3 certified strategies for refueling frontline employee engagement

Frontline workers are the lifeblood of your business, so why is this vital segment of the workforce so often an afterthought when it comes to internal communications? At Unite 23, Unily’s landmark employee experience conference, we quizzed two internal comms leaders about the strategies and tactics they’re using to transform frontline engagement at their own organizations. Here are the three top takeaways you can use to elevate your strategy.

Frontline IC strategy

Adapting internal communications for frontline success

It’s hard enough to engage desk-based workers with internal communications, so what about employees who work on the frontlines, with limited desktop access? Engaging frontline employees is a persistent challenge that internal comms teams worldwide are still fighting to crack.

Knowing this, we asked two internal communicators from leading enterprises, both making waves in the frontline engagement space, to share their top tips for adapting internal communications for a frontline workforce. Debbie Braden, Director of Internal Communications at Caliber Collision, and Marc Whittingham, Head of Change Communications and Engagement at Holland & Barrett, joined us to share their experiences from two very different industries.

You can watch the full session on-demand (link at the bottom!) or read on for a breakdown of the key takeaways.

Takeaway 1: Consider frontline employees’ unique challenges when crafting a comms plan

While many internal communications teams aim to provide frontline workforces with communications that parallel the messaging that their in-office colleagues receive, Whittingham cautions against this one-size-fits-all approach. “We want to treat frontline employees like their colleagues in office, but sometimes you have to treat them in a very different way and use different channels,” he acknowledges. “We have to think about what frontline employees absolutely have to know and what is just nice to know. We’ve really streamlined down a lot of our communications because a lot of the things that we talk about might not be relevant to them.”

Adding on, Braden encourages internal communicators to be mindful of what a frontline worker’s day-to-day experience might look like and acknowledge that there may be additional challenges when connecting with this segment of your workforce. “I think it’s a real challenge, especially based on the type of work that’s being done. It’s easy to engage people that are using a computer, they’re connected. Whether they’re working in the retail space, a nurse running around, or in my case auto repair, [frontline workers] are doing other things and working with other equipment.”

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Takeaway 2: Think outside of the box to keep frontline employees engaged

To cultivate a sense of connection and camaraderie amongst frontline workers, Braden recommends getting creative with the channels your employees use to express themselves. She highlights an initiative her organization launched that has led to better frontline engagement: “We have a video series called The Artisans of Caliber and it’s this punchy, fast-paced music video and all of our people look really awesome. They’re not just showing themselves working, but also doing their favorite hobbies, like fishing or walking their dogs. So it’s fun to show the juxtaposition of who they are as workers and as people. We’re valuing them as a whole person and as a result, we’re starting to get some buy in.”

Whittingham highlights another unique tactic to motivate frontline workers: finding a way to incentivize them to read more content. “Something we tried at a previous company was we would actually pay frontline workers a monthly allowance to kind of give them some extra time to find the latest news and do a bit of learning and that really helped. It felt like a bit of a carrot and stick moment but what we could do after that is prove that the more content they engaged with, the better our sales were.”

Takeaway 3: Use analytics to learn what content resonates with frontline employees most

Savvy internal communicators know that data and analytics are essential tools for evaluating how various content performs and using these insights to optimize their strategies. In describing how she and her team use analytics to inform their frontline messaging approach, Braden says, “What I look at first is ‘What are the people in different positions looking at? What are the top documents, sites, pages, news, and videos?’ because for me that’s tied to business outcomes. Each of the positions should be focused on specific content that we’re delivering so what interests me most is: what’s rising to the top? And are they looking at what they’re supposed to be?.”

Whittingham points out that analytics can also help internal communicators get a clearer picture of when and where frontline workers are reading their content—and some peak times for content consumption may come as a shock. “I think one of the things that surprised me most was the times of day when people visit our site,” he explains. “When we look at those analytics, so many people are on there at 4am and of course we’re not encouraging that. But being able to get that level of detail around when they’re accessing the site and also the location they’re accessing it from. Those are the things my team always has a chat about.”

Takeaway 4: Experience frontline work firsthand

If you’re looking to level up your messaging strategy for frontline workers, Whittingham suggests taking a walk in their shoes. “Get out there on the frontlines yourself,” he says. “For me, in past companies that has been going out with the team or with leaders to get a sense of what our frontline workers are experiencing. You’d be really surprised to learn about some of the challenges they’re dealing with.” Braden highlights video as a key medium for viewing and understanding frontline employees’ perspectives, noting, “We do a lot of video and my team is on the road all the time. So they get some useful information and it’s all frontline stuff and insights we don’t get in surveys or comments.”

Watch the full session on-demand

If these tips have got your cogs whirring, watch the full session on-demand for more detail on the strategies and techniques that are working at these leading enterprises.


Unite 23 - Engaging your frontline workforce

An engaged and informed frontline workforce is a precursor to excellent customer experience, yet too many frontline workers feel disconnected from the enterprise. We're joined by a panel of experts to discuss strategies for overcoming frontline engagement barriers, fit with real-world examples of how some of the largest enterprises are solving frontline disconnect.

Watch on-demand

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