Have you ever been cruising along the highway and all of a sudden missed your exit?
It happens a lot less often than it used to now that we have GPS giving us frequent updates and clear, actionable directions.
Before GPS, feedback loops took too long to complete. You might not know you’d gone off-route until the next time you pulled over to look at a map or until you saw a place name that made you realize how far wrong you’d gone.
Frontline employee communication is a lot like taking a road trip before GPS: the directions are written down on paper and kept out of view, and there’s often a long gap between each, crucial update.
This can cause your frontline teams to focus their energies in the wrong place (take the wrong exit) and end up in the wrong destination.
Inconsistent communication leads to inefficiencies and disengagement, costing US businesses up to $1.2 trillion, or $12,506 per employee, each year. On the other hand, 26% of business leaders report that effective communication lowers the cost of doing business.
The risks and opportunities are even greater in frontline organizations, where the deskless nature of your frontline’s work leaves an even larger margin for error — and more to be gained from embracing an effective frontline employee communication strategy.
The frontline employee communication challenge
2022 research found that:
- 40% of frontline employees think management comms are “out of touch”
- 42% believe them to be “irrelevant”
- And 30% went so far as to say that internal communications get in the way of them doing their job
Given the retention challenges facing frontline organizations in all industries, getting frontline employee communication right has to be top of the agenda.
The link between communication and retention
HR and internal comms teams might be on board with frontline communications initiatives, but frontline workers can often be overlooked when it comes to C-Suite decision-making.
Not all frontline leaders appreciate the link between ineffective frontline communication and ineffective frontline retention. And if they fail to understand how transformative better frontline communication can be, then they’ll almost certainly not be investing in frontline employee tech solutions to create a culture of communication.
Without the right tools in place, it’s all too easy to make frontline communication mistakes — even if these mistakes should be easy to avoid. So, to lean on our GPS metaphor one last time, let’s course-correct and equip frontline employees to be effective and engaged in their roles.
How to avoid 6 common frontline communication mistakes
Mistake #1: Failing to close the ‘frontline connection gap’
A frontline connection gap exists in almost every frontline organization.
The pandemic widened this ‘connection gap’ — and the frontline is still feeling the impact of it. Around 17% of frontline workers still say they never connect with their head office.
Email and phone fail as connection tools because frontline workers are rarely given company email addresses or company devices. 53% of global frontline workers turn to messaging apps like WhatsApp, GroupMe, and Facebook Messenger, but these platforms are not fit for purpose for employees or for the business.
Huge compliance issues arise around the use of these apps for business communication as sensitive intel could be leaked and the in-app communications are difficult to audit. You also run the risk of essential company updates getting lost among an employee’s personal messages.
You need other options. A frontline employee communication tool can give employees a virtual Feed, private one-to-one chats, and group channels to hang out in. This means they can come together, share company news, and celebrate the events — birthdays, marriages, promotions — that bring them closer together.
52% of frontline workers say that they would leave their job over the tech tools provided. Establishing a meaningful, effective, and compliant point of connection helps create an attractive digital workplace for current and future frontline workers.
Mistake #2: The internal comms strategy is HQ-centric
Closing the frontline connection gap is an essential first step, but this alone will not set you up for success.
Next, you need to consider how you’ll bring frontline workers into the conversation in a way they haven’t been before.
52% of businesses operate without a long-term internal communications plan in place. And we’re willing to bet that even fewer have thought about how frontline and desk-based workers communicate to build a motivated, connected team.
Frontline employee communication isn’t a “set it and forget it” strategy for your business. It’s an ongoing process.
The state of internal comms for frontline workers
In this eBook, learn about how to reach the desired state of internal communications for frontline workers that make them feel included
Set tangible goals before implementing any frontline app. For example:
- 25% increase in frontline staff communication
- 30% drop in security notifications
- 20% reduction in downtimes
Analyze the results periodically, too. How many employees use the tool — and how often? When do they log in? What and who do they engage with? Do employees pay attention to the poll you publish or do they lose it in a cluttered feed?
