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2024 Frontline Trends and Predictions | Future-Proof Your Frontline Workforce

Frontline Trends Report
2023 frontline trends

Frontline workers make up 80% of the global workforce and are more in demand than ever. And yet, frontline companies are dealing with systemic challenges like high turnover, burnout, and low levels of employee engagement.

Download the full report here to uncover top trends and predictions that will impact the frontline workforce.

At Beekeeper, we recently surveyed over 8,000 frontline workers and managers to find out what motivates frontline employees. Our findings have led us to identify what we call the great frontline disconnect.

“Most leaders and teams spend their days reacting. Firefighting. Treading water. And treating symptoms. It’s time to change that and focus on the root causes instead.”

Cris Grossmann, Beekeeper CEO 

This disconnect often happens because what frontline workers really need and what management thinks is important aren’t fully aligned

We also spoke with two industry experts, Monne Williams, Partner at McKinsey & Company and Ben Eubanks, Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory to talk about where things are and where they’re headed.

In 2024, we predict that frontline organizations will be making radical changes to help solve the frontline disconnect

1. Digital Skills Take Center Stage

In 2024, digital skills will become essential for frontline workers across various industries. Nearly 92% of jobs now require some form of digital skills.

Frontline workers, at the forefront of customer service and interaction – from retail to healthcare, hospitality to logistics– now rely heavily on digital skills to meet the evolving demands of the modern consumer. From retail to healthcare, hospitality to logistics, the ability to navigate digital platforms, operate specialized software, and effectively communicate through digital channels has become crucial.

For example, retail associates proficient in digital inventory management systems can ensure accurate stock tracking, reducing instances of out-of-stock items. Healthcare providers adept in telemedicine platforms can offer remote consultations, improving accessibility to healthcare services. 

“Data shows that the things we put in their hands to help them manage their work life with things like shift scheduling can sway how workers feel about their employer. That gives them more control, more authority in their work and it makes them feel like they’re getting treated more fairly.”
Ben Eubanks, Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory

But despite the clear demand, nearly one-third of the frontline workforce currently lacks foundational digital competencies, highlighting an urgent need for targeted digital skills training  and development programs (more on this later!)

2. Prioritizing Health in the Workplace

Employers have recognized the importance of creating a healthy and supportive work environment for their frontline employees, understanding that their well-being directly impacts productivity, performance, and customer satisfaction.

Our Frontline Worker Survey, found that working conditions for hourly workers can be a big problem. For example, manufacturing work usually means repetitive motions, long hours, and minimal personal space. And retail or hospitality jobs can consist of hours of standing or working in 100-degree kitchens.

The main sources of stress for frontline workers center around understaffing, inflation, safety, and frequent policy changes. For workers in customer-facing roles, abuse from the public is another significant source of stress.

When we asked frontline workers why they quit their last job, not having a healthy and supportive working environment was a big factor:

34% of workers quit because they were unhappy with work/life balance, 23% quit because of toxic management, and 8% quit because they felt unsafe.

Context is also critical to frontline worker happiness. They don’t want to work in a silo. Instead, they want:

  • A better understanding of why and when things change
  • Clearer goals and objectives
  • Closer insight into the bigger picture for the business

We’re seeing an increasing number of frontline organizations step up in providing support for their employees:

  • Lowe’s announced $55 million in bonuses for hourly workers to ease the effects of inflation
  • Tyson distributed $50 in year-end bonuses (and used Beekeeper to engage their workforce)
  • Walmart rolled out its Mental Health First Aid training program

Our survey findings revealed a key finding about the disconnect between frontline workers and upper-level leadership:

Frontline workers are less motivated by abstract company values and more by concrete factors that affect their daily life. 

Workers are still worrying about having their basic needs met: being able to pay for gas to commute, affording childcare, and providing healthcare benefits to their families.

3. Mastering Essential Equipment

With the rapid advancement of technology and the integration of digital tools, frontline workers are required to have a deep understanding and proficiency in operating essential equipment specific to their roles.

Frontline workers rely on specialized equipment to carry out their tasks efficiently and effectively. Whether it’s advanced machinery in manufacturing, point-of-sale systems in retail, or medical devices in healthcare, mastering these essential tools has become crucial for frontline workers to meet the demands of their roles.

System failure is a top concern for many frontline organizations. One study found that 36% of manufacturing CEOs identified infrastructure failure as one of the greatest threats to their business.

