A Guide To Hiring And Managing Frontline Employees
‘All jobs are important’ —While we all knew this, the pandemic really put the frontline employees on center stage and made us acknowledge that they are an essential part of our day-to-day lives.
For the first time in decades, we were confronted with just how vital frontline employees are to the proper functioning of society. From the grocery clerks who stock the shelves to the care aides who look after the elderly to the call center agents who keep things running even in the face of physical closures. Frontline employees come from all walks of life and contribute through numerous industries and professions.
The purpose of this guide is to shed some light on the critical roles frontline employees play and take a closer look at the workplace considerations that best set them up for success. Inside this guide, you will find information about how to recruit, train, manage and support your frontline employees so they can enjoy greater workplace satisfaction and improve their performance. As the face of your company, you’ll learn just how important it is to ensure your frontline employees feel seen, valued, and supported in their roles.
Who Are Frontline Employees?
Frontline employees are the people within your company whose role requires them to work directly with customers. They are the first point of connection for customers on behalf of your company.
While the term ‘frontline employees’ and ‘frontline workers’ were often used interchangeably, the pandemic brought to light an important distinction between the two. Frontline employees generally apply to customer service roles and frontline workers are the first responders who are deemed essential in light of government-mandated situations such as lockdowns.
While all frontline employees interact with the public, some frontline employees do so remotely. This group includes customer care agents, healthcare providers like doctors and nurses, teachers, public transit operators, store clerks, and many more roles.
For this guide, we’ll be looking at frontline employees in general—as they all make an enormous contribution to the proper functioning of our economy.
What is The Role of Frontline Employees?
The nature of the work of frontline employees is such that it puts them on the “frontlines” of your business operations. They are often considered the face of the brand and work in a variety of industries, including:
- Call centers
- Educational facilities
- Grocery stores
- Health care environments
- Retail stores
Frontline employees give a human face to your institution and embody the values and core beliefs that define your brand or mission.
In the retail, telco, and food sectors, physical closures pushed consumers online and placed a heavier burden on call center employees to be the sole face of the brand. Agents found themselves representing their company in unprecedented ways as they became the only source of human contact a consumer had with the brand during the lockdown. Furthermore, the interactions between call center employees and customers will continue to be of utmost importance as the preference for online shopping is set to linger long even after the threat of the pandemic has passed.
Frontline Employees and The Modern Marketplace
The pandemic brought to light the importance of properly identifying and protecting the workers on the frontlines. Industries are now investing in establishing protocols for their public-facing employees.
How do we ensure frontline employees are being recognized for the crucial role they play? How do we ensure they are supported? And what role will these workers play in an increasingly digitized future?
While physical distancing mandates presented new challenges for frontline workers and forced employers to reconsider remote working arrangements, the need for frontline workers has remained steady. Roles have shifted, but demand for frontline employees who can help customers navigate the digital marketplace has grown.
The modern workplace is hybrid and one where soft skills can’t be replicated by technology. We like to put it this way, if hard or technical skills reflect what an employee does, then a soft, or non-technical, skill reflects how they do it. Technical skills, like learning a new piece of software, are easily taught while soft skills tend to be more innate in nature. So it makes sense to hire for soft skills and train for technical skills. Fortunately, with the help of pre-hire assessments, you can screen for the soft skills needed to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
With frontline workers representing an estimated 80% of the global workforce, in the future, forward-thinking companies will commit to investment in both technology and the workforce that brings their company’s vision to life.
How to Support Frontline Employees for The Biggest Bottom-Line Impact?
Many businesses are finally starting to recognize that their frontline employees are an essential part of their marketing efforts. They may be the most important investment in marketing any organization can make.
The modern consumer has an enormous amount of choice, and studies have shown that they are willing to walk away from a brand if the customer experience is sub-par. A recent post, “Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Customer Support,” explores this topic in greater depth and addresses the impact that a failure to support and empower frontline employees can have on your bottom line.
Why Should You Empower Frontline Employees?
With frontline employees playing a larger and more prominent role in brand advocacy and customer experience, it is more important than ever that they have access to the tools, technology, and training needed to succeed.
Here are six reasons why supporting your frontline employees is a smart investment.
