by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
Frontline workers are the backbone of many industries, serving as the public face of businesses. Cashiers, wait staff, customer service representatives, retail sales associates, delivery drivers, and other critical employees play an integral role in maintaining the efficient running of our economy.
Office-based employees worldwide have embraced workplace flexibility over the past few years—but what about their frontline colleagues? It’s often assumed that frontline roles can’t be made more flexible, but with 60% of these workers wanting more flexibility, it’s time to reconsider.
When you offer flexibility to frontline workers, it’s not just those individuals who benefit. If you get it right, you’ll create a more positive, inclusive culture for your entire organization.
Why Flexibility Matters for Frontline Workers
Frontline flexibility is a question of fairness. While it might be easier for office workers to work from home, it’s unfair to offer flexibility to one portion of your workforce but not the other. Mandating office attendance to balance things out isn’t necessarily the answer.
Frontline employees might juggle work with other commitments, such as looking after loved ones or working on a side hustle. Greater options about when and where they work can help them meet these commitments with less stress and establish a better work life balance.
But it’s not just individual workers who benefit from a more flexible approach to the working day; it can also positively impact your business performance. Industries such as hospitality have struggled to recruit enough workers, and flexibility is a significant factor in attracting and retaining frontline talent. A recent McKinsey report discovered that a lack of flexibility is the top reason retail workers quit their jobs.
Your frontline employees are the first point of contact and the human face of your company to customers. If they’re happier and more engaged in their roles, this will shine through in how they treat your customers.
How to Introduce Flexibility to the Front Line
Competition for frontline workers remains fierce: The U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics reported that in January 2023, there were 10.8 million job openings. As a result, companies have to think differently about the options they offer their frontline employees. Here are three strategies to consider:
Be Flexible about Flexibility
Flexible working isn’t a case of either/or: factory or home, four days or five days, online or in person. It’s worth breaking down a typical shift or working day to find “hidden” pockets of opportunity. Look beyond eight hour shifts in a single location. Could some tasks, such as administrative work or replying to customer queries, be done from home? Could some meetings or training sessions take place off site? Could your weekly schedules accommodate different start and end times to align with individual workers’ travel timetables and family responsibilities? You can unlock greater flexibility by analyzing the individual elements of a frontline role.
Embrace Technology and Tools
Technology has transformed how the office operates and can do the same for frontline workers. Dedicated scheduling apps make it easier for employees to book shifts and plan their work week to fit in with their personal schedules. Smartphone apps improve transparency and communication throughout the company by connecting employees who don’t have all day access to email. Universal tools, including video conferencing, messaging apps, and file sharing, enable frontline workers to perform some of their tasks from home when needed.
Support Frontline Leaders
Leaders will ultimately make any new policy work, so asking for their input before creating a plan is essential. Frontline leaders may find that flexible working brings new challenges, from the logistics of more complex scheduling to making everyone feel included as part of a remote team. The right tools and training can help them more effectively manage their teams. This could be technical training to ensure they’re familiar with the latest shift scheduling tools and workshops to help them maintain communication with their team members.
Everybody Wins: Frontline Flexibility for a Better Company Culture
A More Inclusive Culture
Great company culture is built around shared goals and values, and this can be difficult to achieve when there’s a sense of “us” and “them.” The rise in hybrid and remote working has created a real divide between knowledge workers who can roll out of bed and plug in their laptops and frontline employees who grapple with early starts, long commutes, and rigid schedules. It’s a surefire way to foster resentment. By making the benefits of flexibility available to everyone, you can dissolve resentments and break down barriers to foster a more cohesive culture.
A More Engaged Workforce
When employees feel that their leaders are listening to them and they have more autonomy over their schedules, the way they work changes. They become more engaged and motivated, perform more effectively in their roles, and inspire each other to do better. They also become more compelling ambassadors for your company when interacting with customers.
Get Ready to Flex
Offering flexible working to everyone can play a big part in fostering your organization’s healthy, inclusive culture. At Ideal Outcomes, we help companies gain a competitive advantage by building a positive workplace culture where all employees, from the front line to the back office, feel valued and engaged.
Get in touch with us today to get started on your journey.