By mastering essential equipment, frontline workers can streamline processes, minimize errors, and mitigate the effects of system failures. It also ensures the safety of both employees and customers, as proper operation of equipment reduces the risk of accidents or mishaps.

Also, the ability to confidently navigate and troubleshoot equipment issues empowers frontline workers to provide better customer service. Whether it’s addressing technical difficulties or providing guidance to customers on equipment usage, mastery of essential equipment enhances the overall customer experience.

Mastering essential equipment is a growing trend in frontline work as businesses increasingly rely on technology and specialized tools. Frontline workers who possess the necessary skills and knowledge to operate and maintain essential equipment are better equipped to excel in their roles, improve productivity, and deliver exceptional customer service.

4. Clarity in Communication

Effective internal communication plays a crucial role in frontline roles, as it directly impacts customer satisfaction, problem-solving, and overall organizational success.

Frontline workers are often the primary point of contact for customers, and their ability to communicate clearly and effectively can make or break a customer’s experience. By providing clear and concise information, frontline workers can address customer inquiries, resolve issues, and provide accurate guidance, fostering trust and satisfaction.

The lack of clear communication is one of the main barriers to productivity, as we found in our recent survey. Among the top reasons workers didn’t feel productive were:

  • Poor-cross team communication (18%)
  • Unclear team goals (15%)
  • Language barriers (9%) 

Clear communication within frontline teams is vital for collaboration and coordination because it: 

  • Ensures that tasks are executed efficiently
  • Avoids misunderstandings
  • Promotes a positive working environment

Effective communication also enables frontline workers to share feedback through employee feedback surveys, suggestions, and insights, contributing to continuous improvement and innovation.

As one of the construction managers we surveyed put it:

“Better planning and appreciation from the office side would help.”

Clarity in communication is a growing trend in frontline work as organizations recognize its impact on customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. By prioritizing clear and effective communication, businesses can provide exceptional customer service while improving teamwork and collaboration.

5. Adapting to Change

In 2024, adapting to change has become a prominent trend in frontline work as the rapid pace of technological advancements, evolving customer expectations, and global events like pandemics or economic shifts require frontline workers to be agile and flexible in their roles.

Frontline workers are often at the forefront of change, as they interact directly with customers and are responsible for delivering products or services. Adapting to change in this context means being able to quickly and effectively adjust strategies, processes, and approaches to meet evolving needs.

Although adapting to change is often seen as a positive skill or trait for both individual workers and organizations, it can also be challenging. In our frontline survey, we found that:

15% of frontline workers said that adjusting to changes was a major stressor at work.

The truth is that frontline workers have a lot of other stressors to deal with, like making a living wage, understaffed shifts, and safety. If organizations want their workers to be adaptable to change, they have to address these stressors, too.

Now for the positive. The ability to adapt to change enables frontline workers to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in a dynamic market. It allows them to embrace new technologies, adopt innovative practices, and navigate shifts in customer preferences with ease.

Adapting to change fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement within frontline teams. It encourages frontline workers to seek out new knowledge and skills, stay updated on industry trends, and be open to trying out different approaches.

Adapting to change is a crucial trend in frontline work as it empowers workers to thrive in an ever-changing business landscape. By embracing flexibility and agility, frontline workers can successfully navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

6. Effective Teamwork

Recognizing the value of collaboration and synergy, organizations are placing a strong emphasis on fostering teamwork among frontline workers.

When we asked frontline workers what motivated them at work, the top incentive at 33% was a friendly and fun environment.

Effective teamwork in frontline work is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it enhances productivity and efficiency as team members can pool their skills, knowledge, and resources to accomplish tasks more effectively. By working together, frontline teams can streamline processes, share responsibilities, and achieve common objectives.

Secondly, effective teamwork promotes innovation and problem-solving. When frontline workers collaborate, they can exchange ideas, brainstorm solutions, and leverage diverse perspectives to overcome challenges. This collaborative approach encourages creativity and leads to more innovative and effective solutions.

Also, teamwork contributes to a positive work environment and employee satisfaction. When frontline workers feel supported and have strong relationships with their teammates, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work. This, in turn, leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Effective teamwork is a growing trend in frontline work as organizations recognize its impact on productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction. By fostering a collaborative culture, businesses can create cohesive and high-performing frontline teams.

7. Leadership and Learning

In our frontline survey, we found out just how important learning was for frontline workers and managers:

21% of frontline workers and 23% of managers said that learning and development was a top motivator at work.