Make the necessary tweaks to continue improving your system and reduce communication mistakes in the workplace. Don’t assume changes are working. Rely on analytics instead of assumptions.
Be prepared for any new system to come with a slight learning curve, especially for first-time users. It should still be intuitive enough for users to pick up without hours of training — this is essential when your deskless teams are working in the field. Using frontline champions and advocates in your communication strategy will also boost frontline employee engagement, adoption rates, and understanding.
Mistake #3: There are barriers to entry for frontline employees
Let’s say your app analytics reveal disappointing adoption or usage rates. Now’s the time to ask how easy, or not, it is for your frontline workers to access the tools you’ve provided.
Does your internal communication platform sit separately from other business-critical tools and software?
Do frontline workers need to sign in to the platform each time they open it?
Every additional step and variation complicates the process and makes an employee less likely to engage. And when employees aren’t engaged, then no one’s getting the benefits desired from investing in internal communications.
Set up a single sign-on to remove friction from the process. Combine employee platforms into an all-in-one solution where possible as well.
Ask your workers what they want from a frontline employee communication platform and what’s currently holding them back. Be open to feedback on communication channels and improve your system in response.
Blink’s frontline app achieved 96% monthly active users for the transport company Go North West. Together, we transformed a complicated and laborious web of internal communication channels and brought everything, and everyone, together in Blink. Read the case study here.
Mistake #4: Too much focus on updates, not enough on community
Intranet platforms can be helpful for sharing information updates and giving access to documents or policies, but they are limited in terms of what they can deliver for true communication.
Becoming a connected organization is about more than passing news from HQ to the frontline. You want to build a shared sense of culture and purpose. You need to bring every member of staff into the conversation.
Recognition is one way to do this. 60% of 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 sure digital employee recognition and regular feedback on job performance are an integral part of your frontline employee communication strategy. Choose monthly, or even daily, feedback over a yearly review; these frequent, informal check-ins have been proven to lead to 46% better performance.
Your office employees can congratulate their co-workers on successful sales pitches and slick PowerPoint presentations face-to-face. You can high-five a friend on your way to lunch. But it’s different on the frontline.
As a senior manager in a frontline organization, you may not bump into your frontline staff for days or even weeks.
Send them a quick message to let them know you’re thinking of them, that you see and value their hard work, and that they are making a difference.
Move past the stale quarterly updates over email and commit to frequent, direct praise to your frontline workers.
Don’t worry that you’ll get in the way of the frontline’s daily tasks, as the study we shared earlier found. That’s only a risk for irrelevant communications — the types of messages that don’t matter to your staff.
There’s an appetite for frequent, valuable communication, especially during times of uncertainty like the ever-changing frontline labor market.
Mistake #5: Communication is one-way, not bidirectional
Similar, but different, to the frontline employee communication mistake above: too many organizations think that internal communication means leaders speaking to staff and not the other way around.
There are massive benefits to hearing from your frontline. For one, bidirectional communication is a sign you care what the frontline has to say. But there’s also so much you can learn from what they share.
Frontline workers have entirely different work experiences from office-based staff. The time desked employees spend interacting with each other, many deskless employees spend conversing with customers and patients.
These experiences make your frontline workers an incredibly valuable asset. They have a front-row seat to emerging issues in the supply chain and customer service. They can spot problems weeks or months before the C-Suite knows about it.
A comprehensive communication strategy gives the frontline a voice. Offer a range of communication channels — employee surveys, forms, online bulletin boards, and informal group messaging channels — and act on the insights they provide (more on this in the next section).
With a single sign-on feature, being actively involved in the very fabric of the organization becomes quick and easy for frontline teams. Every message they send, receive, like, or share is a step closer to keeping them retained, and all the cultural, operational, and financial advantages that unlocks.
