What Can Employers Do To Retain Frontline Workers?

According to a new survey, frontline workers cite belonging, technology, and supportive managers as critical retention factors.

employee retention
Photo: Adobe Stock – Andrey Popov

Employee experience plays a critical role in frontline worker retention across all industries—according to new survey insights from Workday, Inc.

The survey, which includes input from 3,000 global workers in frontline positions—across industries such as construction, energy, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and transportation—to understand the sentiment, needs, and priorities of today’s frontline workforce and to uncover how employers can support, empower, and retain these workers. This is especially critical, as a majority (56%) of senior executives are facing frontline employee turnover that is higher than the historical average.

Today’s frontline workers want access to the right tools and technology, to feel a sense of belonging, and to be supported by their managers. It also found that while 20% of frontline workers planning to leave their jobs within the next three to six months, 79% of workers who feel a sense of belonging at work have no plans to leave their employer. This highlights the need for employers to better engage with and retain this essential segment of the workforce.

3 Ways To Create A Positive Employee Experience

The survey identified three key factors to delivering positive, connected, and supportive experiences for frontline workers:

Workplace Belonging is Critical for Frontline Worker Wellbeing and Retention.

When frontline workers feel connected with their managers, it significantly impacts their sense of belonging, intent to stay, and sentiment towards the organization. Workers who feel a sense of belonging at work are nine times more likely to have a supportive manager, and 79% of them have no plans to leave their employer. Conversely, those workers who do not feel a sense of workplace belonging are four times more likely to say their mental health and wellbeing has declined in the last year, and just 33% intend to stay with their current employer.

The Role of Technology on Employer Perception.

Having the right tools and technology play a critical part in how frontline workers experience and perceive work overall. According to the survey, workers who have flexible scheduling tools—i.e., tools that enable them to manage their schedules and adjust and add shifts—are 71% more likely to say their company is open and transparent. However, if frontline workers don’t have access to the right technologies to do their work, they are 20 times more likely to say their employer is not open and transparent.

Supportive People Leaders and Opportunities to Share.

To deliver experiences that matter, people leaders need to understand the evolving preferences and needs of employees, and make sure their voices are heard. The findings show that 80% of workers who say their manager understands and regularly supports them indicate they are happy in their job with no plans to leave. Yet, for workers who say their manager doesn’t consistently support them, only 20% say they are happy in their current role. In fact, a supportive manager can improve a frontline worker’s likelihood of retention by 300%.

Additionally, frontline workers want to be recognized for their work and have opportunities to share feedback. According to the survey, 79% of workers want to share feedback with their organization monthly or more frequently, yet only 55% of employers give them the chance to. This directly impacts retention, as only 15% of frontline workers who want, and receive, daily or weekly feedback have plans to quit their job.

The Path Forward

To keep frontline workers engaged and empowered during changing workforce dynamics, organizations need a unified view of their workforce in order to understand and respond to their unique needs.

“Frontline workers are doing the hard—yet essential—work that doesn’t always get noticed or appreciated like it should,” said Ben Eubanks, chief research officer, Lighthouse Research & Advisory. “This research uncovered how positively frontline workers respond to having the right tools and resources in their hands to better manage their work life.

“It’s my hope that employers take note and use these findings as an opportunity to build a stronger support system for their critical frontline staff.”

For more information on this survey, download the report, “Frontline Workers: How to Connect, Enable, and Support Them in the Modern Workplace.”

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