Leadership in frontline work is essential for several reasons. Firstly, frontline leaders are responsible for guiding and motivating their teams, ensuring that they have the necessary resources and support to excel in their roles. Strong leadership fosters a sense of trust and respect among frontline workers, leading to higher levels of employee engagement and productivity.

Leadership in frontline work involves decision-making and problem-solving skills. Frontline leaders need to be able to make quick and effective decisions, especially in fast-paced and customer-facing environments. They must also possess the ability to identify and address challenges proactively, ensuring smooth operations and customer satisfaction.

Learning is also a vital aspect of frontline work in 2024. As technologies and customer expectations evolve rapidly, frontline workers must continuously update their skills and knowledge to stay relevant. Employers are investing in training programs and resources that enable frontline workers to acquire new skills, adapt to changes, and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

A recent Lighthouse Research & Advisory study revealed that frontline workers want assurance of advancement opportunities.  

“Two out of every three workers have quit a job at some point because they did not see a path ahead for them,“ Ben stated. “They’re looking for that company that’s not just going to hire them to do the job today, but invest in them for something longer term.”

Leadership and learning are prominent trends in frontline work as organizations recognize their impact on team performance, decision-making, and customer satisfaction. By developing strong frontline leaders and fostering a culture of continuous learning, businesses can empower their frontline workers to excel in a dynamic and competitive landscape.

8. AI in Recruitment and Onboarding

In 2024, AI in recruitment is anticipated to be a significant trend in frontline work as organizations seek to streamline and optimize their hiring processes and artificial intelligence is being increasingly utilized to enhance recruitment efficiency and effectiveness.

The Boston Consulting Group found that 80% of leaders have used AI on a regular basis while only 20% of frontline workers have. But more usage equates to greater comfort, so frontline and AI strategies should complement one another.

Frontline AI in recruitment offers several advantages. Firstly, it can automate various time-consuming tasks, such as resume screening and candidate sourcing, allowing recruiters to focus on higher-level activities. By leveraging AI-powered algorithms, organizations can quickly identify qualified candidates and streamline the initial screening process.

Secondly, AI can help remove biases from the recruitment process. By using objective criteria and data-driven decision-making, AI algorithms can minimize unconscious biases that may influence human recruiters. This promotes fairness and diversity in the hiring process, leading to a more inclusive frontline workforce.

AI in recruitment can provide valuable insights and predictive analytics. By analyzing large datasets, AI algorithms can identify patterns and trends, helping organizations make informed decisions about candidate selection and workforce planning. This data-driven approach enables organizations to make more accurate predictions about candidate performance and fit for frontline roles.

For example, Beekeeper’s Frontline Intelligence System allows frontline organizations to make better decisions through AI sentiment analysis.

By collecting and processing data points every time a worker uses Beekeeper, our frontline AI solution gives leaders the opportunity to understand sentiment without having to ask explicitly via surveys. This can be helpful during the onboarding process, as it allows leaders to analyze and improve how new hires start their journey with a company.

AI in recruitment and onboarding is expected to be a significant trend in frontline work in 2024 due to its ability to automate tasks, remove biases, and provide valuable insights. By embracing AI technologies, organizations can optimize their recruitment processes, attract top talent, and build diverse and high-performing frontline teams.

9. Focus on Skills, Not Just Credentials

Employers are recognizing that traditional credentials, such as degrees and certifications, may not always accurately reflect an individual’s abilities and potential for success in frontline roles.

According to Forbes, skills-based hiring is on the rise. One reason is that it reduces chances of hiring the wrong person and increases the quality of potential candidates. One survey found that:

With skills-based hiring, 92.5% of companies have seen a reduction in their mis-hire rate and 44% report a decrease of more than 25%.

Also, by emphasizing skills, employers can tap into a broader pool of talent and ensure a better match between the requirements of frontline positions and the capabilities of candidates. Skills-based hiring allows organizations to identify individuals with the specific competencies needed to excel in customer-facing roles, such as communication, problem-solving, adaptability, and empathy.

Furthermore, a focus on skills promotes diversity and inclusivity in frontline work. It allows individuals from non-traditional backgrounds or those who may not have pursued formal education to showcase their abilities and contribute to frontline teams. This can lead to a more diverse and representative workforce, which in turn can enhance customer experiences and foster innovation.

