When business owners try to figure out ways to boost their bottom line, they often focus on attracting more customers or increasing sales. But they often overlook a critical part of their business that might be draining their revenues: the cost of disengaged employees.
Employee engagement was trending upward until the pandemic. After dipping for a little more than a year, it is once again inching back up, according to Gallup.
But overall, the average workplace is seeing just a 32% engagement level. And that number drops significantly when it comes to frontline workers. Only 10% of them report feeling connected to the company they work for.
Mobile-first technology offers companies a surefire way to engage their frontline teams. It creates a forum where workers can express what they want and need, eliminating the guesswork for leaders. It aligns everyone in an organization through centralized communication and builds an inclusive culture where frontline workers are on equal footing with communication and connectedness as their desk-based counterparts.
The Impact of Frontline Disconnection on Business Performance
Industries are in an era of frontline disconnect.
What does that mean?
- Frontline workers are feeling overlooked and overworked.
- Their quit rate is at an all-time high.
- They are often not included in workplace technology, leaving them out of communication circles.
- They feel out of touch with their direct managers, the most critical person to frontline retention.
These all create the perfect storm of frontline disengagement which impacts every aspect of business: productivity, sales, customer satisfaction and relationships, culture, and ultimately profits.
What Disengaged Employees Cost Companies
When it comes to exactly how a disconnected frontline financially impacts a company, the statistics say it all.
- According to Gallup, disengaged employees “represent an $8.8 trillion untapped productivity opportunity for global workplaces.”
- When it comes to the frontline, disengaged employees cost companies $450-$550 billion annually.
- According to McKinsey, the quit rate is highest in two frontline industries: retail and hospitality.
- Frontline disconnect can cost $8,000 per employee.
Companies cannot afford to ignore this frontline divide any longer. Just as they’re recovering from the pandemic, they are faced with the Great Resignation and a frontline labor shortage. But unlike the pandemic, companies can do something about low engagement levels.
More often than not, employees want to give their all at work. But doing that is so much easier when they feel connected and included. They’ll stay with a company longer and even become your best recruiters since people want to work for great companies they hear about from their friends and associates. Increasing engagement can improve work performance and yield higher productivity and reduce turnover.
Pro tip: While a disengaged workforce has monetary impacts, leaders should invest in a connected frontline because it’s the right thing to do. Building a culture where people enjoy what they do and where they work should be the primary goal. The positive impacts on your business will follow.
Building a highly-engaged workforce is simpler than companies think. And it all companies down to one thing: digitally empowering frontline teams. According to a Forbes/Microsoft study, it can lead to a 20% increase in business growth in a single year.
Implementing Strategies for Improved Frontline Engagement
Retail, healthcare, manufacturing, education, transportation, and hospitality. There are so many frontline industries that employ 80% of the world’s workforce. That’s two billion workers, many of whom are feeling a lack of belonging at their companies.
How can companies reverse course? They need to always consider their frontline workers when implementing strategies and making business decisions. And it all boils down to empowering the frontline with the same things they give to their desk-based workers.
Here are five strategies that can engage the frontline and lead to a stronger culture and better business outcomes.
1. Frontline-Focused Technology
The most basic mistake that companies make is how they choose to connect with their staff. Companies still rely on communication methods that favor desk-based workers who have computers and company email they can check regularly.
But frontline workers are on the go and don’t have the same ability to stop and check their email. Their work is more hands-on and not computer-based. The best way to reach them? On their mobile devices. In fact, 86% of frontline workers want technology that helps them do their jobs.
All company communication should run through a mobile-first platform like Beekeeper which can reach every single employee regardless of where and how they work. Even those desk-based workers who relied on computers now heavily favor their smartphones for communication.
A communication and productivity app can offer features designed to engage, like:
- Employee surveys to get employee feedback
- Inline translation so every worker can connect in their preferred language
- Automated processes that benefit workers, like onboarding and open enrollment
- Integrations with LMS platforms for upskilling and training employees
When companies make this shift to a mobile-first mindset and solution, it creates this authentic representation of the entire workforce and facilitates effective team communication. It makes frontline workers feel valued and included by having a voice to contribute and connect with peers, managers, and leaders. Needless to say, engagement gets a huge boost as a result.
