According to a new study commissioned by WorkJam, the world’s leading digital frontline workplace, 63% of retail companies are currently operating with a frontline employee deficit, but only 8% of them plan to invest in improving the frontline experience in the next 12 months to help address their labour shortages.
The study is the first global survey covering the frontline employee experience across industries that include retail, hospitality, restaurants, travel, manufacturing and healthcare. Conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of WorkJam, the survey polled 502 business decision-makers at some of the world’s largest employers of frontline workers.
The WorkJam study also found that 80% of decision-makers across industries and geographies want to leverage technology to improve the frontline experience, but struggle with prioritizing digital investments. In fact, 71% of all leaders surveyed worry that investment in technology that improves processes and efficiency is taking precedence over tech that ultimately creates a better frontline employee experience.
“Focusing on the frontline employee experience is key to achieving business goals, including growing revenue, engaging and retaining associates, increasing efficiency and ultimately delivering an excellent customer experience,” said Steven Kramer, CEO of WorkJam. “This survey shows that business decision makers across retail and many other industries want to improve the frontline experience through digital innovation—and understand that doing so is key to their overall business success—but are struggling to prioritize investments in technology that empowers frontline workers and makes their daily work lives significantly better.”
Employee-led rejection of frontline work norms and increased churn have prompted a new focus on the frontline experience: Nearly three quarters (74%) of decision-makers across industries say frontline employees are rejecting work conditions that went unchallenged just two years ago and 80% say frontline turnover has increased, challenging companies to maintain standards and deliver a positive customer experience.
Improving the frontline employee experience is a priority, but investment in it often takes a back seat to other business goals: Across sectors, 92% of survey respondents identified the frontline experience as important to achieving their organizational goals in the next year, but only 36% ranked improving it as one of their top three operational goals and only 9% ranked it as their top goal.
Within retail specifically, 73% of decision-makers say digital transformation initiatives have not yet reached the frontline: Retailers need to provide the right digital tools to their frontline associates—not just to corporate and HQ staffs—to ensure workers are empowered, engaged and happy and to improve operational efficiency and revenues.
Better communication and professional development opportunities are just as important to frontline employees as salary and more flexible scheduling: Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) decision-makers say frontline employees expect more flexibility in scheduling than they did two years ago, but better and more diverse forms of communication with leadership are also priorities for frontline employees, according to Forrester interviews.
Information and applications frontline workers need are typically siloed and inefficient: The majority of frontline employees have to use far too many resources and channels to access company materials and communications, with 62% of companies surveyed currently using four to six different frontline employee applications when a single app would be more convenient, efficient and easy to use for staff.