- They are the face of your brand and often the only human contact a customer has with your company.
- Customers like their problems resolved quickly, so it is essential to ensure employees have the skills, training, and tools at their disposal for better first call resolution.
- Frontline employees that are highly motivated enjoy greater work satisfaction, resulting in increased call satisfaction, shorter call times, and happier customers.
- Frontline employees have valuable insights into the customers’ pain points. They can share those insights with other departments to help you deliver better products and services that are more in line with the customer’s needs.
- Empowering your frontline workforce by giving them a voice and encouraging them to share their opinions creates a bottom-up company culture that is engaging and supportive.
- Employees who feel valued are more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction and have a lower rate of attrition.
Empowering your frontline employees pays off, and the numbers support this—studies have found that teams with employees “who score in the top 20% in engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover. Engaged employees show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy.” A reduction in absenteeism and turnover can have a significant impact on the bottom line. Companies that place employee wellness at the center of their core beliefs are better positioned to protect their most valuable asset, their human capital.
3 Ways to Empower Frontline Employees
While “empowering people” may sound like a nebulous concept, there are a few key actions you can take to provide employees on the frontlines with better job satisfaction. The following three points are simple yet highly effective strategies for creating a culture of empowerment within your organization.
Room For Growth
Provide opportunities for personal and professional growth. No one wants to feel like their talent is being wasted, or that they are not moving forward towards their goals. Make your company a place where employees can thrive to see better engagement and retention.
Open Lines Of Communication
Establish a policy of two-way feedback, so employees feel like their voice is heard and valued. Create a culture of transparency that encourages seamless communication between managers and employees to help everyone feel like they are part of the team.
The Right Tools For The Job
Give employees the technology that will help them do their best work, like AI tools to help them automate repetitive tasks and improve their job performance. If your KPIs are keeping pace with the latest advancements in your field, but your technology is not, you may be setting your employees up to fail.
There are many benefits to empowering your employees and creating a culture of open communication. Some of the biggest benefits of a more engaged workforce include:
- Higher standards of customer service
- Fewer sick days thanks to improved mental health and well-being
- Improved performance and KPIs
- Lower rate of attrition
- Increased profit margins
Keeping your employees informed about their opportunities for advancement and personal development, sharing important company news, and providing employees with performance enhancing technology will go a long way in creating greater job satisfaction. But empowering your workforce is only one part of the equation, it’s equally important to make sure that you’re hiring for the skills needed to succeed in the role. In the next section, we’ll take a look at the most valuable skills a frontline employee can have.
8 Most Important Skills Frontline Employees Need to Have
Top-performing frontline employees share a number of key attributes that make them exceptional at what they do. There are a few skills that their managers always see in them. You can easily screen for these essential soft-skills using a pre-hire assessment technology. These skills are:
- Active listening
- Positive attitude
- Friendly nature
- Ability to handle pressure
Learn more about the impact each of these skills can have on your team’s KPIs in our post, “Top 7 Skills That Every Contact Center Agent Should Have”
What Are The Biggest Challenges That Employers Face While Hiring Frontline Employees?
Some of the biggest challenges employers face when hiring and training new frontline employees are common to all industries. They struggle:
To maintain service standards
Hire candidates who will be able to deliver a high standard of customer service and consistently perform at a level that meets or exceeds brand standards.
To keep employees engaged
This includes both new hires, who may lack the training resources needed to improve, and established employees who feel they lack the opportunity for personal or professional development.
To hire strategically
Making the hiring decisions that align with the business strategy and ensuring candidates are well-suited to help the company achieve its vision.
To facilitate ongoing training
It is important to provide both new hires and existing employees with easy access to important information and resources. Legacy systems with time can often become hard to use and non-integrable with other systems, knowledge housed in printed materials is time-consuming to search, and key data can become the sole purview of a select set of employees. When this happens, it is difficult to provide consistent and efficient training.
How to Hire Quality Frontline Employees?
Hiring quality employees, and doing so quickly, are two of the biggest challenges companies face when hiring for the frontline.
The experience that a customer has with your brand has become one of the biggest deciding factors driving consumer purchasing decisions, making Customer Experience (CX) matter more than ever. Positive customer experiences can have a positive impact on your bottom line. Likewise, a negative customer experience can result in negative feedback that hurts your bottom line. And no one in your company has as much power to shape the customer experience as your frontline workers.