Workplace communication must be authentic and transparent. Employees need to understand the company’s mission, the reasons behind business decisions, and how they are a part of the bigger picture.
For example, AI is having a huge impact on the nature of today’s jobs, especially for hourly workers. But while 86% of frontline workers say they want and need training from their employers on how AI will affect their jobs, only 14% have received communication or training about it.
Empower employees with information. When there are problems, include them in coming up with solutions. This open communication builds trust with your workforce. And this goes back to the technology a company uses.
3. Engage Employees from Day One
Did you know that 50% of hourly workers quit their jobs within the first four months? Companies often focus efforts on making employees feel like a part of the team once they’re in the day-to-day routine of their jobs. But employees need to get that feeling of connection from the first moment at the company. It’s a critical window of time in the employee lifecycle, and if they don’t feel engaged walking through the door on that first day, it can be harder to get them to buy into the company culture later on. They’ll mentally check out before they ever really start.
A great onboarding experience can boost retention by 82%. That means turnover will drop, and so will those expensive and unnecessary recruiting and hiring costs that plague frontline businesses as they continue to refill the same positions over and over.
4. Make Employee Recognition a Core Communication Strategy
Everyone likes acknowledgement, especially in the workplace. Employee recognition is an easy way to engage workers, but 81% of businesses are not making it a top business strategy.
Recognition can include a job well done, welcoming a new hire to the company, a birthday, or the addition of a child. Managers should utilize the company’s mobile communication platform to make these announcements so everyone can give a shout-out to celebrate their colleagues.
At Flagger Force, a traffic control company with more than 1,700 employees across 12 states, the employee recognition program has boosted retention and led to frontline workers eager to move up to leadership positions. In fact, the company has saved $200,000 by promoting workers from within rather than having to recruit and hire external candidates.
Pro tip: Get creative with employee recognition on your communication tool, like creating a peer recognition program or posting a video on a stream to thank an employee for a job well done!
- Invest in Frontline Managers
The relationship between frontline managers and their teams is critical to engagement and retention. Without a good connection or communication between the two, employee engagement is bound to suffer.
Being a good manager means understanding how to support and encourage workers. It means having good communication and soft skills to create a better employee experience. But 40% of frontline managers are in their first year on the job and are still learning the ropes of supervising people and understanding what it takes to motivate and engage their direct reports.
For many, this doesn’t come naturally. But the good news is that with some training, companies can build great managers that have highly engaged teams.
Embracing a Path to Improve Frontline Performance
How employees feel at work is inextricably linked to every business outcome. Instead of focusing on those end results, like profitability and productivity, simply step back and look at employee engagement in your company. Taking the steps to improve that one aspect of your business can have a positive ripple effect down your value chain.
Beekeeper has become a go-to frontline success solution for more than 1,000 businesses across industries like retail, construction, healthcare, manufacturing, and more. Designed specifically with frontline workers in mind, the collaboration tool helps companies create a frontline experience designed to connect and engage every worker.
Here are two frontline businesses that found higher engagement and a stronger workforce when they implemented Beekeeper.
At first, Philadelphia’s Fitler Club launched Beekeeper to create a sense of community. By 2020, their priority was to keep furloughed employees connected and engaged during the pandemic. By 2021, the private social club had a 90% adoption rate and 66% of its workforce actively using the communication platform. Along with this spike in engagement came a reduced turnover rate from 78% in 2019 to just 10% by 2021.
Cargill Protein – North America
At Cargill Protein – North America, a meat producer, and distributor, there are thousands of employees across 40 locations and 30 different languages spoken. The company needed a way to streamline communication through one platform and connect its diverse workforce. With Beekeeper they achieved these goals and more.
With a 96% adoption rate, Cargill has 12,000 workers using Beekeeper. They’ve successfully bridged the communication gap, increased engagement among their diverse workforce, and strengthened relationships between managers and their teams.
Better Communication for Greater Engagement
The Cost of Disengaged Employees has plagued frontline businesses for too long. But by implementing a communication tool that reaches everyone, frontline workers suddenly feel included and connected, valued and heard. Empowering them with the right technology is a small investment with huge returns.