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Bridging the divide between the frontline and the C-suite
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Bridging the divide between the frontline and the C-suite

Frontline workers are more important than ever — keeping them engaged and in the loop is vital.

This is part two of a three-part series exploring the experience of frontline workers and new workplace tools being deployed to support them.

Frontline workers have always been the unsung heroes of our society. They’re the ones who ensure our shelves are stocked and our public transport keeps running; they handle our grievances and worries with equanimity. But in times of stress and strain — such as those we’ve experienced over the last two years — the importance of frontline workers is highlighted even more.

While the world went home, frontline workers kept turning up, day after day. In the hybrid world, they’re given more autonomy, and recognized as a crucial player in the day-to-day running of our economies and their institutions.

“What we're really seeing at the moment — which is absolutely fantastic — is that organizations are really waking up to the value of the frontline workers and the need to actually ensure that work works for frontline employees,” said Abby Guthkelch, head of Global Executive Solutions at Workplace from Meta.

“I think the most important thing that a leader can do to connect with their frontline workers is to give them a voice.."

100% of C-suite staff surveyed by Workplace said that frontline workers were a strategic priority for their business in 2022, but nearly two in three of them said that keeping their frontline staff, who bear the brunt of the stresses of the workplace most acutely, had only become a priority since the pandemic hit.

Unique circumstances caused by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic threw into stark relief the role frontline workers play in keeping businesses running. “‘Better late than never,’ as we say, but it's disappointing that it's taken this long and the pandemic for employers to wake up to this fact,” said Guthkelch. Frontline workers feel this keenly, too: A quarter of those surveyed by Meta said they’d only started to be recognized for their value to the organization they work for since the pandemic began.

Guthkelch compared the recognition of the importance of frontline staff to the Wizard of Oz: Those behind the curtain who have previously focused on quarterly financial results and KPIs have realized that you can’t run a business like that anymore. “You can't show empathy through email,” Guthkelch said. “You have to be able to build trust and talent for the long term… Companies need to think really, really seriously about how to better connect their leadership with the employees at all levels in all environments, and enable them to build those human connections and really encourage two-way dialogue, especially in distributed environments.”

It’s for that reason that businesses are starting to turn to workplace communication tools. Such tools enable frontline workers to feel more connected to the rest of their business, to raise concerns and to provide feedback on potential pain points or points of improvement. By bridging that divide, companies can unlock new savings and efficiencies, and build a business that can last for the long run.

Workplace Tech: Bridging the Frontline - HQ Divide youtu.be

“I think the most important thing that a leader can do to connect with their frontline workers is to give them a voice,” said Christine Trodella, head of Workplace from Meta. That involves more than simply lip service, she explained. It involves listening to frontline workers, soliciting their input and feedback, and showing up authentically to any interactions with them. “One of the really great things that we've seen coming out of the pandemic is how human leadership can come through and really bring an organization together,” she said.

Trodella pointed to businesses using Workplace, the company’s business communication tool, which have had their CEOs drop in on conversations with frontline workers through the platform. That kind of accessibility and two-way conversation is crucial to fostering a good sense of belonging within a business. It’s vital, given that connectivity and belonging was seen as a significant challenge by 60% of employees worldwide during the pandemic, according to McKinsey. At a time when employee retention is a major concern — more than half of those surveyed by Meta say they’re seeking a different role from the one they currently have — building that sense of community isn’t just a nice-to-have: It’s a must-do. “Where CEOs and other leaders join in the conversation, it really invigorates the workforce and really makes them feel part of the broader community,” said Trodella.

Yet it doesn’t just serve the purpose of keeping a company stable. Having that bridge ensures that a company doesn’t stand still, but is instead propelled forward. “Some of the best ideas, some of the best context around issues, or challenges that a market, an industry or a company may be having are going to come from the front line,” said Trodella. “Give them access and the ability to share that feedback.” You may find your next big business idea by engaging those who see the C-suite strategy enacted day-in, day-out.

Read the series: