How to engage frontline workers, how to keep them connected, at a time when many office workers are dispersed and those frontlines can feel more distant that ever? This is a question that has become critical in light of the current health crisis.
But with the proper strategy, steps, and digital tools, frontline workers can remain informed and engaged with company life. In fact, we’ve laid out simple steps you can take to boost frontline engagement at your company. In this article, you will learn:
1. Why frontline workers are so critical
2. Challenges to frontline engagement
3. Tips on how to engage frontline workers
4. An employee communication solution that can help
5. A chance to try a free demo
It’s a fact. The world depends on frontline workers.
Frontline workers are critical. And with the events of the past year, with so many parts of business shut down or acting remotely, this has become clearer than ever. Without them, society simply cannot function. Indeed, 80% of the global workforce is composed of “frontline” workers, while only 20% maintain corporate “office” jobs. They’re in stores, in factories, on construction sites, driving vehicles—businesses cannot run without them. However, many of these workers are not properly connected to their company. Information does not flow freely in both directions, and they don’t always engage as fully as other office workers in company life. But it doesn’t have to be this way—it is possible to keep frontline workers just as informed about and engaged with company affairs.
But challenges stand in the way of frontline engagement.
While there are many reasons a frontline worker might not engage fully or feel well-informed, there are common causes of disengagement that crop up again and again, in many different businesses and sectors. These issues can include the following:
Frontline workers are not connected to their company
Many frontline workers, in stores and manufacturing centers, for example, may have a mobile device, but not a professional computer station or email address to call their own. And their role may limit access even if they do—i.e. someone in a customer-facing sales position simply may not have the time or the proper equipment to sit and check their latest company bulletins and updates online.
No alignment between corporate and operational communications
It’s too often the case that “office” employees focus on corporate communications, while frontline workers focus on operational communications, when in fact, both can be an important part of being an informed employee. Frontline employees receive operational news and updates regarding the nuts and bolts of their daily tasks, but not the communications regarding the larger company and its place in its ecosystem. And office employees receive developing corporate and strategic news, but are often unaware of the day-to-day information that helps the company to operate smoothly. The two spheres are kept separate, when they should be integrated. It can be just as important for a frontline worker to be familiar with a new marketing strategy as it is for an office worker to be familiar with new factory safety regulations. But in many cases, the information streams are kept separate.
Feeling of not being properly informed by management
It’s a fact that 84% of frontline workers feel that they’re not kept properly informed by management. And 50% feel that they don’t understand the overall strategy of the company. That they’re effectively “out of the loop” when it comes to crucial elements of business information and communication. Obviously, if frontline workers feel that managers aren’t communicating crucial information, problems will arise.
Misunderstanding the nature of engagement
Oftentimes, headquarters assumes that frontline workers aren’t engaged with or don’t take an interest in corporate communication and life, when in fact they do, albeit at a more local level. Frontline engagement may take a different form, and the necessities of their daily tasks may make it more challenging to promptly respond to surveys or participate in challenges—but it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested.
Feeling that their voice is not heard
It is not uncommon among frontline workers to encounter the sentiment that corporate management does not necessarily take their opinions into account when determining policy or making decisions. In fact, a full 75% feel that they simply are not listened to. It’s unfortunate, but there are many frontline employees who feel that they don’t have a voice at the company, and only a limited role in determining its direction.
So the question remains: How to engage frontline workers? Here are some solutions.
As daunting as these challenges can be, there are ways to strengthen the feeling of connection between corporate headquarters and workers on the frontlines, and to increase communication and alignment, ensuring that everyone feels they are informed, involved, and most importantly, listened to.
A Branded Mobile App
Since many frontline workers may not have a personal desk unit or professional email, you have to reach them using a channel they already use: mobile. They need to be able to access all the information they need from their mobile device, so it becomes part of their routine. And by branding the app, you create a strong sense of belonging and identity. They feel part of the company, as opposed to just a WhatsApp group chat.
