Frontline workers are visible pillars to the lofty halls of human capital. This workforce of critical yet unheralded employees at an organization and their ability to perform their job effectively has a powerful effect on your company’s reputation.

Running day-to-day operations, they are the first ones to represent your brand and determine how customers perceive your company. Helping them to fight burnout and improve performance can be a game-changer for your organization’s commitment to boosting employee experience. 2.7 billion frontline workers across the globe are distributed across industries such as hospitality, healthcare, construction, retail, agriculture, production, and manufacturing. This workforce may be ‘deskless’ but shouldn’t become ‘forgotten’.

So, how would you ensure that your frontline workers are productive? In this article let’s explore the innovative ways of how to motivate frontline employees because they do not have a designated working space and access to technology that other employees have.

Read our blog on The Comprehensive Guide to Employee Motivation

Who are Frontline Workers and What Industries do they Work in?

Often known as key workers or essential workers, frontline staff interact with customers, drive performance and customer satisfaction. They are responsible for delivering essential public services across industries. While physically showing up to do their jobs, community health workers continue to work under potentially hazardous conditions and health risks. For many organizations and essential industries, the frontline workforce is often the first point of contact with customers. Depending on industries, they are also known as mobile workers, field teams, peripatetic workers, and blue-collar workers.

According to the Cabinet Office of the UK Government, frontline workers are involved in running critical operations across industries mentioned below.

Health and Social Care

  • Frontline healthcare staff including doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, and care workers
  • Professionals involved in the health and social care supply chain
  • Producers and distributors of medicines, medical and personal protective equipment

Education and Childcare

  • Social workers, childcare workers, support and teaching staff
  • Specialist education professionals

Public Services

  • Personnel involved with the justice system
  • Religious staff and charity workers
  • Workers involved in managing the deceased
  • Journalists and broadcasters responsible for public service broadcasting services

Local and National Government

  • Administrative personnel managing Covid-19 response
  • Essential public services personnel

Food and Necessary Goods

  • Personnel involved in producing, processing, and distributing food and other key goods
  • Public Safety and National Security
  • Ministry of Defense Civilians along with police and support staff
  • Armed forces personnel, fire and rescue service employees, and National Crime Agency employees

Transport and Border

  • Staff involved in operating air, road, water, and freight transport
  • People supporting critical transport and border infrastructure operations

Utilities, Communication, and Financial Services

  • Workers responsible for essential finance services including workers in financial market infrastructure and banks
  • Oil, gas, water, and electricity sector personnel
  • IT and data infrastructure professionals
  • Postal services and waste disposal services

5 Challenges Organizations face in Managing Frontline Employees

Keeping frontline workers, high-risk workforce, community healthcare workers, transport and logistics workforce, healthcare frontline and nursing home employees safe, healthy, and aligned with organizational goals has remained challenging for organizations across the globe. In a study by Harvard Business Review, 87% of respondents said their organizations would be more successful by empowering frontline workers.

However, the current pandemic has made driving performance, keeping employees engaged and talent management even harder. Here are the 5 biggest challenges organizations face when it comes to motivating frontline workers.

Employee Safety

Frontline workforce, especially nursing homes and healthcare employees often function under adverse conditions. That’s why work-related injuries are very common among frontline workers. In the year 2019, the total cost of work injuries stood at $171 billion. This included productivity losses of $53.9 billion and medical expenses worth $35.5 billion. Ensuring employee safety should be one of the topmost priorities for organizations as it will allow essential industry workers to perform their duties efficiently.

Eliminating fear and anxiety

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent job insecurity, frontline staff suffers from high-stress levels, fear, and anxiety. In fact, 49% of Americans reported increased depression and anxiety in 2020. The fear of contracting the virus and becoming unemployed has caused burnout and stress among them.

Lack of instant communication

Organizations often face challenges in communicating with their employees at the right time. Lack of appropriate communication ecosystems has led to workplace mishaps, problems, and illnesses. Since there is no internal communication taking place among deskless workers, communication gaps drive major problems.

Lack of a single source of truth

You need to empower your frontline workers as they often rely on timely information when running field operations. Having undisrupted access to a single source of truth is crucial for their job success. Be it documents, policies, updates, or previous communication, they should be able to access it all on the go. The complexity of enterprise tech ecosystems often leads to problems related to ease of access and consolidation of information.

