The 5 frontline employee communication mistakes you're making (and how to solve them)

Ever been on a road trip and missed your exit?

Maybe the sign was too small? In an odd place?

Either way, it’s a frustrating experience to get where you’re going without proper guidance. 

Your frontline employee communication is also like road signage. It’s critical. But its complexity is often overlooked. 

Communication mistakes occur. Quantum-Fierce shares that 81% of employees experience miscommunication at work.

These mistakes cost serious businesses. Energetics estimates poor communication costs $6000 per employee annually — which is higher for frontline workers whose deskless communication leaves even more margin for error.

With 31 million frontline workers in the United States alone… that’s a lot of cash burnt.

In this article, we’ll explore how to spot the most common frontline employee communication mistakes – and how to fix them.

Mistake #1: you’re not giving them recognition

Genuinely thank your workers and let them know you appreciate their efforts.

Praise your employees. Thank them for their hard work and efforts. 

Six out of every 10 employees who receive frequent praise say they are “very unlikely” to look for a new job. You won’t receive a similar response from unrecognized workers: only 11% want to stay put. 

Make regular feedback on job performance an integral part of your frontline employee communication. Choose monthly, or even daily feedback over a yearly review; these frequent, informal check-ins have been proven to lead to 46% better performance

Monthly feedback led to 46% better performance in a long-term study of 800 insurance professionals. 

Your office employees can congratulate their coworkers on epic sales pitches and slick PowerPoint presentations face-to-face. You can high-five a friend on your way to lunch. But it’s different outside the office. 

You don’t bump into your frontline staff for days, or even weeks.

Send them a quick thank you message and let them know their hard work and efforts matter. 

Move past the stale quarterly updates over email or an awkward meeting. Send frequent, direct praise to your frontline workers. 

90% of workers prefer weekly communication from their company. Use tools like social media and messaging apps to maintain your communication with the staff and increase employee retention

Recognize the group and individual achievements using an employee feed. Upload photos and share stories of both field workers and corporate employees to help them connect.  

Mistake #2: your systems aren’t speaking to each other

Do your employees use separate systems for signing HR documents and payroll? 

Every additional step and variation complicates the process and creates a risk for mistakes.

Set up an intranet to streamline the communication. Combine employee apps where possible. Use access controls to limit access to certain employees instead of relying on manager approvals all the time. 

Ask your workers what they want from a frontline employee communication platform. Incorporate their ideas and improve the overall employee experience. 

Be open for feedback on communication channels and improve your system wherever possible. When considering the involved costs, consider the productivity improvements. 

You can look towards Walmart for inspiration. Walmart rolled out a frontline intranet in June 2021. They hoped to simplify employee engagement, automate managerial tasks, and facilitate communication between staff through it. To make it a reality, they handed new Samsung smartphones to 740,000 associates. 

That is pretty ambitious and expensive. But smaller companies can take baby or teenager steps in the same direction by implementing a solution that works on an employee’s existing device. 

Mistake #3: you’re not gathering their insights

Workers collaborating on a laptop in a coffee shop. 

Frontline workers have entirely different work experiences from office-based staff. The time desked employees spend interacting with each other, deskless employees spend conversing with customers. 

These experiences and conversations make your frontline workers your most valuable asset. They have the most innovative ideas that can improve your business at the ground level.

That’s why it’s a huge missed opportunity if you ignore the insights that your frontline workforce possesses. 

What’s the best way to collect their knowledge? 

Provide a platform for them to share information and insights. This lets them voice their concerns and suggestions. Offer a range of communication channelsー surveys, forms, online bulletin boards, and informal group conversation channels. 

Keep at least one format available 24/7. A suggestion email account or mobile-friendly form that employees can access easily works well. 

This helps your employees share their input without going out of their way — that no one wants to. They can give feedback when they have downtime or while the idea is fresh. 

Don’t just hear their voices. Listen to them. 

Thank the team members for their suggestions. Implement the feedback you find good. And praise the workers whose feedback resulted in a productivity jump. 

Mistake #4: you haven’t written a communication strategy

Ragan shares that 52% of businesses operate without a long-term internal communications plan in place. 

Pie chart showing that the majority of companies do not have a long-term internal communications strategy. 

Business leaders often assume they can go without examining their communication plan. 

That leads to communication mistakes. And a business loses $6000 per employee each year. 

Frontline employee communication isn’t a “set it and forget it” strategy for your business. It’s an ongoing process. 

You need an optimized communication solution to ensure your system’s smooth operation. 

Before implementing a new intranet or app, set tangible goals for the tool:

  • 25% increase in frontline staff communication
  • 30% drop in security notifications
  • 20% reduction in downtimes 

After implementing any tool, analyze the results periodically. How many users use the tool? When do they log in? What do they engage with? Do users pay attention to the poll you publish or do they lose it in a cluttered feed?

Make the necessary changes to continue improving your system and reduce communication mistakes in the workplace. Don’t assume changes are working. Rely on data instead of assumptions.

Be prepared for any new system to come with a slight learning curve, especially for first-time users. But it should still be intuitive enough for most users to pick up on without hours of coaching.

Mistake #5: you’re not bridging the connection gap

Frontline employees need to connect with other team members.

Frontline workers lack connection

They neither spend time with the headquarter’s employees nor experience the organization’s culture. They end up without work buddies.  

The pandemic widened this ‘connection gap’. A Harvard Business Review study found 75% of people reported feeling more socially isolated than before the pandemic.

Email and phone fail to bridge it because of the flexible work environment. That’s why 53% of global frontline workers turn to messaging apps like Whatsapp and Facebook messenger.

But that can expose your sensitive data

You need other options. A frontline employee communication tool can give employees a virtual place to hang out in. This means they can come together, share company news, and celebrate the personal achievements – birthdays, marriages, promotions – that bring them closer.

Ninety-five percent of adults use a smartphone. So you can create an attractive digital workplace through a mobile app. 

A communication app will make business communication faster and bring the frontline workers who rely on mobile devices together. 

Final thoughts: 5 common mistakes in frontline employee communication  

Frontline employee communication will never be straightforward – but it can be self-reinforcing.

Frontline workers spend most of their time away from offices. They need communication systems that simplify and streamline their exchange with other frontline workers and desk workers.

You can do so by updating your communication technology according to their needs. Continually evaluate your communication strategy and encourage feedback from your frontline workforce.  

Try to avoid the five communication mistakes highlighted above by getting a mobile-first system that tailors feeds to each employee. Rely on a secure system that provides the information your employees need without overloading them with unnecessary data.