HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

How to Protect Frontline Workers Against Rising Workplace Violence

While the stress of the holiday season has passed, many frontline workers still face challenging situations during each shift—and it’s getting worse. A  recent survey found that 70% of frontline workers think customers have become more hostile, with more than half (59%) experiencing conflicts daily.

Despite the uptick in hostile situations, more than a third of frontline workers (37%) lack the necessary training to handle these situations. Without the proper training to protect themselves, employees—and sometimes customers—are left in a vulnerable or potentially dangerous situation by the very organizations that are responsible for their safety. It’s easy to see how employees could feel uneasy and unprotected in the workplace, which can lead to higher stress levels and even a major reason they quit altogether.

It’s up to frontline organizations to protect their employees and ensure they have the necessary training to do their job safely. How? With sound strategies and tactical, practical ways to create safer work environments.

Plan for the Worst to Get the Best Outcomes

Business leaders looking to provide their teams with the right training will want to first identify the gaps and areas where it’s most needed. Determining the work safety topics that require immediate attention will help you remain focused on creating a plan that zeroes in on what’s the most critical. Then, it’s important to include step-by-step directions for various situations and offer solutions to handle more severe incidents. Individuals should have specific roles assigned to them to help coordinate a response, and all employees should be aware of their responsibilities and whom they should turn to in any situation, regardless of who is working that day. The plan should also be reinforced frequently so employees have it top of mind in the event of an emergency.

It’s equally important that companies update their plans to reflect any industry changes. With a rise in gun violence across the United States, companies must ensure their plans include outlines for how to handle these difficult situations. By accounting for as many scenarios as possible, frontline organizations can ensure workers are properly equipped to respond to challenging workplace events.

Encourage Communication

Organizations should also encourage employees to report instances of a hostile work environment, but the truth is that some are still hesitant for fear of retaliation. Recent research revealed that 14% of frontline workers don’t report workplace incidents because they’re not comfortable doing so, and this is more than a little concerning. Leaders need to make it clear to employees that they are supported if they choose to reveal any unwanted behaviors. This will help build confidence and a sense of safety at work while making it clear that not only are they being heard, but their voices also matter. Along with creating a safer workspace, this helps boost trust and morale and increases employee retention.

Increase Quantity and Quality of Training

As part of regular job training, companies should include learning modules focused on safety and wellness topics. The past few years have put a tremendous strain on frontline workers, with many reporting higher levels of stress or burnout. The added stressors of rising workplace violence only compound an already historical amount of instability, and that needs to be carefully considered and managed. Employees should receive training on topics that will help them navigate today’s workplace, like conflict resolution and interpersonal communication skills. The front line is unique in that it brings together workers of all ages and life stages, so including these skills in training sessions will level the playing field and ensure all employees are equally informed and adequately enabled.

Companies should also offer additional mental health resources to help employees manage stress levels. It’s no surprise that training employees on ways to reduce their stress can lead to more engaged and happier staff. (Quiet quitting, anyone?) Making mental health resources available—especially crucial after workplace hostility or violence—also ensures people feel supported and encouraged to get the help they need. And investing in the well-being of frontline employees helps increase retention in an industry that has historically struggled with high turnover.

With a majority of retailers reporting increased incidents of violence over the past year, it’s essential that frontline organizations of all types protect their employees. Prioritizing staff safety and preparedness by creating and enforcing a plan of action, encouraging open lines of communication, and offering wellness training provide workers with the tools they need to navigate challenging scenarios.

Carol Leaman is CEO at Axonify.

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