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November 1, 2021

Successful Strategies Organizations are Using for Frontline Workers


Are we doing enough for workers who – in many cases – don’t have the option of doing their job from home?

I’m talking about frontline workers such as truck drivers, those who take care of the sick at hospitals, serve coffee in quick service restaurants, work in manufacturing plants, labs, distribution centers, and many others.

As organizations find the right balance between company goals and employee preferences, and improving the employee experience to reduce the "Great Resignation," it seems that in many cases the loudest employees are getting the most attention, with the exception of those going on strike during “Striketober.”

What's Working to Engage and Retain Frontline Workers

Those leadership teams who are paying attention are reaping the benefits in terms of hiring, retention, and overall employee engagement. Said one CHRO in the medical device industry who I talked with recently, “Where we can, we want to build in flexibility so everyone feels like they have a choice and a say.”

That’s a far cry from the two classes of employees being created in some organizations.

Here are a few examples of what’s working:

  • Pay and benefits:
    • Upping compensation, including increasing hourly wages and providing spot bonuses
    • Strengthening offerings by improving existing benefits, and adding new benefits such as paid parental leave, PTO carryover, and more
    • Meaningful incentive and recognition programs such as temporary premium pay for specific circumstances
  • Work structure and environment:
    • Offering flexibility in work such as job sharing, more flexible hours, 4-day work weeks, even where it’s especially tough (like on the manufacturing floor)
    • Alleviating bottlenecks and pain points and ensuring workers have the tools and support they need, including help from remote colleagues
    • Treading carefully with vaccine mandates, offering incentives and using influence to try and increase vaccine rates without alienating those employees who don’t want to get vaccinated
    • Finding ways to have fun at work and bring surprises for employees like food trucks in the parking lot
  • Listening and appreciation:
    • Regular listening—from pulse surveys to scheduled input sessions—to understand employee needs, and taking action on their feedback
    • Networks of champions who bring forward what’s on employees’ minds and using their input to inform your decision making
    • Executives greeting employees at a shift change holding up big “thank you” signs, hosting events or other appreciation activities
    • Frequent 1:1 touchpoints (or walk-arounds) to check on their well-being, understand what they need, provide encouragement and show you care 
    • Campaigns to better connect employees to the organization’s mission and strategy, and how their work contributes to something larger than themselves
    • Training leaders and managers so they’re prepared to lead in new ways that the times and employees demand; to have more helpful, productive conversations
    • Ample scheduled time when leaders engage with employees, discuss issues at the team level and listen to better understand experiences and feelings

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Engage

Shoring up the employee experience for those who must work at a job site will reap significant benefits, including helping with any wedge that’s been formed between those who can work from home, and those who don’t have a choice.

One creative tactic a president of a leading global medical technology company used was to ask for volunteers from his office team to help ship out products. It was essential to do, he told me, because “not much matters if you can’t get your product to customers.” The engagement and esprit de corps was evident he said, along with a great appreciation and understanding of one another.

What else might be needed for your frontline workers?

David Grossman

Join us for a discussion on how to engage and retain your employees after a year that changed everything in this upcoming webinar featuring David Grossman and Linda Kingman - registration is open to PRSA members and non-members. Click below to register today!

Webinar with PRSA Chicago and David Grossman and Linda Kingman - register today

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