Developing New Workplace Models for Frontline Workers

There’s little doubt that the hottest business debate doing the rounds in recent years has revolved around new workplace models for companies. While many business leaders are probably weary of the seemingly incessant ‘chatter’ related to how their companies can best be served by adopting remote, hybrid, flexible (in the case of frontline employees), or on-site models, the reality is that the ‘best fit’ in terms of a working model is far from settled for many companies.

Misalignment between an organisation’s business and people’s priorities – manifesting itself in operating models that don’t serve the company or bring the best out of its people – keeps the debate alive. This is especially true when it comes to business models for frontline workers.

If you are still hearing ‘chatter’ or intuitively feel that there are ways to improve your current model, continue reading for some valuable perspectives on rethinking your workplace.

Acknowledge the Need for New Workplace Models

Many business leaders are in danger of overlooking the obvious when it comes to considering workplace models. In the case of frontline workers this means recognising that prior to the pandemic there were already challenges with respect to workforce strategies and how these impacted on deskless employees. This means simply hitting the ‘reset’ button post-pandemic is not going to offer companies or their workers the solutions they need.

Executives need to accept that they will need to redefine their workforce strategies and desired outcomes. This is not going to be achieved by looking in the rear-view mirror. A new way of thinking needs to be adopted. While hybrid working might be suitable for office-based jobs, frontline employees can’t work from home. A more flexible model needs to be adopted for these employees.

Establish a Strong Focus on Sense of Purpose

To make the most of any new work model, a company needs to offer employees a sense of purpose that resonates with them personally, and that is aligned to the business, its vision and mission. As business leaders, it is imperative that this sense of purpose is driven from the top with consistent and clear communication. Holding your team close, while you build purpose and develop your messaging will be an important first step in your journey of building new working models.

What’s your value proposition?

As a business leader do you know what constitutes work for your frontline employees? Where does it occur and how often does it take place? In resource and manufacturing industries this might easily be answered. However, in service and retail sectors the complexities associated with human interaction abound, making the identification of the points at which frontline workers truly add value to the customer experience far more complex.

In most organisations where frontline workers have pivotal customer-facing roles, the nature of customer work and the potential competitive advantage, which face-to-face interactions with customers can offer, are central to other work models.

Therefore, companies that want to ingrain new, more flexible work structures in their operations have to undertake a step-change in their employee training and development processes. For example, customer service training has historically been a one-size-fits-all endeavour. However, as sentiment analysis tools make identifying each employee’s strengths and weaknesses easier, training could (and should) become more tailored to the employee’s needs.

Those workers who require more time to master a skill or company’s offerings will be able to develop their understanding, whereas employees who are more technically savvy will receive training that will improve their soft communication skills.

Ultimately interventions of this nature will help frontline workers that are knowledgeable with respect to their roles and are adequately empowered to deliver customer experience expectations.

Consequently, any discussion related to the nature of workplace models needs to include a ‘future vision’ of the ‘ideal’ frontline worker that can deliver value to customers. It’s worth noting that in those industries where frontline workers are not necessarily customer facing, the impact of automation and mechanisation will continue unabated. It’s therefore equally critical that their role in the value chain is reassessed and that they are appropriately reskilled.

Appropriate Technological Solutions for New Workplace Models

A challenge that frequently occurs is that companies do not provide their workforce with suitable technological solutions. Exactly what solutions are needed differs depending on companies and industries. However, an important yardstick that can be used is measuring the utilisation and adoption rate of tools that are being made available to your workforce. That being said, it is important to be aware of other factors that might hinder adoption and use that are unrelated to the implementation of new working models – poor engagement, bad cell phone reception and literacy challenges, for example. In addition, solutions that are complex requiring employees to constantly refer back to training manuals to bolster their understanding, will hinder employee productivity.

Constant monitoring of employees is very important. Not everyone is a suitable candidate for the solitude that often accompanies hybrid or remote work. A lack of collaboration opportunities, loneliness, family commitments and specific personality traits may make it harder for some workers to thrive in this type of environment than others. To get the best out of your team business leaders should not hesitate to make changes to work schedules that get the best out of a worker based on their personality and associated needs.

Key Takeaways

While it is clear that there is much to consider when looking at the type of working models a company can adopt, business leaders need not fear that they are alone in their desire to see workplace models become settled.

In fact, a recent workplace survey revealed that the pandemic words workers are most eager to erase from their vocabulary are:

  • The New Normal
  • Quarantine
  • Burnout
  • Social Distance
  • The Great Resignation

This speaks volumes about how frontline workers are feeling, and business leaders who are attuned to the needs of their people, will move quickly to resolve lingering questions around workplace models.

For informed perspectives on this and other workplace challenges talk to an expert today.