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7 Underrated Ways to Motivate Your Frontline Employees

by Siv Rauv

24 Nov 2020

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Without frontline employees, many organisations would cease to exist. Retail store assistants, nurses in healthcare facilities, labourers on construction sites and assembly line workers are just a few of the 2.7 billion deskless workers that make up 80% of the workforce globally.

The importance of these employees - frontline, deskless and remote - is clear.

Their actions directly (and publicly) reflect your organisation’s culture and values. Often, they deliver products and services, providing front line customer service. This makes them a significant part of the customer experience journey.

However, frontline employees are often dissatisfied and disengaged, which can negatively affect the level of customer service provided.

Quinyx polled a total of more than 12,000 workers across five industries for their State of the Deskless Workforce 2020 report and found that deskless workers don’t ‘feel loved’ by their employers.

One key challenge is frontline employees are often left out of the loop.

Desk-based knowledge workers have a dedicated workspace in a physical office, usually in the same location as management and those who make key decisions for the organisation. This makes it easier for them to connect, collaborate and understand what’s happening throughout the business.

Whereas, deskless workers are not visible or present in head office or regional offices. They don’t have a dedicated workspace with access to the same resources and tools. Rarely do they have a company computer or laptop, relying solely on their personal mobile device to check work related emails and messages.

Think about your own organisation. Chances are there are systems that cannot be accessed outside the office or on mobile or tablet.

Frontline employees end up missing out on information and communication that can go a long way in motivating and engaging them!

In this article, we look at 7 underrated ways to motivate your frontline employees.

1. Get everyone on the same page

Frontline employees don’t spend their days in front of a computer screen. And most are on their feet or travelling from one place to another.

From dealing with a crisis, to training employees on new products and services or updating them about the location they work at, information is key.

Keep in mind that people consume information in different formats and different devices, and organisations need to look beyond simply emailing employees.

Some tips for success:

  • Help frontline employees feel like they ‘belong’ and are part of a larger team. Share challenges and updates about the organisation and how they’re being addressed to alleviate concerns. Celebrate successes and highlight contributions of frontline teams for all the business to see.
  • Have a BYOD program in place so new employees can access information needed quickly, without compromising on security.
  • Keep emails short and link to a permanent location. For example, instead of sending a long email, you can provide a brief explanation and then link to a permanent location where staff can easily locate information, documents and other resources in the future, such as a dedicated section on your intranet.  
  • Identify frontline managers who have implemented their own unique techniques and tools to manage their teams effectively. Share their ideas and where possible, have them present their ideas to head office and other managers.

2. Personalise communication

Regular and frequent communication is key to an informed and engaged workforce. However, relying on mass email blasts is not the answer.

Most organisations use emails for all communication, from critical work-related updates to social niceties. This can lead to messages getting lost among all of clutter in their inboxes. This isn’t ideal, especially as some employees do not have a company email address.

Targeting content and communications is key to preventing information overload and building a positive culture with a remote workforce.

Some tips for success:

  • Ensure internal communication platforms are accessible for all employees so everyone can connect with colleagues and share their input across the organisation.
  • Provide a hub for information targeted to different groups to reduce the number of questions to different departments, and enable self-service access to this information across various devices. You could create an induction portal for example, with relevant onboarding resources including a checklist of standard tasks to be completed, training videos, forms, staff contact details and more. This is particularly effective for inducting remote employees.
  • Share company news and updates, but do so with a platform where you can target the news to select groups. Also enable them to subscribe to news and content that interests them. Providing each subset of users with updates tailored to their role and location will ensure that content resonates, and employees feel valued as individuals.

Related reading: [Free guide] Internal Communications Best Practices 

3. Make it easily to give and source feedback

A key part of motivating all employees is make it easy for them to provide feedback and share concerns. Given that frontline employees work directly on site, often providing customer service, there’s a lot of personal knowledge they can accumulate about how to best perform their jobs.

Feedback can also drive innovation and ideation. Your frontline employees are on the ground, interacting with customers, delivering, manufacturing or building your products. They experience first-hand the processes that have been created by head office.

Some tips for success:

  • Distribute easy to access online forms and polls to make it easy to measure sentiment and weed out reoccurring issues. During times of crisis, you can create a survey asking employees to reply if they won't be in today or need assistance.
  • Use social Q&A tools to crowdsource ideas from employees to solve business challenges, highlight inefficient processes and customer experiences, as well as how to better handle these. Also enable them to upvote ideas. This will help you get a better understanding of changes to prioritise that can add real value for teams.
  • Be transparent and make sure employees know that you value their feedback and are taking it into consideration. Feedback will dry up if employees believe their feedback isn’t being heard!

