More than ever before, senior leadership is out of touch with their frontline workforce. A recent Gallup survey found that 71% of c-suite executives believe their organization takes care of mental health, yet 70% of frontline workers report burnout or feeling at risk of burning out. This blind spot impacts employee engagement, production, retention, and overall success.
C-suite executives and frontline workers often have different perspectives and priorities due to their distinct roles and responsibilities. While executives may be focused on long-term strategy, financial performance, and shareholder value, they often forget that frontline workers are more concerned with day-to-day challenges. These differing perspectives can create a gap in understanding and alignment.
We recently surveyed hundreds of HR and business leaders and found only 23% of respondents believe their organization’s communications reach their entire workforce. There is clearly a big disconnect between what workers and corporate America want.
In order to alter the perception of frontline employees and their roles within an organization, three fundamental changes must occur.
Employee-led innovation programs have the potential to revolutionize the roles of frontline employees within an organization. By encouraging and empowering them to participate in innovation initiatives, organizations recognize their untapped potential as active contributors with deep operational knowledge and invaluable frontline experience.
These innovation programs play a vital role in fostering a culture of continuous improvement. They enable frontline employees to step beyond their immediate responsibilities, encouraging them to think critically and propose innovative solutions. This leads to more practical and impactful decisions that address the specific challenges faced by the organization.
However, the success of employee-led innovation programs relies heavily on effective communication with the entire company. Companies promote transparency and inclusiveness by sharing information about these programs across the organization. This communication serves multiple purposes:
- Awareness and participation: Communicating the existence and purpose of employee-led innovation programs ensures that all employees, including those in non-frontline roles, are aware of the opportunities available. It encourages broader participation and engagement in the innovation process, as individuals from various departments and levels of the organization may have valuable insights to contribute.
- Support and Resources: Effective communication helps employees understand the resources, tools, and support available to facilitate their participation in innovation initiatives. It provides clarity on how to access necessary information, training, or mentorship programs that can enhance their ability to propose and implement innovative ideas.
- Valuing Input and Contributions: Communicating about employee-led innovation programs demonstrates that the organization values and appreciates the input and contributions of all employees, regardless of their position or job role. This fosters a sense of inclusiveness, encouraging employees to feel empowered and motivated to share their ideas and insights.
Effective communication of employee-led innovation programs is vital for the success of such initiatives. Only by engaging everyone can the full potential of employees be identified and rewarded.
Establishing mentorship programs where frontline employees are paired with executives or senior leaders can offer valuable guidance, support, and career development opportunities. Recent studies have shown that frontline employees prioritize job growth and promotion opportunities over pay and benefits alone. Companies prioritizing worker well-being put them at the heart of all communication strategies, align job profiles with their career advancement needs, and offer ways to share their concerns.
Even more critical for the business as a whole is the concept of reverse mentoring. To comprehend the challenges facing a company, executives must first understand the challenges facing frontline workers. Frontline workers have a unique perspective on the day-to-day workings of the business, including:
- The reality of the business: Frontline workers are often the first to know about issues and challenges that can impact the business. They can provide valuable insights into how things work on the ground and what areas need improvement.
- The customer experience: Frontline workers are the face of the company for many customers. They can provide valuable feedback on what customers are looking for and how the company can improve the customer experience.
- The impact of decisions: Frontline workers can provide valuable feedback on how decisions made by the CEO and other leaders impact day-to-day operations.
- The importance of culture: Frontline workers are often the most affected by company culture, and they can provide insights into how the culture impacts their work and their colleagues’ work.
Anonymous feedback or occasional town halls are not enough for CEOs to gather this depth of information on the backbone and heart of the business.
Reverse mentoring allows executives to gain a deeper understanding of the business. Frontline employees can mentor executives on customer insights and operational challenges. This can also help break down hierarchical barriers, which will aid in building stronger relationships and trust.
One way to achieve this would be implementing recognition and reward programs specifically designed to acknowledge the exceptional contributions of frontline employees.
This could include peer-to-peer recognition systems, spot bonuses, or public acknowledgment of outstanding performance. By celebrating the achievements and successes of frontline employees, organizations demonstrate their appreciation for their efforts and reinforce the importance of their roles.
Visually representing this new organizational rewards structure and making it accessible to all employees can make all the difference. It sends a message that everyone’s contributions are valued and essential to the company’s success. It can also help build trust and create a sense of community among employees, leading to higher morale, lower turnover, and a stronger overall company culture.
Companies must take meaningful action by investing in and learning from the individuals who keep the lights on—the frontline workers. Organizations can establish a robust and sustainable foundation for the future by prioritizing their support, recognition, and well-being.
Building a workplace culture that truly works for everyone, where frontline employees feel valued and empowered, enhances productivity and performance, and fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose. Through these actions, companies can lay the groundwork for long-term success and create an environment where everyone thrives.
Mark McDermott is CEO and co-founder of ScreenCloud.