7 top employee engagement strategies for the frontline
It has never been more important for businesses to get serious about employee engagement strategies. This is especially critical for businesses with a major frontline presence given these facts:
- The U.S. turnover rate reached 55% in 2021 (after a decade of slow, steady increase)
- Turnover is especially high in frontline industries
- Burnout is the #1 reason why frontline employees leave
When your employees disengage, you’re on the verge of losing them. And when you consider that only 36% of employees are actively engaged at work, it becomes apparent why it’s so important to implement effective employee engagement strategies for your frontline.
The question is: How do you manage your employees so that they have a positive emotional connection with your workplace?
1. Establish a foundation for success on day one
Research shows that new hires who have an excellent onboarding experience are 2.6 times more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace and consequently more likely to stay. For frontline workers, those initial weeks and months are especially critical for promoting job satisfaction, so you want to ensure that your onboarding process hits all the right notes.
For starters, try to streamline the technical details as much as possible. New hires should have the ability to e-sign their paperwork and access training materials on the devices they already use. A mobile LMS like Axonify can be extremely useful here.
Start with only the most essential training materials (e.g. Point-of-sale essentials or how to fold apparel), and assign peer mentors to help new hires learn the ropes and get comfortable as part of the team. Managers should check in regularly and ensure that new hires have everything they need and are acclimating smoothly to the role.
2. Prioritize cross-training for operational agility & avoid burnout
Burnout is the #1 reason why employees quit in this economy, so it has never been more important to develop an agile workforce where everyone can share the burden without being overloaded.
If your staff is thin due to hiring challenges, you can ensure constant readiness by reskilling and cross-training your employees. Cross-training is a great way to foster new development opportunities and help people remain interested in their work while bolstering operational agility because you can make better use of your staffing.
For example, by training your grocery store associates to work click-and-collect shifts, you give yourself a larger selection of employees to choose from when an unexpected shift needs filling or an overworked employee needs a break. Rather than relying on two or three tired employees who work primarily as associates, you can choose between six or seven agile workers—some of whom may actually be eager to pick up the extra hours.
Reskilling and cross-training don’t have to eat up a lot of work hours, either. By using a learning management system like Axonify that stresses microlearning with lessons adapted to each user, you can ensure that every employee is constantly sharpening and expanding their skills in as little as 3 to 5 minutes per day.
3. Provide growth opportunities
Job stagnation leads to disengagement. Many employees lose motivation when they don’t feel like they’re working toward something. High achievers should therefore be rewarded with the potential for advancement as it becomes available.
One simple way to ensure ample opportunities and keep your team motivated is to promote from within. For instance, in a retail environment, your entry-level employees might include sales associates. From there, you have supervisors, then assistant managers and finally managers.
But it’s not all about climbing the ladder. Modern learning strategies allow for people to follow multiple paths, whether they want to pursue promotional/vertical opportunities or move horizontally and develop skills that open doors to positions outside their location or in new areas of the business.
This is another area where daily LMS training is essential. By allowing employees to train for different or more advanced roles, you not only ensure a more seamless transition when the promotion arrives but you also present them with actionable objectives that make the growth potential real. In other words, you’re not just dangling a carrot in front of them. You’re actually preparing them for bigger and better things.
4. Foster a sense of connection
In an office environment (particularly in small and mid-size businesses), it’s not uncommon for employees to have direct access to the CEO and other company executives. But in frontline industries, this is more of a rarity. In many cases, the average frontline employee can’t even name the top players in the organization. This, unfortunately, can create a sense of detachment from the company’s goals and mission. Rather than feeling like an integral member of the organization, it’s easy to feel like a random cog in the machine who’s just there to pick up a paycheck.
However, with today’s technologies, it’s easy for executives to maintain a line of contact with everyone in the organization—no matter how large it happens to be. For instance, company leaders can use Axonify to post messages and updates that are pushed to everyone at the company. Employees log in to complete their training for the day, and they’re greeted with timely communications straight from the leaders who are guiding the company’s big moves.
To improve employee engagement with this technology, managers and executives should provide regular updates on how the company is doing and how the team’s efforts are making a difference. Everyone should be made to feel as though they’re an integral part of something meaningful.
5. Foster a sense of community
If employees feel isolated or disconnected from the rest of the team, their level of engagement is going to suffer as a result. We’re a social species, and connection is essential to our existence. Fortunately, there are numerous steps you can take to foster a more connected workplace.
You can start with a peer mentorship program as part of the onboarding process. Connect each new hire with a peer mentor to show them the ropes and get them acquainted with the job and the team. In addition, you can use a training system like Axonify that offers built-in social features so that employees can communicate and encourage one another.
Make sure that any workplace conflicts are addressed and resolved promptly. And if you have the time and resources, try to host occasional team-building events—whether they be informal parties, after-hours socializing or company outings.
6. Promote workplace equity
Make sure to promote workplace equity. That includes equitable support to the frontline from leadership. Axonify’s own recent employee engagement survey found that office workers are generally happier than frontline employees, in part because of a stronger and more stable support system.
Managers should take an active role in ensuring that every team member is supported and equipped to do their job effectively. In addition, make sure that your frontline workers have the same opportunities and perks as your non-frontline workers (whenever possible).
For instance, maybe your frontline workers can’t work from home, but you can still find ways to allow for flexibility in their working life, such as with flexible hours and shift durations. In other words, don’t let your frontline get left behind.
7. Make sure that your frontline employees are recognized and rewarded
Finally, remember that small rewards can have a big impact. Lack of appreciation and recognition is one of the top reasons why employees quit, but it doesn’t take much effort to recognize people’s hard work. Unfortunately, this is often neglected in frontline industries because:
- The workplace demands and pace of change tend to be frantic, and managers are often consumed with just keeping the ship afloat.
- Frontline achievements like excellent customer service often go unnoticed unless customers specifically point them out.
- Frontline achievements often aren’t clearly defined or quantified.
There are many ways to recognize and reward your frontline employees. Establish clear expectations and keep an eye out for employees who exceed those expectations. Solicit employee feedback as well as feedback from supervisors and customers. While patting your employees on the back and thanking them for a job well done is a good start (and something you absolutely should do), consider offering rewards as well. These can include career advancement opportunities, bonuses, PTO and even gifts in some cases.
Also, don’t just reward achievements. Consider rewarding training as well. After all, training is the foundation of all the success that follows. Your LMS should automatically track people’s training progress so you can reward them accordingly. For instance, Axonify assigns points to employees as they complete assignments and reach milestones. Consider assigning real values to those points in the form of rewards. Examples can include gift cards, parks passes, store products or something simple like a preferred parking space. It’s a great opportunity to have some fun with rewards that align to your culture.
Take the time to build a successful employee engagement strategy
There’s no single magic ingredient to fostering engaged employees. You don’t need an employee engagement committee; you just need a practical approach to building an engaged workforce. And while improving employee engagement can certainly be a challenge in those stressful and demanding frontline roles, it’s by no means impossible.
It takes time and money to engage employees, but the added value pays for itself many times over.