The Sociabble Employee Communication platform comes with a branded mobile app that helps keep frontline workers who don’t have a desk station or professional email address connected.
Centralized Content Hub with Right Content Mix
Content is going to make the difference, so it needs to be accessible from a single platform hub. And in addition to being very visual and appealing with videos and photos, it needs to offer a good mix of both global and local content, as well as organizational and operational pieces. The ability to provide User Generated Content should also be offered, so that employees can be directly involved in the conversation and create their own. Top-down and bottom-up communication is key, with polls and quizzes to keep them involved.
Sociabble serves as a central content hub where frontline workers can get access to all the crucial information they need.
A Controlled Newsfeed
It’s important to have an editorialized newsfeed with content that can be pinned to the top, so that workers are sure not to miss the most important pieces of company information. Managers need the ability to prioritize the order of content, so that it is relevant from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective. It should not be left up to algorithms to decide which content is most visible. Managers need control.
The Sociabble newsfeed has a pinning option, so managers can highlight the news that can’t be missed.
Because local managers often have the most insight into the needs and preferences of their local teams of frontline workers, governance of the platform should not be too centralized. They need to be able to have input into what information their team needs to see, with local, decentralized news to go alongside important global updates. This will help frontline workers feel that the communications are relevant to them and their situation.
Sociabble options like local notifications and read receipts allow managers to control and monitor the flow of communication.
Operational Comms Abilities
Read receipts, public display screens, mobile video capabilities, locally-managed polls—these kinds of communication platform features put operational power in the hands of local managers to ensure that crucial messages are getting through. And operational communication is a crucial element to frontline success, it’s locally relevant.
Sociabble puts the power to shape the experience in the hands of local managers, including the ability to create polls and surveys.
Content in Local Languages
Because many frontline workers are operating in a language different from headquarters, a translation capability can make a tremendous difference. This helps frontline workers feel connected and engaged with communications, as they become instantly relevant. Local managers should also be able to control translations and edit them, to make sure the right interpretation is getting through.
Real-time translation in over 60 languages ensures that with Sociabble, employees get the news they need, no matter where they are or what language they speak.
Live chat and video conference features form the crucial synchronous links that allow frontline workers to communicate directly with each other, with managers, and with headquarters. Questions can be answered and problems can be solved in real time, with the ability to address local nuances and challenges.
Sociabble’s chat and live video features ensure that conversations occur when needed, and that managers can connect directly with employees to discuss critical issues or just touch base.
Fun with Gamification
It’s also important to add a bit of fun to the mix, which will help keep employees engaged and positive about the experience. A gamification feature with contests and challenges can really boost engagement with the content, and create a team spirit in the process. Badges and leaderboards can make the experience more visible and real.
A host of gamification features, complete with badges and leaderboards, makes engagement fun for employees.
It’s nice to reward active, engaged employees with awards that actually mean something. Think outside the box and try to provide winners with prizes that foster a sense of doing good, or helping the community. For example, rather than simply giving a gift certificate, connect the achievement to helping the environment.
With Sociabble, you can give employees meaningful rewards, including real trees planted in actual forests around the world via Sociabble Trees.
Employee Involvement in CSR
And when it comes to social responsibility, get employees involved. They should be able to propose and vote on ideas, and take some ownership over how their actions help the community on a larger level but also in a way that’s locally relevant, so they feel their actions are beneficial to the worlds they live in.
Frontline workers and other employees can get directly involved in CSR initiatives with Sociabble, and even vote on projects that are locally relevant with the “Support My Cause” feature.
The Sociabble platform does all of this and more.
Sociabble is an Employee Communication platform that incorporates all of these features and much more, to help employees become informed, engaged, and influential. It is specifically designed to work seamlessly with ALL employees, be they in corporate, frontline, or even remote work scenarios. We’ve already worked with industry leaders around the world, including companies like Coca-Cola CCEP, Vinci, and L’Occitane, to name a few.
To learn more about how Sociabble can help get your workforce informed and engaged, just click for a free demo.