Skills-based hiring also aligns with the evolving nature of frontline work. As technology and customer expectations continue to change, organizations require workers who can adapt and learn new skills quickly. By prioritizing skills, employers can identify candidates who possess a growth mindset and a willingness to continuously develop their abilities.

By valuing skills, organizations can attract a more diverse talent pool, align capabilities with job requirements, and cultivate a workforce that is adaptable and continuously learning.

10. Diverse Talent Management

Diverse talent management encompasses creating an inclusive environment where individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences feel welcomed and valued. By embracing diversity, organizations can tap into a wider range of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to problem-solving, leading to increased innovation and creativity.

Research has shown a direct correlation between diversity and success. According to Linkedin:

  • Diverse companies earn 2.5x higher cash flower per employee
  • Diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time
  • Inclusive teams are over 35% more productive

A diverse frontline workforce can better reflect and understand the diverse customer base they serve. This enables organizations to provide more personalized and culturally sensitive customer experiences, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Diverse talent management can also help organizations attract top talent. Candidates are increasingly seeking workplaces that prioritize diversity and inclusion, and organizations that promote these values are more likely to attract a diverse pool of qualified applicants.

Moreover, diverse talent management contributes to employee engagement and retention. When employees feel included and valued, they are more likely to be motivated, productive, and committed to their work.

By fostering an inclusive environment and embracing diversity, organizations can drive innovation, enhance customer experiences, attract top talent, and improve employee engagement and retention.

11. Faster Talent Acquisition

The competitive job market and the increasing demand for frontline workers necessitate organizations to streamline their talent acquisition processes to attract and secure top talent quickly. With the ongoing labor shortages and the need to fill frontline roles promptly, organizations will prioritize efficiency in their recruitment efforts.

Companies are looking to cut costs, with 53% of in-house recruiting pros predicting that their budget will decrease or stay flat, and 77% saying that their strategy will focus on agile talent acquisition.

Advancements in technology and the rise of digital platforms will enable organizations to expedite their talent acquisition processes. Automated applicant tracking systems, AI-powered resume screening, and video interviews will help organizations identify and evaluate candidates more efficiently. This streamlined approach will reduce time-to-hire and enable organizations to onboard frontline workers faster.

The gig economy and the rise of flexible work arrangements will also drive the need for faster talent acquisition. Organizations will need to adapt to the changing workforce dynamics by implementing agile talent acquisition strategies that can quickly identify and onboard contingent workers for frontline roles.

Faster talent acquisition will be a trend in frontline work in 2024 as organizations seek to remain competitive, leverage technology, and adapt to the evolving workforce landscape. By expediting their talent acquisition processes, organizations can secure top talent quickly and maintain a strong frontline workforce.

12. Innovative HR Technologies

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, organizations are increasingly leveraging HR technologies to streamline and enhance their frontline operations. From applicant tracking systems to automated scheduling and performance management tools, innovative HR technologies can significantly improve efficiency, reduce administrative burdens, and enhance productivity in frontline work.

The HR market is growing and expected to reach $34 billion by 2025.

Frontline work often involves high turnover rates, making it crucial for organizations to have effective tools to attract, onboard, and retain talent. Innovative HR technologies such as AI-powered recruitment platforms, virtual onboarding modules, and personalized training and development programs can help organizations provide a seamless and engaging experience for frontline employees, ultimately improving their job satisfaction and retention rates.

Innovative HR technologies can also enable organizations to collect and analyze data more effectively, leading to data-driven decision-making and improved workforce management. By leveraging analytics tools and predictive models, organizations can optimize scheduling, identify skills gaps, and make proactive adjustments to ensure a well-staffed and efficient frontline workforce.

By embracing these technologies, organizations can enhance efficiency, improve talent acquisition and retention, and leverage data-driven insights.

Future-Proof Your Workforce With a Frontline Success System

The goal of a frontline success system is to create: 

  • A frontline workspace that provides easy access to employee services, facilitates collaboration, and boosts productivity
  • A mobile-friendly referral solution that allows companies to fill positions more quickly and reward employees in the process
  • Streamlined onboarding with digitized paperwork and processes to help engage new hires more efficiently at less cost
  • Improved safety management and reporting to optimize safety culture

To gain valuable insights into the evolving landscape of frontline work and learn how to effectively navigate these changes, download the 2024 Frontline Predictions Report. This report provides in-depth analysis and trends in frontline work, offering actionable insights for organizations to build a future-proof workforce.