Keeping them connected with managers

In the digital world today, it’s pretty easy for team leaders to stay connected with their team. But that may not be the case with offsite and field workers. As front liners work across locations, it’s important for managers to stay connected with frontline staff, which not many organizations can effectively achieve.

Quinyx’s State of Deskless Workforce Report found a major communication gap between deskless workers and their employers.

Communication gap between deskless workers and employers.

How to Motivate and Engage Frontline Workers?

The non-wired workforce at your organization plays a key role in delivering your promises to customers and in keeping customer satisfaction high. Organizations across industries depend on the frontline staff to drive performance, deliver results and improve customer satisfaction. Although different industries face varied challenges with frontline workers, we cover the best practices that ensure a positive employee experience for all types of  frontline workforce. These 7 tips will help in improving employee engagement and motivating them to stay productive.

Empower them with the right tools and technology

Knowledge is power. Having the right tools and technology empowers your team with access to information on the go. Be it facilitating internal communications, communicating safety measures, or keeping them updated on procedures, you must equip your frontline workers with mobile-first and intuitive technologies.

For example, the employee engagement platform Empuls allows you to centralize communication, align individual goals, and collaborate through groups.‍

Boost employee morale with rewards and recognition

The rewards and recognition mechanism allows employees to stay motivated, loyal, and productive. This ultimately helps you improve organizational performance. Rewards may not be monetary as the definition of motivation is different for different people. Some may be motivated by the sense of fulfillment and others by the impact they leave in someone’s daily life. Frontline managers need to understand what motivates their employees and offer incentives accordingly.

Employee rewards and recognition can include awards, festival gifts, milestone rewards, badges, certificates, leaderboards and catalogs to personalize the rewards.

Make them feel like a part of the team

The State of Deskless Workforce Report says that 50-34% of employees don’t feel valued by their employees. Your frontline workers may work in a remote setting but you must introduce an inclusive atmosphere. This will help you fight challenges related to retaining employees and engaging with them. Start with your communication strategy and include activities that address frontline workers.

Create an easy and transparent feedback loop

Garnering feedback from your frontline workers is crucial because they are the first ones to interact with customers and can impact the image of your business. Several studies show that employees aren’t looking to wait for annual, quarterly, or monthly reviews. They want guidance and feedback at a much more frequent interval so that they can improve their performance.

If you have frontline employees, given that they are in different locations, giving regular recognition and feedback might be difficult. Digital employee engagement tools can give you private virtual options for one-on-one meetings and conversations with frontline workers, regardless of their physical locations.

Introduce personal and relevant communication

Scheduled mass communication may not be a good idea when it comes to engaging with frontliners. Instead, you should be segmenting your internal audience and sharing more personalized information with the frontline team. If your frontline workforce operates globally, you should consider factors like time zones, different languages, shifts, and job roles while crafting your messaging and internal communication.

There are many ways to give frontline workers the resources and information they need to stay connected. One such feature of Empuls – employee internal communication– can act as a centralized portal to provide specific data to targeted employees. They can access the social intranet using a desktop computer within the office and a mobile phone when out in the field. Work schedules, internal communication and feedback can be conveyed instantly.

Creating a positive work environment

Building a team-oriented culture can help you foster a positive work culture. Did you know happy workers are 13% more productive than unhappy employees? Focus on employee wellbeing, upholding organizational values, and continuous communication to create a positive environment for your frontline team. In a nutshell, play your role in adding a human touch in the way you manage employees.‍

Engaging employees with gamification

Gamification can be a real game-changer when it comes to motivating employees and helping them to go the extra mile to deliver things right. A sales gamification and incentive tool enables your team to motivate and recognize hard-working employees and salespeople with incentives, rewards, and gamified learning.

Let’s get started with motivating your frontline workforce

There is no denying that frontline workers are instrumental in bringing your organization’s ambitions and goals to life. They form a direct connection with your customers. However, motivating frontline workers and engaging them is a daunting task, especially with the diversity of time zones and responsibilities that they handle. The good news is there are tools with which you can communicate with them on the go, share valuable information, and make them feel included. Once you motivate them to excel, they become your organization’s brand ambassadors and deliver the promised values consistently.‍