If we’ve learned anything from the last few years, it’s that frontline workers, also known as essential workers, are the unsung heroes of our society, often operating under high-pressure conditions and juggling multiple responsibilities. They comprise 70% of the American workforce (BLS) in every category from healthcare to retail, transportation, food services, manufacturing, social services and more. In essence, they are the vital connective tissue between an organization and the population it serves; and nearly 90% of businesses rely on them (Frost & Sullivan).
But there’s a problem. When asked, 45% of frontline workers were looking to leave their roles in the next 3-6 months (McKinsey). Most businesses can’t afford turnover at this rate, which means it’s critical your frontline workers feel motivated, valued, and equipped to perform their roles to the best of their ability.
One way to achieve this is through effective feedback. It’s the key to unlocking potential, retention, and ultimately enabling the success of not just the individual, but the organization as a whole. (And, 33% of full-time workers, want more of it (Joblist)).
Curious about how to deliver feedback that motivates and retains frontline workers? In this article, we’ll dig into the essential components of effective feedback, explore how to focus on workers’ strengths and provide strategies for encouraging growth opportunities.
Understanding the Frontline Worker
Frontline workers often work in diverse settings, including stores, restaurants, bars, factories, warehouses, construction sites, hospitals, educational institutions, pharmacies, beauty salons, or in transport, which means they often face unique challenges related to their lack of a fixed workspace and limited access to technology.
Frontline workers typically make less than $22 per hour, are at higher health risks because of their proximity to others; and are prone to leave a position for higher pay or for better manager relationship (HBR).
Frontline workers want what other workers want, which according to a recent study by McKinsey, is career advancement. Feedback serves as a powerful tool, not only for encouraging personal growth, but for employee engagement and retention. Without it, you could be adding to turnover and unconsciously counting your best workers out of the opportunities they truly desire.
Although the structure of work and communication can make it a complex task for leaders of frontline workers, it’s essential for leaders to try. Your very business depends on it.
How Can Leaders Create a Culture of Feedback?
Leaders can play a crucial role in driving success and growth by first creating a culture of feedback. But how can managers and leaders develop a culture of feedback that promotes continuous improvement and motivation among frontline workers? Well, as long as there is an open communication channel for delivering business-critical information, there is an opportunity to deliver feedback. And, companies who conduct regular feedback, at least once a week, experience 14.9% lower turnover rates (Gallup). However, it will require a few things from leaders. Here are the most important steps to take now to create a culture of feedback in your work environment:
- Establish psychological safety. Create an environment where employees feel safe and encouraged to provide feedback without fear of negative repercussions. Encourage honest and respectful communication.
- Lead by example. Demonstrate your openness to feedback by actively seeking and receiving it yourself. Embrace feedback as a valuable tool for growth and improvement.
- Provide regular opportunities for feedback: Implement regular check-ins, anonymous suggestion boxes, or feedback surveys. Encourage employees to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
- Act on feedback: Demonstrate that feedback is valued by taking action on the suggestions and concerns raised; or at least letting the employee know they’ve been heard.
By fostering a safe environment, leading by example and providing the necessary support and resources, feedback becomes a natural part of day-to-day interactions, enabling continuous growth and improvement for individuals and the organization as a whole.
How to Give Effective Feedback to Frontline Workers
Once you’ve established a culture of feedback with your frontline workers, you can effectively engage and empower your team. It’s important to note here that feedback is not always about recognition (although that’s important too!) Leaders should aim to provide constructive feedback that helps frontline workers understand their strengths, learn areas for improvement, and know the impact of their work. The right feedback will not only improve performance, but it can provide information your employees need to reach future career goals.
Effective feedback is timely, specific, and focused on how everyday actions align with company goals and an employee’s career path. However, even the best leaders get this wrong by making these common mistakes:
Mistake #1: Managing instead of coaching.
By adopting a coaching mindset, leaders can view themselves as guides to help employees reach their potential, instead of babysitters.
Mistake #2: Delivering ill-timed feedback.
By providing feedback at the right time, employees will have the space they need to process constructive criticism.
Mistake #3: Micromanaging:
Until you’re able to delegate ownership and trust employees with responsibilities, they’ll never seem ready. Help them get better by providing feedback about how they’ve handled real-time interactions.
Mistake #4: Blazing a Path to Nowhere:
Without a goal, frontline workers can feel trapped and find better opportunities in other organizations. Guide frontline workers to understand the skills they need to align their development with organizational opportunities and goals.
How do you handle negative feedback or criticism to avoid demotivating frontline workers?
Delivering negative feedback to frontline workers can be challenging, but with the right approach, leaders can provide constructive criticism without discouraging them. It may even be an opportunity for growth, which is actually what many frontline workers want.
Leaders can do this by narrowing the focus of criticism onto specific tasks or behaviors, instead of the overall employee. Another wise practice for leaders when delivering negative feedback is to balance it with the recognition of an employee’s strengths.
Recognizing and leveraging the strengths of frontline workers is key to providing effective feedback that fosters their growth and development. Connecting their strengths to tangible outcomes helps frontline workers understand the value they bring to the organization.
RELATED: Employee Feedback Template
How Paycor Helps
Remember, the goal of feedback is to motivate and engage employees. You can continue to encourage frontline employees by ensuring the feedback provides the necessary information to fuel goals and OKRs, career paths, succession plans and professional development.
Paycor provides a seamless way for leaders to avoid these mistakes and others with products that support its COR Leadership Framework.
- Leader Dashboard shows employee recognition, job status, and compensation data for help identifying which employees may need attention.
- Paycor Paths guides employees through a set of steps to help achieve career advancement.
- 1:1 Tool helps manage regular feedback sessions for your workforce.
Discover how you can access the tools and technology you need to Coach, Optimize and Retain workers to build a culture of effective leadership.