Part 1: How to Stem the Tide of Frontline Worker Turnover

As the job market becomes increasingly competitive and unemployment rates continue to drop, retaining frontline workers has become a top priority for businesses. Losing skilled and experienced employees not only leads to a loss of productivity but also incurs additional costs in terms of hiring and training new employees. To combat this issue, businesses need to take proactive measures to keep their employees engaged and satisfied. 

In this 3-part series, we will explore concrete actions businesses can take to retain their frontline workers. We will delve into the reasons why frontline workers leave, and provide actionable steps businesses can take to address those reasons. We will cover topics such as upskilling, career advancement, employee wellbeing, and effective management techniques. 

By implementing the strategies suggested in this series, businesses can retain their valuable frontline workers and improve their overall productivity and bottom line. Let's get started on taking concrete actions to stop your frontline workers from leaving.
Part 1 article

Navigating the Historic Shift in the Job Market

The job market is experiencing a historic shift, with job openings significantly outpacing recruitment efforts. According to January 2023 data, job openings are 67.5% higher than hires, and with 11.1 million open jobs as of February 2023, there are 1.9 open jobs for every unemployed person. The demand for labor exceeds supply, making employee retention more critical than ever. 

While some may attribute this shift to a lack of skills among unemployed workers, it also highlights the need for increased training opportunities for current employees. Additionally, resignation rates have been decreasing since their peak in October 2021, indicating that The Great Resignation phenomenon may be behind us. 
However, despite the decrease in quit rates, the average employee turnover rate across all industries for 2022 is still quite high at 9.31%, with a minimum of 5.43% and a max of 16.9%.

The construction industry has one of the highest turnover rates, with younger employees being the most at risk. The construction industry has an average turnover rate of 21.4%, with employees 24 or younger reaching a staggering 64%

Another crucial factor in employee retention is wellbeing. Employee engagement and wellbeing are crucial to the success of any organization, and it's essential for leaders to prioritize their workers' overall wellbeing. 

Gallup's research suggests that only 33% of workers in the US and Canada are engaged, and 71% believe that now is a good time to find a new job. This highlights the need for organizations to consider the whole person, not just the worker, and prioritize employee wellbeing as part of their employer brand promise. 

Ultimately, the data indicates a need for more frontline workers, long vacancies, high turnover rates, and low productivity. However, employees themselves can be a significant source of labor productivity improvement, making training and retention key factors in the success of any organization. 

Organizations must prioritize their employees' wellbeing and provide ample training opportunities to retain and engage their workforce in today's competitive job market. 

But retaining employees, especially your frontline workforce, has always been a challenge. In this blog post, we’ll explore why frontline workers are leaving and suggest employee retention strategies that work.

Impact of Frontline Worker Turnover

High frontline employee turnover rates can significantly impact a company’s bottom line. Productivity may decrease, and wage inflation can lead to higher prices, risking existing customers and making it harder to acquire new ones.Part 1 article2

Reasons for Frontline Worker Turnover

Lack of career advancement

One of the primary reasons why frontline workers leave is a perceived lack of career advancement opportunities. If employees feel that they are not progressing in their careers, they are more likely to look for employment elsewhere.

The opportunity for job growth or promotion is an even higher priority than pay or benefits for 79% of frontline employees. Research indicates that up to 65% of frontline employees are unaware or unsure of how to achieve advancement or opportunities available.

Mismatch between skills needed and what the workforce has

If a company’s job requirements change and its workforce doesn’t have the necessary skills to fulfill those needs, it may experience high employee turnover. This mismatch can lead to frustration and decreased job satisfaction for frontline workers.

Frontline employees report a lack of awareness and resources as a significant obstacle. While 30% of employers say they offer education or training opportunities outside of the workplace, only 12% of employees say they have knowledge or access to such programs. This represents  missed opportunities to address specific skills challenges that employers and employees face.

Poor leadership by line manager

The line or immediate manager plays a significant role in employee engagement and retention. Employees are more likely to leave if the manager is not providing adequate support, feedback, or recognition.

According to research, managers rated highly in their ability to balance results with relationships had a much higher percentage (62%) of employees who were willing to give extra effort. On the other hand, those rated the lowest had only 20% of their direct reports willing to give extra effort. 

However, despite the importance of effective people management, up to 40% of frontline managers in organizations with large frontline workforces are in their first year of a leadership role. Many of these managers are promoted based on their technical competence but lack the fundamental skills necessary for managing people.

Employee Retention Strategies

Let’s unpack a few surefire employee retention strategies.

Upskill your existing workforce

Providing training to your existing workforce is an effective way to retain employees. Training needs to be accessible when and where it suits frontline workers in a manner they enjoy. An employee app is an effective way to deliver e-learning tools to keep frontline workers informed and up-to-date with digital training and integration with learning management systems (LMS) like MobieTrain or Edume. Consider using learning journeys to provide personalized training.

Promote opportunities for career advancement

Offer opportunities for in-person or hands-on training that lead to career advancement. Use videos and photos from past training sessions and tap into senior leadership to encourage participation with a short, authentic video. Make career advancement opportunities known by publishing them on an employee app and celebrate success stories to create awareness of internal promotions.

Support individual managers

Provide managers with individual support to help them engage their direct reports and improve their relationships. Frontline managers can be supported by having direct access to company information, training, and advancement opportunities. 

Ensure that frontline managers understand company initiatives and why they are important and ask for their support. An employee app can supplement the line manager's work by removing barriers to crucial info.

Inform employees of engagement opportunities

Make sure frontline workers know about opportunities that drive engagement, such as advancement opportunities and peer-to-peer social contact. Publish events on an employee app that frontline workers can access on their phones when it suits them. 

Encourage social activities like a bowling league or after-work meals/drinks, as having a best friend at work can significantly improve job satisfaction. Personalized messaging can be pushed to specific worker groups.

Provide management upskilling

Provide training and upskilling to managers on better engaging and retaining their direct reports. This training can include leadership development, communication skills, and performance management.

A practical example

A large construction company struggled to connect with and retain their seasonal workers and employed the following strategies to overcome that: 

  • Moved from email to an efficient two-way communication

They switched from email to an efficient two-way communication employee app tailored to their company colors and logos. The employee app created transparency and trust among workers, as they see how the company reacts to situations, and it reaches everyone to establish a common goal. 

  • Replaced their newsletter with an interactive and timely employee app 

The company also replaced its newsletter with the same app to improve communication with its dispersed workforce. This move invited workers to be part of the big picture, see beyond their individual jobs, and have a voice in conversations.

The key results showed impressive adoption and activity rates, with an 82% adoption rate and 90% daily active users. Consequently, the employee app enhanced communication and engagement and created a bond with the company's seasonal workers.

Final Thought 

The data shows that the need for more frontline workers, vacancies that are open for a long time, high turnover rates, and low productivity are significant problems. The solution to these problems is to focus on employee training and retention. Upskilling the existing workforce, promoting career advancement opportunities, supporting individual managers, informing employees of engagement opportunities, and providing management upskilling are all effective ways to retain frontline workers. 

In today’s labor market, where retaining employees is more critical than ever, companies prioritizing employee engagement and retention will reap significant rewards. By addressing frontline worker retention, companies can improve productivity, increase job satisfaction, and ultimately drive business success. 

In part two of our series, we will focus on how to measure the impact of your employee retention strategies. Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our blog for Parts 2 and 3 of this series (and more in the future).