Mistake #6: You aren’t listening enough
We know what you’re thinking. Of course you listen to your employees. You’re now gathering their insights regularly and showing them recognition for hard work. You’re even talking to them more than ever before.
But it doesn’t count if you don’t take action on those insights.
Most companies tend to forget the most important part of communication: active listening. Active listening isn’t just hearing, it’s understanding, taking action, and communicating after learning something new.
Frontline workers face different challenges and have different employee experiences than their peers over at HQ. They need to be listened to and have their voices heard for a business to truly succeed.
In spite of this:
- The majority (51%) of frontline workers believe they are seen as less important than their HQ counterparts
- 37% don’t feel as valued as their desk-based co-workers
- And nearly four in 10 don’t feel that their feedback will be acted on, so it makes sense that they often lose interest in giving it
Ask for feedback on initiatives before launching them, review every single idea, and reply in a timely manner to show you care about their input.
Thank the team members for their suggestions, implement the feedback you find useful, and recognize the workers whose feedback resulted in positive change.
When frontline employees don’t feel heard or valued, they’ll eventually disengage. And then we’re right back to square one with a frontline employee communication strategy that’s failed to deliver ROI and build the team you’re after.
Frontline employee communication: essential considerations
The good news is, not only can frontline employee communication be simple to get right, but it’s also self-fulfilling. If you put a winning internal communication strategy in place now and work hard to make it a success, you’ll create a culture of communication within your organization that makes all future comms initiatives much easier to implement.
The key considerations for frontline communication are:
- Think mobile first. Frontline workers spend all, or most, of their time away from a desk. They need communication systems that move with them
- The challenge is multifaceted. An intranet, messaging app, and feedback platform each perform an important role, but a culture of communication and connection requires more than these solutions can offer alone
- Connection, not communication. To that point, if you’re aiming for communication then you’ll only achieve communication. You risk one-way, top-down dialog rather than the company-wide connection that high-performing businesses share
- Be ready to iterate. Continually evaluate your communication strategy and encourage regular feedback from your frontline employees. Include them in tooling decisions and show your appreciation when they perform — and when they engage
- Respect is the foundation. You can’t foster connection without respect. Treat frontline teams with the same level of trust and consideration as desk-based workers, providing them with the tools they need to communicate and progress in their roles.
Blink. And there are no more frontline employee communication mistakes.
You can avoid the communication mistakes shared in this article by getting a mobile-first solution designed for frontline teams. Your all-through-one solution here is Blink: the frontline app.
With a simple and secure mobile-first platform that delivers context-specific information to employees in real time, Blink will revolutionize the way your frontline teams communicate.
Blink’s secure communication platform gives frontline workers access to all the necessary tools for their daily tasks via their mobile devices, from project updates to team conversations and on-the-go resources.
By making your frontline communication more effective, you can increase productivity and ensure that your frontline teams are always up to date with what’s going on.
If you’re ready to empower your frontline employees and make sure their voices are heard, then try Blink today.
Frontline employee communications FAQs
How do employees communicate with the frontline?
How leaders should communicate with the frontline and how they do are often two different things. Ideally, leaders should truly listen to frontline employees and enable better communication by investing in a mobile-first, secure platform that provides context-specific information quickly and easily.
Frontline communication problems often arise when leaders do not, or cannot, do this for their frontline.
How do you empower employees on the frontline?
Empowering frontline employees begins with providing them with the tools, resources, and information they need to do their jobs more effectively. This can mean investing in a secure platform for communication and data sharing, treating them with respect and recognition for their work, or even just involving them in decision-making processes.
By empowering frontline employees, organizations can ensure that their frontline teams remain productive, engaged, and retained.
Why should one always communicate with the staff on the frontline?
Leaders must communicate with the frontline staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page, engaged, and clear on what needs to be done. Effective communication can help to make sure tasks are completed correctly and efficiently, while providing a platform for feedback and discussion.
By taking steps to keep in touch with their frontline employees, leaders can improve morale, strengthen relationships with their workforce and, ultimately, drive retention.