time CEOs spend with frontline teams. As research by Harvard Business School professors Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria shows, CEOs spend a mere 6% of their time with frontline employees, further exacerbating leaders' lack of insight into frontline realities and how the customer sees the business. Without first-hand experience, empathetic and supportive leadership becomes much more challenging.

The Impact of Disengaged Frontline Workers

A disheartened frontline can have drastic effects on a business. They're pivotal in determining customer satisfaction, loyalty, and repeat business. Research reveals that up to 75% of productivity improvements can come from frontline employee innovation and feedback.

Steps to Empower Frontline Teams

The current climate demands that leaders take a more participative approach to understand and engage frontline employees. These are the steps leaders can take:

  1. Meaningful Engagement: Leaders must establish open lines of communication with frontline employees, fostering an environment where workers feel safe to express their needs and ideas.

  2. Lived Experiences: By spending time on the frontline, leaders can gain valuable insights.

  3. Strategic Positioning: By placing frontline teams at the heart of an organisation’s strategy and org structure, leaders can make strategic decisions that reinforce their importance and improve the overall frontline experience.

  4. Better Opportunities for Frontline Workers: Leaders should aim to provide competitive compensation, development opportunities, decision-making power, and improved tools and systems.

Only by truly valuing and engaging frontline workers can businesses understand and overcome the challenges of working in the frontline to strategically enhance organisational growth. Recognizing frontline employees' vital contributions is not just a moral responsibility; it's a fundamental strategy for a business's success and innovation.

For more details on the latest trends in EX, click here to download Qualtrics 2024 EX Trends Report.

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Acting on employee feedback is the number one way to attract, retain and engage top talent, with leaders reporting 3x more revenue per employee and 40% lower turnover. But here’s the catch: only 19% of UK employees say their organisation listens to their opinions. Qualtrics helps brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Barclays to close that experience gap, enabling them to design and improve experiences across the employee lifecycle - from recruitment through to exit.