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Frontline teams of a business, company, or organization directly affect business success through their actions, as they are the employees that customers get to communicate with first.
They also must motivate and boost the morale of those who do the work—those who design, manufacture, and sell products or provide services to customers. These individuals are critical to a company's business strategy because they oversee its implementation.
Hospitality, health care, manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing… all these industries rely on frontline workers to do the lion's share of a job.
What Is a Frontline Team?
In simple terms, a frontline team is a team of people who communicate with customers directly and are usually their first stop for any bits of information they may need. They don't do the more significant part of their jobs from behind a desk (that is, they are always on the go).
How come, then, that frontline workers are usually physically separated from technology and are left with inefficient tools to perform their tremendously essential jobs?
This is the main catch because the efficiency of frontline teams' skills can propel a business in a good or wrong direction.
That's why it is important to brainstorm ideas and develop a sustainable strategy for building a successful and engaged frontline team.
Communication Comes First
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That proper communication is crucial for a team's development should be clear to anyone who has ever attempted to manage a team.
As mentioned, frontline teams usually don't have access to the latest tech, including modern and convenient communication tools. Not even a simple tool to track employees' hours!
Effective communication requires empathy and assertiveness and is sure to add a smooth understanding between the team manager and the team. Make sure to encourage communication and set clear guidelines on which channels should be used. Provide proper training if necessary.
Factors involved in team communication include mood, communication preferences, personality, language, incongruence, and thinking style. Considering each of these factors will facilitate easy communication. Suppose the team members' language, mood, and communication preferences are not in sync with yours. In that case, there will be a communication barrier.
Always Offer New Tech
Always offer new tech. The fact that isn't a standard is devastating, keeping in mind that frontline workers represent 80% of the global workforce!
According to Microsoft's Work Trend Index, frontline workers often look for better job prospects because they feel underpaid and have a poor work-life balance. 63% of these people are looking forward to the job opportunities technology creates. In comparison, 56% say they feel pressure to adapt to new technology over the fear of losing their jobs. In comparison, 55% have been forced to learn new tech independently without any training being provided or offered.
These stats clearly show that frontline workers must prioritize new tech, but, no less importantly, individuals or companies must create good training programs for learning.
The new tech can be in the form of carefully considered applications or sites that mix communications and information in their digital tools to establish a more effective work service. Never email in this case. Email isn't going to cut it if you have important information like an emergency, the introduction of new work practice, or something even as informal as sending encouragement and commendations.
It also makes sense to use software built for mobile devices, not desktops, to reach the frontline workers better.
Delivering training for learning the new tech is also advised. This would help them feel more connected and boost employee engagement.
Set in Place a Job Management System
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Most frontline workers looking for other job prospects say they have poor relations with the management.
This is a huge no-no!
You can set up a job management system to make things run smoothly and learn on the go by listening to employee feedback.
Even though management seems like rocket science, it is clearly outlined as follows:
- Customer acquisition – Use marketing, advertising, and promotion
- Estimating & quoting – Estimate a cost and ask for customer feedback
- Task outlining – divide the job into smaller tasks
- Scheduling – Allocate the necessary resources and staffing +
- Timesheeting –Record employees' working hours
- Emailing & document exchange – Dispatch documents relevant to the job to stakeholders
- Cost management
- Work-in-progress management
- Reporting – Collect the data for further reference
Consider Artificial Intelligence
For frontline workers working in construction, there is an additional mile the manager needs to go. It is essential to stay up to date with field service trends:
- IoT for asset management
- Cloud-based software for remote work
- Artificial intelligence for business automation
- Inventory management software for supply chains
Remember, though, that employees need to be told that AI won't endanger their job positions. As Darryl Willis, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the energy and sustainability industry, says:
"I come across many people who are worried about being replaced by artificial intelligence, by machine learning. One of the things I say to people is that you have to see machine learning and AI as an assistant, not a replacement, for expertise."
Make Use of Knowledge Management Systems
Knowledge management systems can help you manage frontline teams better, making their job easier.
What is a knowledge management system?
In plain words, it is a platform combined with various processes and people that collects and stores information in a central location. Their primary purpose is to make information sharing seamless and keep it circulating.
Modern knowledge management systems integrate with the existing processes and pull data from multiple sources, providing immediate access to information.
Using one such system to help your frontline teams perform better is a perfect opportunity to aid them in their daily activities in desperate need of new tech.
Provide Training for Your Frontline Managers
These strategies will be in vain if you fail to provide training for your frontline managers. Just think about a trade business with poor frontline team management and this practice affecting customer care.
The main problem here is that classic frontline management training usually consists of theoretical knowledge delivered in a classroom that lacks actual knowledge from the field.
A combination of theoretical knowledge and frontline expertise should be established, nourished, and presented to frontline managers from day one, that is to say — starting with onboarding.
Provide Onboarding Training
All new and transfer hires must be provided with training from the first day they join the company.
However, ensure not to overload the employees with too much information, as that is undoubtedly detrimental rather than encouraging.
Nowadays, there are no excuses for neglecting continual learning. With eLearning and mLearning going strong — and even with some creative techniques like gamification — everyone can keep learning and enjoying the whole affair.
Take your time devising the perfect mixture of programs that will make learning enjoyable and get the message across simultaneously.
Lastly, rethink employee schedules. Flexibility should be prioritized, as frontline employees often complain of a lack of free time. Also, make an effort to offer career advancements. Frontline workers deserve it!
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Carry out Employee Feedback System
Frontline workers are the people interacting with your clients every day, so they are a great source of feedback.
While polls, focus groups, and suggestion boxes are suitable activities and implementations, first-hand feedback is essential for the growth of the frontline team and, inevitably, the company.
Not only will regular face-to-face interviews with frontline workers help you to be able to get feedback about the clients, but you will also understand what goes on in the customer service department, how clients view your team and overall company, and the capability and weaknesses of your frontline team in client communication. In addition, valuing their workers' opinions on the feedback will contribute to building and improving a competent frontline team.
Recognize and Commend High Performance
Over 67% of managers think they provide enough recognition, but only 23% of workers agree with them. Employers who don't feel recognized are twice as likely to quit their job within the year — something you want to avoid, especially if the said workers are diligent and do their job well.
A social intranet that provides collaborative communication has built-in recognition tools for managers and workers. Such software allows managers to recognize and commend good performance with the touch of a finger.
Increasing recognition efforts is a great idea, as it helps build the morale, confidence, and work habit of frontline workers. Providing growth opportunities for commended workers This approach will encourage frontline staff to be more loyal and devoted and increase work turnover because they know the possibility of growth is on the horizon.
Much is yet to be done and standardized in frontline team management, but every business can start with small steps.
Train your frontline workers and managers, offer learning opportunities, be flexible, set up proper communication channels, and provide new tech whenever possible.
Don't let your frontline teams feel like they're being left behind (as they often do especially compared to remote teams).
Please make every effort to make the workplace perfect for your frontline teams and listen to their feedback for additional ideas.