The employees working on the frontlines are a frustrated customer’s first point of contact to your company, and your greatest asset. However, they are often the most overlooked employees and often receive the least attention from your talent acquisition and development teams.
Implementing a data-driven process for benchmarking existing employees and assessing new hires means you can track a framework of skills throughout the employee’s life cycle from pre-hire to associate.
When evaluating new candidates, consider the personality traits that would make someone well suited to the role alongside the core skills they need to meet their KPIs. For more information on the topic, consult our guide, “3 Essential Steps for Hiring a Quality Frontline Employee.”
How to Assess Frontline Employees for The Skills That Matter on The Job?
Forget sifting through resumes and conducting wave after wave of interviews. Today’s recruiters should be putting technology to work and using pre-employment assessments that deploy AI technology to screen for the soft skills that a candidate will need on the job. Recruiters can use these technological assessments to put recruits in real on-the-job situations to determine fit. Especially when talking about volume hiring in any industry or specifically in the contact centers it is important to have a solution that helps assess numerous candidates in the least possible time effectively and with quality.
Post-employment assessments are also a key piece of the puzzle for HR departments looking to streamline the hiring process. Existing employees can provide valuable insights into the places in the hiring process that need to be improved, the obstacles they faced during onboarding and training, and tips for how to better support new employees.
How to Help Your Frontline Employees Upgrade Their Most Essential Job Skills?
Once a frontline employee is hired, many companies assume that the day-to-day demands of the role will provide them with all the skills needed to succeed. Practice makes perfect, right? But if you want to deliver a consistently positive customer experience, you should think of training for essential job skills as an ongoing process.
Use the following tactics to train all employees to deliver a uniform standard of service:
- Use AI-driven training that uses scenario-based assessments to improve the skills most essential to the role
- Use training that has been customized to identify and fill skills gaps
- Mix-up tasks and assignments to create well-rounded employees
- Benchmark your top-performing frontline employees to create performance standards
- Use technology to provide multi-channel training
- Choose video-based training for a modern and comprehensive experience
Motivating Frontline Employees
Why is it important to motivate frontline employees?
With frontline employees serving as the face of your brand, it is important to create a company culture that motivates them to do their best work. Unmotivated and disengaged employees are costly to your organization, and you may find yourself dealing with:
- Higher rates of absenteeism
- Reduced performance
- Lower levels of customer satisfaction (reduced NPS, CSAT scores)
- Higher rates of attrition
- Lower quality service
- Increased operational costs
- and lower profit
How to Motivate Frontline Employees?
While the methods you use to motivate employees should be tailored to meet individual needs, there are some general best practices you can use to keep your team engaged:
Rather than simply putting pressure on employees to perform, focus on creating opportunities for continuous learning and improvement for the best results.
Give Them A "Why"
Studies have shown motivation comes from having an intrinsic sense of purpose. You can facilitate this sense of purpose by helping your frontline employees see their impact on the customer's decision-making process and the benefit of their work to the company as a whole.
Motivate your team to outdo their best by recognizing and rewarding performance results. Recognition is one of the top drivers of workplace performance, and happier workers have been shown to result in happier customers.
One study found that frontline workers rank among the lowest in total motivation, but with the help of the tips above, this doesn’t have to be the case in your organization.
Putting it all together
Frontline employees work directly with your customers, making them an essential part of your team. They put a human face on your company or institution and directly represent the values and core beliefs that define your brand or mission. And in some cases, they are the only point of interaction that consumers have with a representative of your company. They make the first and final impression of who you are as a brand and wield enormous power and influence to establish or destroy customer loyalty.
Brands that hope to stay competitive in an increasingly digital-first world must provide ongoing training and support to their frontline, recognizing them as a key strategic investment in brand awareness, promotion, and longevity.
Ensuring your frontline employees feel seen, valued, and supported in their roles is one of the best ways to improve their performance and bring your team closer to meeting your company goals. Train your agents with the communication skills that keep your customers coming back, using platforms such as HiringBranch AI to start seeing results right away. Contact our team today to learn more.
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