Support frontline workers

When half of frontline workers want to quit, how do you retain them?

5 ways to improve the work (and lives) of frontline workers
When half of frontline workers want to quit, how do you retain them?
Photo: tetiana.photographer (Shutterstock)
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Kylie Uvodich is the general manager at SafetyCulture, leading the American arm of the global technology company helping working teams get better every day.

Frontline employees, those that must physically show up to do their job, have been under increased pressure since the start of the pandemic. Continuing labor shortages and the soaring cost of living have only turned up the heat, fueling a burnout epidemic as employees try their best to shoulder the burden at home and on the job.

New research conducted by YouGov has found that 73% of frontline employees in the US, UK, and Australia say they’ve felt under increased pressure at home in the last 12 months, while 64% say they’ve been under increased pressure at work.

When resources are already strapped, and staffing is tight, the last thing companies want to consider is a mass exit from their workforce. This new data shows a real opportunity to better support frontline employees but with competing demands for company attention—including supply chain frustrations, skyrocketing costs, and tight budgets—it’s difficult to know where to start.

5 ways to make employee’s work and lives easier

  • Remove red tape with tech: With increasing challenges and pressure, the frontline needs to do more with less. Leveraging mobile-based tools and apps for frontline employees can help digitize processes and modernize manual and time-consuming tasks. Technology plays a critical part in the daily lives of industries like hospitality and retail, where much of the workforce are millennials. Daily checks, shift handovers, and training on new products can all be done via mobile, using tools like iAuditor, which are simple to use and have tons of industry-specific templates to help get you started quickly.
  • Acknowledge the financial burden and equip the frontline properly: Almost 4 in 10 frontline employees have had to spend their own money for safety at work in the last 12 months. US employees spent an estimated $46.8 billion on this in the previous 12 months. With household budgets under increasing pressure, consider asking your employees (particularly in industries like manufacturing and construction) to conduct a pre-start checklist or a fit-for-work self-assessment. These can help identify if they have the necessary equipment and potential impacts on the team. A simple action like this can help keep employees safe, reduce time lost to injury, and help improve employee productivity and engagement.
  • Over index on employee engagement: Engagement is critical for retaining the frontline. Employees need to feel heard when they bring up concerns and ideas. Technology can play a role here too. Try out mobile-based tools which will allow employees to raise issues and provide feedback on the go. Having a digital trail helps them trust they are being heard and shows them appropriate action has been taken.
  • Leverage mobile learning: Learning feeds into engagement, and an ongoing focus on development is another great way of improving retention. Both hard and soft skills can be taught through bite-sized mobile learning. Free, high-quality resources like the course where Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown teaches employees how to make their workplaces more inclusive. Hard skills like the art of bussing tables, how to lift heavy boxes, and even the basics of forklift operation can also be learned this way.
  • Challenge your view of flexibility: Contrary to popular belief, flexibility for the frontline exists. Not every type of flexibility will work for every role, but if you’re open to change, greater flexibility is almost always achievable. Leaders can assess daily rituals, tasks, and roles to question whether they could be done in a different location, time, or way. Could administrative tasks, mandatory training, or team meetings still be done remotely or at a different location? Can you use apps like Shyft to give employees the ability to design their own rosters and swap shifts? Could some roles be combined and shared? Would flexible start and end times work? These are all things to consider and good examples of tailoring flexibility for the frontline - another key to retention.

Our frontline workforce continued to show up when life as we knew it journeyed into the unknown. Now, as we continue forging the path of a post-pandemic world, it’s our chance to show up for them.