How to Best Engage With Your Frontline Employees

People working at the frontline make up the heart of the organization. They shape the brand experience by facing customers every day. If the business fails to meet the customer’s expectations, they are most likely the first to know. Even if this is a well-known fact, frontline workers are among the least engaged. In this blog we are looking into what drives engagement at the frontline.

A typical day at the frontline

People at the frontline of the business are spending their workday trying to serve customers well. They get things done. Most interactions between employee and customers are pretty standard with a lot of repeating processes. The make it or break it moment is how employees are treating the customer and the effort they invest in serving the customer well.

However, it is not only a matter of which effort they want to invest – sometimes the employee experience makes it difficult for people to work at their full potential. In fact, frontline employees are among the least engaged in the workforce. Not surprisingly, employee retention on the frontline is a big challenge.

One of the reasons for this is that frontline employees are often “disconnected” from the rest of the organization. Often, they don’t have access to information or get the information they need to do a good job. This makes it very difficult to give them what they really need to do a great job.

You can’t do a good job, if you don’t know what it takes to do a good job!
“I know what is expected of me at work” is the first question in Gallup’s survey about the state of the global workforce. And there’s a good reason for that. Inspiring to high performance starts with setting clear expectations and to make sure that employees know their tasks.

You can’t do a good job if you don’t know what it takes to do a good job!

“I know what is expected of me at work” is the first question in Gallup’s survey about the state of the global workforce. And there’s a good reason for that. Inspiring to high performance starts with setting clear expectations and to make sure that employees know their tasks.

What frontline employees need to do a good job

Here are three things frontline employees need in order to do a good job:

  1. A great onboarding experience focusing on skills, behavior and connection.
  2. Relevant information at the right time and place.
  3. Understanding key behaviors to deliver great customer service.

A great onboarding experience

Setting the right expectations starts during the hiring process and gets crucial during the onboarding phase. The lack of effective onboarding is a major reason why companies lose 17% of their new hires within the first three months and why 20% of all staff turnover occurs within 45 days of employment.

A great onboarding process can help improve retention. It really comes down to ensure that new hires quickly gain the knowledge they need and connect with their new colleagues.

During the onboarding process, it is crucial that new hires:

  • Understand what is expected of them. 
  • Have the tools and skills to perform.
  • Get to know colleagues and know whom to ask for help or where to find information.
  • Opportunity to give and receive ongoing feedback.

If this is in place, there is a good chance that new hires a set up for success.

Relevant insights and information at the right time and place

Being distracted is part of the everyday work as a frontline employee. There’s no time to sit down and scroll through information or read a newsletter. Therefore, sending out a lot of information all at once – or making it too difficult finding information – can be very ineffective.

Receiving information at the time and place where it is relevant is more helpful. It could be information about what is important to remember to do today. Maybe it’s about focusing on selling a specific product that day or asking a specific question in the sales process.

All in all, a function supporting frontline employees must focus on how they can help frontline employees do a good job. It sounds logic. But it’s not always the case. Often, information is hard to find, sent out too early – or too late. Today, it’s not enough just making information available to people. It is about translating information into action by delivering information and guidelines “in the flow of work”.

Understanding key behaviors to deliver great customer experiences

We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. This means, that it is impossible to plan every process or service in detail. Customer preferences are shifting all the time and in order to offer a great customer experience, people at the frontline of the business must feel comfortable deviating from their standard playbook.

Today, customer service should be defined by key behaviors rather than a detailed playbook where every process is described in detail. Inspiration from colleagues on how they solve tricky situations can help give an understanding of how customer service is evolving in the organization and which behaviors are important to deliver.

Above all, it is still about the human touch

Peter Drucker once said: “The organization is, above all, social. It is people.”. In other words, people are the organization, they are the culture and the culture is the brand. Obviously, having the right structures, systems and procedures in place matter.

But ultimately, the brand is being defined in the meeting between the customer and the employee. Odds are, that frontline employees who know what is expected of them and who have the right skills and tools will give customers a much better experience than those who don’t.