We all know there’s a clear correlation between happy and engaged frontline employees, and the output of an organization. It’s indisputable — if employees feel motivated, engaged and fulfilled, the value they create is incomparable to that of an employee who feels demotivated, disengaged and unhappy in their work.
The tricky part is, how do we keep frontline employees engaged?
How do we foster an environment where looking for another job is the last thing on their minds?
Laurie Ruettimann, has almost thirty years of experience teaching hundreds of corporate companies how to create a work environment optimized arouond employee engagement and organizational output by creating policies, processes and programs that value the inherent worth of people.
As a respected author, podcaster and speaker, and a presenter at the AskNicely Frontline Experience Summit, Laurie has the answers you’ve been searching for, in just four buckets. Laurie believes that if companies put energy into the following four buckets, they’ll see engagement levels amongst their frontline employees soar.
There are countless programs, books, apps and more that focus on great leadership in business settings: how to become a great leader; how to lead with compassion; how to become a respected leader – and that’s all useful stuff.
But what we don’t hear a lot about is another form of leadership that Laurie tells us is absolutely essential for keeping frontline employees engaged - self-leadership.
In her presentation, Laurie describes self-leadership as the ‘art and science of individual accountability’ - the ability to be the boss of your own feelings, thoughts and behaviours, no matter who is in charge around you.
Self-leaders act out of initiative, self-motivation, and a genuine desire to perform well in their job.
Because self-leadership comes from within, we can’t just say “everyone, practice self-leadership!” and suddenly you’ve got a team of self-disciplined, engaged and motivated frontline employees.
To foster an environment where self-leadership is the norm, managers must focus on positive reinforcement, communication and feedback – and not just when the stakes are high and deadlines are approaching.
In a Harvard Business Review study, it was found that receiving regular feedback, both positive and developmental was one of the key things that made employees feel valued, and therefore more likely to become self-leaders.
#2 Invest in Wellbeing
‘Wellness’ & ‘wellbeing’ have become trendy, ‘grammable buzzwords that involve scenes of luscious bubble baths, face-masks, massages and meditation. While we’re always up for a massage, Laurie tells us about the importance of investing in the three, more impactful & practical, pillars of wellbeing - physical, emotional and financial.
Investing in physical wellbeing is particularly important for frontline teams. Working in demanding conditions (particularly with COVID) and dealing with customers on a daily basis can be tiring, so it’s important that healthy physical wellbeing is not overlooked. A good place to start is to think about a few basic human needs: Good sleep, healthy nutritious meals, regular breaks and exercise.
Emotional wellbeing is about providing a space for your frontline employees where they feel safe to be open. This includes implementing a process for workers to raise issues around harassment or bullying, providing counseling services to employees, or workplace support groups. Just as important are regular check-ins between managers and employees where work-related and personal issues can be discussed.
Finally, Laurie stresses the importance of investing in financial wellbeing. We know about the importance of the frontline team’s role in creating value from our interview with Rory Sutherland, so why are frontline employees oftn not paid accordingly for that responsibility (and to help them realise their worth to the company)?
When you invest in physical, emotional and financial wellbeing for your employee’s, you create an engaged and motivated team who are healthy, happy and comfortable at work.
#3 Continuous Learning
When people stop learning, they lose curiosity, motivation and then ultimately become disengaged — which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid!
Learning is rewarding. It broadens one’s horizons, encourages self-development and positively impacts the output of an organisation. According to Laurie, businesses that fail to invest in continuous learning fail all-together.
Laurie recommends investing in tools and technology platforms that assist in frontline employee learning.
As well as coaching tools and technology, activities such as role playing, individual assignments, group training, workplace practice and peer-to-peer learning are all valuable exercises that may also help to keep frontline teams engaged.
#4 Encourage Risk Taking
“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” – Denis Waitley
It might sound like the very opposite of what a business should do, but creating an environment where calculated risk taking is encouraged is a key part in building an engaged and motivated team. If your team is scared of failing, they’ll become stagnant and reticent in their thinking, which leads to disengagement.
While it’s important to reinforce that failure is okay, we can also teach teams to de-risk and ‘remove the element of failure, or at least drive it down’. Laurie shares an exercise called the “pre-mortem”:
- Think of an task that your frontline team would fail at.
Not might fail, but would fail.
- Set a timer for 60 seconds, and write down all the ways the task will fail.
- Observe your notes — this is your roadmap to success.
Address these points, teach on these points and work to mitigate the risk involved.
Ask your teams to complete this exercise before implementing a plan. According to Dr Gary Klien - completing a pre-mortem improves your chances of success by over 30%.
Focussing on your people
It’s time to fill up your buckets and engage the team - foster an environment where self-leadership is encouraged, invest in physical, emotional and financial wellbeing, make time for continuous learning with technology tools and platforms, and encourage your team to take calculated risks.
Laurie concludes her presentation by stressing that with investment in these four buckets, you’ll improve the lives of your workers as human beings first and, as a result, the livelihood of your team.
Subsequently, they become better, more engaged workers while simultaneously improving the output of your organization.
It’s a win/win for all.