Communication is essential when it comes to your frontline workforce. And any kind of breakdown in communication can cause ramifications for your immediate team, overall organization, and client base as a whole.
Frontline workers interact with people directly on behalf of an organization. They’re usually the primary point of contact that an outside person has with a company or institution in public, online, or over the phone. Frontline workers make up many different and essential roles across industries. A cashier at a chain grocery store, plumber, city bus driver, and paramedic are all examples of frontline professions where workers are tasked with interacting regularly with the general public.
These roles can be stressful, due in part to the unpredictable nature and working hours of the jobs. And the Covid-19 pandemic certainly added pressure to this segment of workers. As a result, many frontline workers quit or pursued jobs in different fields altogether. Outside of reasons related to Covid-19, workers cited motivations such as having a bad relationship with their boss and feeling unappreciated as to why they left their job, according to “Why U.S. Frontline Workers are Quitting” in Harvard Business Review.
Regular communication between organizational leaders and frontline workers is essential to build trust and develop strong working relationships. Learn more about the importance of frontline communication and best practices.
Watch the webinar: Enhance Communications and Collaboration for Frontline Workers.
What is frontline communication?
Frontline communication is how organizations communicate with their frontline workforce. Consider it another form of workforce management—it’s a way for employers to internally engage with staff to share updates and important information. This type of unified communication can help your organization stay connected, reduce friction in your operations, and foster a sense of community among workers.
Examples of frontline communication include:
- A mobile app designed specifically for employees.
- An online company-run community group or hub.
- Text-based communications related to projects or safety alerts.
- A regularly published email newsletter or print bulletin.
- An employer-led podcast or video series that discusses larger updates or initiatives.
Depending on your industry and work environment, one (or more) styles might be a better choice for you. For example, a video series probably wouldn’t be best for a delivery driver or HVAC technician who doesn’t work at a desk, whereas a mobile, on-the-go solution would be ideal. Dedicated frontline worker tools can help you enhance communication and collaboration, simplify processes, and engage your workers within one secure platform.
Why is frontline communication important?
As we saw with the pandemic, the breakdown of frontline communication can have devastating results for organizations and workers alike. It’s important to create a culture where workers feel valued, respected, and listened to, so they can confidently and efficiently do their best work.
To establish effective frontline communication, you’ll want to:
- Ensure workers have access to the technology and platforms they need.
- Focus on clear, direct communication, especially as it relates to on-the-job tasks and scheduling in real time.
- Develop policies, goals, and expectations around communications for both leaders and staff.
- Eliminate any barriers to access, such as complex communication styles or tools that don’t serve workers while they’re on a job site.
Also, resist the urge to make every message top-down and solely business-focused. Encourage feedback and two-way conversations. Workers, in general, who quit during “The Great Resignation” cited a lack of advancement opportunities and disrespect in the workplace as two of the top reasons why they left their jobs, according to Pew Research Center. If your frontline workers don’t feel valued by management or see a clear path forward, this can affect your business in both the short and long term. So, be sure to share information on trainings, new job opportunities, promotions within the organization, and company events, too, as employee engagement strategies.
Common frontline communication challenges
Frontline workers may experience communication challenges due to a variety of reasons. For example:
- Disconnection due to varying schedules. Frontline staffing hours typically don’t resemble a traditional 9-5, Monday-through-Friday workweek. And even if they do, they might not work with the same colleagues or out of the same location regularly. As a result, it’s easy for people to be out of the loop if you don’t ensure that everyone’s connected and engaged.
- Management doesn’t communicate consistently. If your higher-ups don’t communicate with frontline workers regularly—or worse, not at all—it can make them feel less essential than your other team members and have repercussions related to employee satisfaction. Your subject matter and delivery, or lack thereof, can send an unintended message.
- Your chosen communication channels aren’t conducive to efficiency—or your budget. You want to meet your workers where they’re at with their messaging needs, especially when they’re spread out geographically and need quick-to-access job updates. The use of multiple apps and tools can cause frontline worker challenges (and a bloated operations budget) if they don’t have access to a streamlined solution with essential data and features.
- Subpar or complicated technology. Similarly, a clunky tech stack could dissuade your frontline staff from reading and responding to your messages. You don’t want to deny your workers access to updated and reliable frontline worker technology, as well as any necessary training on how to use it.
Strategies to improve frontline communication
Thankfully, there are ways for you to improve communication and increase employee satisfaction. Your organization can:
- Create clear communication policies. Set goals and expectations around company messaging and frontline strategies—a weekly bulletin in the breakroom, a mobile app to notify employees about their work schedules, a company portal where workers can talk with each other about on-site jobs, etc.
- Offer continuing education and advancement opportunities. Workers want to know that companies are willing to support them in their roles. Invest in and share opportunities for career and skills development to keep your frontline staff motivated to grow with your organization.
- Celebrate wins. Regularly acknowledge group wins and spotlight individual achievements to show appreciation and boost morale. Consider opening up channels for frontline workers to give kudos to their colleagues as well.
- Be open to feedback. It’s one thing to ask for feedback and another thing to actively listen and incorporate it. Make it easy, and welcome, for frontline workers to share ideas with you on how to improve culture and address other workplace items.
- Invest in technology that empowers your team. Take advantage of frontline worker communication tools that help unify and streamline your organization’s correspondences and business processes. Ensure that all workers are onboarded and trained on these tools from the start as well.
Best practices for frontline communication
A solid frontline communications plan has to work for both your organization and your workers. Here are best practices, keeping frontline strategies top of mind:
- Develop goals and strategies for your communications plan. This includes which apps and tools you’ll use, creating communication policies and processes, and making sure all workers are onboarded and trained.
- Choose technology that works on the go. Look to dedicated frontline communication platforms and embrace mobile technology to connect with workers. With reliable on-the-job technology, you enable your workers to handle customer concerns and issues more effectively and timely, too.
- Clearly and regularly communicate. It’s important that you share important work updates or alerts in a direct, concise manner. Also, highlight work wins and training and promotion opportunities to keep your frontline staff engaged.
- Embrace feedback. Whether you use chats, conduct surveys, or choose another evaluation method, develop a feedback loop so workers feel heard and you stay on top of any situations.
Empower your frontline workers
Enhancing communication with your frontline workers has many benefits. It helps you connect with your workers more efficiently and reduce churn, strengthen morale, and inspire employees—who feel valued and respected—to stay and grow with you.