HR Tech Number of the Day: frontline workers’ experience

76%: Percentage of frontline and essential workers polled by LumApps who said they don’t have the ability to provide intelligence or feedback to their corporate headquarters.

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Frontline workers–from healthcare professionals to grocery store employees to transit drivers–have been the lifeblood of the U.S. economy over the last year. However, while they have been essential to keeping Americans safe and life humming forward as much as possible, their organizations appear to be struggling to prioritize their employee experience.

That’s according to new research from employee communication and collaboration platform LumApps, whose HR Manager of North America, Robbie Harris, presented during last month’s Spring HR Tech.

“As the lines between our professional and personal lives blur, employees are increasingly wanting the relevant, convenient and engaging experience they’re having outside of work to be replicated on the job,” Harris said. But for the 1,000 frontline and essential workers LumApps surveyed, that experience doesn’t seem to be translating.

More than three-quarters said they lack the ability to provide intelligence or feedback to corporate headquarters–which could allow feelings of disconnect and disengagement to grow. Additionally, more than 60% said they didn’t know where to find important information, 40% are experiencing burnout, fatigue and stress related to COVID and 41% plan to look for a new job in the next six months.

What it means for HR leaders

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Frontline employees–who are often part of the 80% of the American workforce deemed “deskless”–are the first to engage with customers, to deliver the value and the brand, to showcase the products and services, Harris said. They can act as a company steward and drive compelling customer experiences.

Nearly 80% of business leaders believe that empowering frontline employees is critical to long-term business strategy, she noted. However, without a deep investment in their employee experience, that strategy could suffer.

Harris offered five strategies employers can deploy to better connect with their frontline workers:

Listening: Business leaders should rely on active listening, while also being empathetic. Quantify stressors via surveys, employee feedback and usage data, and listen for qualitative trends that data collection can’t pick up.

Assess gaps: Identify existing communication breakdowns and potential lost opportunities, particularly in your digital workplace technology. Pay special attention to digital accessibility, as many frontline employees lack a work device or email. Consider a mobile digital workplace app to connect frontline workers, she said.

Expand information flow: Examine your digital communication strategy and look for gaps involving information about HR procedures, onboarding, safety and compliance training. Address and add content based on these gaps, and establish reachable KPIs for ongoing engagement, she added.

Personalize: This should be top priority for digital communication with frontline employees, Harris said. “You have the opportunity to identify and reach specific employees and help them get the information that is relevant to their particular roles,” she said. For instance, target company news and updates by role or geographies and allow workers to join and contribute to internal communities.

Measure and optimize: Adopt an “always learning” approach to examine the impact of your digital strategy outside of normal reporting periods. “Continually ensure information, news and updates are accessible and understood,” she said, and analyze broader impacts to change management, digital transformation and employee satisfaction.

“Leading organizations are starting to recognize the value of empowering frontline and essential workforces,” Harris said. “Exceptional employee experience can attract talent, boost productivity and retention–and truly this can improve financial performance.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].