The Shift - April 27th, 2023


Missed The Shift in your inbox last week? Recap on what was covered in Blink’s fortnightly update for frontline leaders on April 27, 2023 — and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss another edition.

The business case for ‘good-job systems’

Have your stakeholders ever been skeptical when it comes to frontline employee experience? Then this new think-piece from Harvard Business Review is about to become your most-used resource.

The Obstacles to Creating Good Jobs makes a compelling case for ‘good-jobs systems’ — the work environments that enable and empower employees, respecting their time, and making them feel valued.

These systems deliver positive outcomes for the organization too: high customer satisfaction, low employee turnover, record productivity, and more. So why aren’t all businesses adopting good-jobs systems? 

HBR identifies four misconceptions that frontline leaders hold when it comes to ‘good jobs’ creation:

  • Our business model won’t support higher investment in people
  • We can’t trust frontline employees
  • Our financial analysis shows the investment won’t pay off
  • Implementing system change is too risky

Where there’s doubt around the return or risk of employee experience investments, stakeholders should be made aware of the total cost of inaction. The direct cost of voluntary turnover is just part of the equation. Once you layer in other turnover costs — absenteeism, overtime, human error, poor customer service, and so on — the final figure is likely to be much, much greater.

For one business cited in the article, the direct cost of turnover was $27 million/year but the total cost of disengagement came in around 4.5 x more ($120 million).

This is why Jim Sinegal, a Costco cofounder, has been quoted saying: “Offering good jobs is not altruism; it’s good business.”

So what can we say to frontline leaders who challenge this way of thinking? Businesses with bad jobs and bad service can still be successful, they might argue; McDonald’s has one of the lowest Net Promoter Scores seen today, but is still profitable and growing.

The counter from HBR is as follows:

“Tight labor markets — which are expected to persist as more Baby Boomers retire and people have fewer children — combined with rising minimum wages may also grant the good-jobs system more legitimacy. Investors will see that at companies that maintain the status quo, labor costs will rise with the market, but employee turnover won’t improve, and employees’ output will remain the same. After all, the job hasn’t changed.”

In a good-jobs system, an investment in employee experience and compensation delivers higher productivity, sales, and growth. Read the full article here.

What you asked about frontline stress and wellbeing

Thank you to those of you who joined us last week for The Shift LIVE: Ask Me Anything on frontline stress and wellbeing. We received a long list of questions to put to our panel — many more than we could ever squeeze in to the 45-minute discussion (now available to watch on-demand)

From our analysis of the questions, several key themes emerge around frontline stress and wellbeing, including:

  • How can frontline leaders help resolve and mitigate employee burnout when they’re sat in-office and away from the frontline?
  • How do we get frontline employees to engage with the concepts of work-life balance and wellbeing?
  • What are the most successful strategies when resources are limited?
  • What can be done to get C-Suite buy-in for frontline wellbeing initiatives; how do you communicate the risks of burnout to stakeholders?
  • Which tools are most powerful to implement and how can we use data to communicate the scale of the challenge (or opportunity) to senior leadership?

It was also inspiring to see sign-ups from a range of frontline industries. The headlines regarding frontline wellbeing — that 33% of manufacturing employees have experienced increased anxiety in the last 12 months and 60% of transportation companies are now ‘high risk’ for employee burnout — make it clear that change is required across the board, and not just in the sectors that have become synonymous with frontline stress.

Watch this space for more follow-up content featuring our AMA panel soon.

See you soon in London?

Back in our March 16 edition of The Shift, we listed out the employee engagement conferences that we’d be attending in 2023. Since then, we’ve also written our guide to the best HR and engagement conferences taking place this year.

HR Technologies, London, is next up on our agenda. We’ll be at booth CC80 so come and say hello! And if you were at ADP Summit in Las Vegas, or ASHHRA in Charlotte, North Carolina this week, you may have seen some Blink frontline champions there.

How to harness frontline innovation

Your frontline knows more about your customers than anyone else in the business. Frontline employees are often customer-facing every day and are, quite literally, on the front line when it comes to customer service troubleshooting and gathering insights.

So how can you commercialize those interactions to create profit-generating ideas?

“Coming up with novel ways to improve your margin or reduce friction in your company’s operations is not your teams’ job — it’s your job. And you shouldn’t expect such a high level of attention from your employees unless you give them the support and specific instruction to do so.” That’s the advice of Kenny Lao of Culinary Task Force.

Writing for Inc., Lao explains how crucial it is to incentivize and empower frontline employees by making it clear you want to know their ideas and that they’ll be rewarded. 

You must respect creative work and, if you want your team to contribute, make it part of the job. Pay your staff for recipes or ideas or process improvements. If their contributions go above and beyond their stated job duties, they should get a cut of the benefit. Better yet, establish structured tastings — or brainstorming sessions — to ensure they become part of the culture.”

This all ties back to the Harvard Business Review article shared above. Paying employees $1 for every song they add to your customer-facing playlist might sound like an unnecessary spend, but if it keeps employees engaged — as Lao has proved — and helps build your brand identity and reputation, then a return will be revealed.

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