Related reading: [Blog post] 8 Great Ways to Use Forms and Workflows to Automate Business Processes

4. Create an easily accessible online knowledge center

Frontline employees don't have time to ask a colleague a question if they're on a production line or helping a customer, and this is ultimately affect their ability to provide the best service possible. Make it easy for them to access the knowledge they need by introducing knowledge management best practices

According to Gartner, “Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.” 

Some tips for success:

  • Accessibility is key. The knowledge base you use must be accessible and easy to view on mobile, as well as from all locations. Employees should be able to use filters and it should support multiple formats such as video, images and audio.
  • Not everyone needs the same knowledge to do their jobs. Put in place access permissions so employees only see the sections that are relevant to them. You want to ensure employees can find information as quickly as possible and get back to their jobs fast. 
  • Consider implementing an interactive/social Q&A section, so employees can comment, ask questions, answer questions and share best practices - instead of simply reading answers provided by the organisation.

5. Streamline and automate manual processes

Customers are demanding faster and better services. So products need to be manufactured and delivered quickly and without faults. 

Traditionally, frontline employees have not had access to the same systems and tools desk workers do in order to improve processes and better manage tasks. This can lead to employees performing inefficient, manual and often frustrating processes, instead of focusing on tasks that help improve customer satisfaction.

Some tips for success:

  • Use a central system such as an intranet or portal - accessible by mobile and tablet - to provide the front door to the wider ‘digital workplace’ so employees can easily connect to the applications they use on a regular basis. Start by simplifying simple processes such as checklists and forms, rosters and timesheets directly related to their roles, as well as general processes such as leave requests to the HR team. Notifications can be automatically triggered to direct line managers and relevant departments to view and/or approve as part of a process.
  • Add in single sign on (SSO) capability, so employees can simply click on the link within an intranet or portal and are automatically signed into a third-party system or tool.
  • Use feedback from staff to keep streamlining and improving processes. For example, using online forms and associated workflow approvals for repetitive requests such as annual leave, expense claims or making an IT request, speeds up the process, reduces the need for paper printing and ensures the appropriate person is notified immediately to approve the request.

Related reading: [Blog post] How to Automate & Improve Business Processes Across Your Organisation

6. Provide ongoing training opportunities

Providing employees with access to professional development and coaching opportunities can go a long way in showing them that you value them as individuals.

Frontline employees will require training on the company, new products or services, soft skills and hard skills, new campaigns, seasonal campaigns, as well as programs to prepare them for new positions.

Some tips for success:

  • Move courses to an online learning environment if you haven’t already. Invest in an eLearning platform where employees can access training when and where they need it. eLearning also enables you to monitor and measure training programs and courses for both individuals and groups. As with any other technology, ensure that it is accessible on mobile.
  • Consider changing the format of the training course. For example, instead of lengthy articles, use lots of visuals and videos breaking down information into short training sessions.
  • Also consider a peer-to-peer training program in which newfound skills can be imparted helps to bring together team members and fosters connection in an organic way.

7. Keep employees engaged

Employees want to feel their work is valued and meaningful. This can be challenging for organisations when employees are working far away from head office. Given the importance of frontline employees, organisations need to step up their game! 

On a more personal level, make sure to celebrate promotions, share success stories, welcome new colleagues, share employee company milestones and other social niceties.

Some tips for success:

  • Managers should it it clear how an employee's work contributes to the team and their goals. Give employees visibility into what their team members are working on if appropriate. Not just with information on progress but highlighting individual achievements and successes. Seeing wins in action inspires more wins for the future.  
  • Informally, people can share achievements during team meetings or via social channels on Slack or your intranet. Promote these tools to ensure everyone is aware of what’s available and how to give and receive recognition. Part of your ongoing strategy should be inviting and encouraging employees to make use of all your recognition resources.
  • Formally, you can have a formal system where line managers or even employees can put forward individuals for a shout-out in senior leadership communications. A company-wide Slack thread or Teams channel can serve specifically for public 'thanks' posts, or you can create a feature on your intranet, such as a timeline or rewards widget, dedicated to recognitions.

Related reading: [Blog post] 12 Ways to Increase Workforce Engagement with Your Intranet

Invest in a digital workplace to motivate your frontline employees 

A digital workplace can help you overcome the challenges mentioned in this article – in a cost-efficient way by:

  • Providing an employee induction hub.
  • Offering training courses via an eLearning platform, with links to related resources including a staff directory and online forms.
  • Creating a central knowledge repository.
  • Hosting easy to find policies, procedures and other documents.
  • Delivering personalised news and shared successes.
  • Connecting employees through informal communities and social tools.
  • Soliciting feedback via social Q&A tools and online forms.
  • Integrating with third party systems to pull in and display summary data within your solution.
  • And more!

An intranet is often introduced as the foundation of a digital workplace. It brings together a series of tools and systems, enabling your organisation to provide employees with a single, unified access to up to date and important information and company updates, as well as the essential resources and tools to help them get their jobs done. 

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