Building an Inclusive Workplace: Leadership Tips
Frontline workers are among the most valuable employees in an organization. They represent the public face of the company in industries from healthcare to foodservice, and make tremendous contributions to the economy, yet they are often overlooked and undervalued. These workers also struggle more financially with fewer opportunities and support systems in place to help them advance and feel unsupported in the workplace. For these reasons, it’s critical for leaders to create an inclusive workplace by not only implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, but being open and transparent in communicating those programs down to the frontline.
The Proof Is in the Numbers
In McKinsey & Company’s recent report, Race in the workplace: The frontline experience, “frontline workers are 20% less likely than corporate employees to believe that DEI policies are effective. In addition, 45% of hourly employees don’t believe their company encourages them to take advantage of work-life policies without jeopardizing their employment or career advancement.”
These numbers indicate that the employees with whom your customers interact the most are unsatisfied, which leads to disgruntled, less productive workers, and poor consumer encounters. For business leaders, this means that efforts must be taken to improve job quality and offer greater support for frontline workers so that they can progress in their careers and enjoy a more equitable culture that ultimately leads to happier employees and positive customer outcomes.
An Inclusive Workplace Begins With Communication
But how do you not only create a more inclusive workplace but demonstrate that you are committed to it beyond just outward appearances? According to Deloitte’s recent survey, Leading at the front(line): Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion imperatives, which surveyed over 3,000 frontline workers in the United States between April 6 and 21, 2022, “only 38% of frontline workers believe DEI initiatives are truly focused on creating a better workplace for all and that their companies lack proper mentorship.”
The first step in building trust that you are nurturing a more inclusive workplace and dedicated to the advancement of your frontline workers is thoughtful and effective communication. It’s not enough for company DEI materials to trickle down; you must create a two-way channel to share and engage with your frontline, showing them that they matter and have a voice in affecting positive change. Using an employee-centric app that reaches them directly is critical to create those connections and demonstrate that you value what they bring to your organization and strive to serve them as fully as you do your corporate employees. Opening up a direct dialogue with these workers sends a clear message that they are included and not an afterthought.
Commit to Ongoing Training and Mentorship
The McKinsey report goes on to say, “It’s a myth that high rates of turnover are just the way it goes on the frontline. By creating clear paths for advancement, companies can improve the workplace environment to make the worker experience more positive and sustainable.”
Implementing an employee-facing platform for disseminating key information about how you are going to foster a more inclusive workplace is a vital first step in spotlighting your commitment to addressing their specific needs – and concerns – but it’s only through ongoing training, mentorship, and communication that you will reinforce to your frontline workers that they matter, that they are important, and that there is room to grow within your organization. It cannot be lipservice or corporate rhetoric; it must be a cultural shift that becomes a lived mission. The old adage of “practice what you preach” applies here and will result in improved morale, higher rates of employee retention, increased productivity, and better customer experiences. Your frontline workers are the lifeblood of your company. It’s your company leaders’ job to make sure they know that.