The C-suite faces the struggle of wanting to be a part of every piece of the business, but it’s not always that realistic as a company grows. You eventually learn to hire people you trust to manage portions of the business that you can no longer spend time running. And while this is an efficient way to run things smoothly, it can also create opportunities to divide your workforce. The frontline workforce – defined as the group of workers who interact directly with customers or the product production process, like a delivery person or warehouse worker – will feel this more than anyone.
We see it all the time at Wonolo. Because the frontline workforce is often one that works flexible, part-time, or contracted hours, they’re not always seen as part of the team or recognized for their accomplishments. Frontline workers face a unique challenge at work: visibility. While their roles are critical to the health of the business, often their work is overlooked by the executive team.
The problem is, frontline workers do so much for your business; they’re the ones making everything ideated in the boardroom a reality. As HR leaders, we have the opportunity to help close this gap by implementing practices and programs to keep everyone in the company – from all levels – feeling engaged and part of the community.
Take a frontline shift
The first step in bettering the lines of communication between senior business leaders and the frontline workforce is to increase visibility and understanding. Senior leaders understand the importance of frontline workers in warehouses or delivery trucks, but few make an effort to understand what the day-to-day job entails. Have your senior leaders ever worked a shift in those jobs?
At Wonolo, we require all full-time employees at our company to do a job on the platform. That might mean serving food with a catering company, packing boxes in an e-commerce site fulfillment center, working security at a concert or supporting administrative duties at a local business.
As HR leaders, we have the responsibility to lead with empathy. We can change the way our teammates view one another, opening up the workplace to more understanding and working towards a common goal.
Get to know people, not functions
It’s all too common for HR leaders – and companies in general – to separate teammates by job function. For us, it’s a way to organize our thoughts, like “What is the accounting department doing this week? How can I best support the sales team’s needs?” But this thinking can seep into the way the office operates.
By acknowledging there will always be some separation, the HR team can start to work toward breaking down the unnecessary silos that exist in the workplace. That might look like team-building events, happy hours, or offsites that encourage mixing between lines of business.
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Even seating arrangements can break down those silos. Sitting together in the same office space can foster more personal relationships and a better understanding of one another’s jobs.
Celebrate frontline wins
Think about the last time your office celebrated someone doing a particularly good job. Was it a cheer for the sales team or the delivery workers? Especially for company leaders, it’s easy to get stuck on the big wins in the more visible department. A lot of teams celebrate the big sales victories because it’s a clear way the company is moving the needle.
However, without a frontline workforce making sure products get packaged and delivered to clients on time, customer service would suffer and ultimately impact the bottom line. At Wonolo, we host daily stand-ups across all our office locations. These meetings help us to celebrate one another’s victories as our own. Not only does it increase visibility among teams, but it spreads the love, so no one feels like their role is more or less important than others.
So what can we take away from the frontline workforce? As HR leaders, we are often responsible for cultivating a positive company culture and acting as a support system for growing pains that many fast-growing companies experience. But taking a few simple steps towards uniting employees of all levels will increase visibility and unite the team under one common goal. Soon, everyone is fighting for one another, not just for themselves. This practice has helped Wonolo find a robust set of values that everyone believes. Not only do we have an incredible company culture, but this shift in mindset has helped us to understand our customers better.
Every company that employs a frontline workforce should recognize the value it adds and make a stronger effort to integrate these workers into your broader company culture.