Learning & Development

Frontline Industries Are Demanding Change in 2024

In 2023, frontline workers witnessed several milestones that sparked significant change within their work environments and everyday lives. With increased labor movements, we saw a surge of awareness and advocacy for employees on the frontline that influenced many organizations to redirect their focus toward workplace reform and improving working conditions. As we reflect on 2023 and move forward this year, we are faced with the question of how we can build upon this momentum to ensure lasting positive change for frontline workers.

Addressing the growing disconnect between managers and their frontline employees is one of the most prominent areas demanding improvement for the frontline in 2024. Beekeeper’s 2024 Frontline Workforce Pulse Report surveyed 8,000 deskless workers, which identified stressors, motivators, and the reasoning behind job transitions for both frontline employees and managers. 52% of frontline workers in the US changed jobs at least once, citing better pay as the leading reason. Frontline managers, on the other hand, had a 49% job transition rate, with better work/life balance being the primary motivator. The data reinforces the growing divide between frontline managers and frontline employees.

To help close the frontline disconnect there are a few trends that can help bridge the gap between management and employees this year.

AI in The Frontline

As our digital landscape continues to evolve in 2024, new technological advancements will play a pivotal role in reshaping various industries. Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) hold the promise of revolutionizing sectors across the board, from healthcare and retail to manufacturing and beyond. Introducing AI into the frontline can enhance efficiency and streamline processes, but it is important to recognize that there is an unease among frontline workers regarding the potential displacement of traditional roles and the upskilling that can be required in order to adapt to these advancements in technology. It is understandable why frontline workers might be apprehensive about the introduction of AI to the frontline, but there is nothing to fear. I believe that AI is a tool and it will help empower the frontline, not replace it.

For example, AI has the potential to enhance frontline workers’ day-to-day lives by optimizing shift coordination, language translations, direct communication with management and streamlining safety procedures. The results will improve frontline workers’ workflow by automating many of their mundane tasks and allowing them to focus on their key human-centric responsibilities. Overall, this will help companies boost productivity and, in effect, help increase their bottom lines.

For many companies, there is an underlying disconnect between employees and management which stems from leaders fundamentally not understanding the needs of or communicating with their deskless workers. And how could they? Many still use old-fashioned systems that rob managers of insight into their workers’ day-to-day realities.

In 2024, we expect to see more organizations establish modern, effective ways to connect with workers to be more prepared to respond to and anticipate their needs. To evolve, companies will need to embrace mobile-friendly, multi-lingual, digital solutions to communicate, engage, and build trust with their frontline workforce and AI will play a big part in facilitating it.

Labor Movements and Prioritizing Employee Safety

For frontline workers, the rise of labor movements in 2023 signified a step towards fighting for more control and empowerment within the workplace. These labor movements reflect a collective effort among frontline workers to advocate for better working conditions and a stronger voice in decision-making processes within their organizations. If things do not change, then we can continue to expect to see labor shortages throughout the new year.

Year after year, unsafe working conditions remain a prominent concern for companies employing frontline workers. In fact, according to a study conducted by The U.S. Department of Labor, fall protection and hazardous communication were the most frequently cited standards following inspections of worksites, totaling almost 10,000 violations. Because of this, many frontline workers feel unsafe at their jobs.

In 2024, it is imperative that managers recognize the concerns of their frontline workforce regarding safety and actively provide safe working conditions for their employees. One way managers can do this is by investing in a frontline success system that supports two-way communication. By flattening the communication hierarchy, company leaders will be able to directly address issues brought to them by their workers, and when it pertains to their safety the importance of having direct access to a support system that can step in to aid them when needed cannot be understated.

Another way managers can prioritize their workers’ safety in 2024 is by embracing the automation and digitalization of their maintenance and inspection processes. By streamlining these processes and moving away from the traditional paper method of maintenance and inspection, managers will be able to reduce the frequency of workplace accidents. Not only will this allow for instant communication company-wide on safety issues and concerns, but this also provides a chain of communication that reduces the time between incident detection and incident resolution.

Action Above All

To sustain the progress and momentum frontline workers fought for in 2023, frontline managers must recognize and address the prominent disconnect between themselves and their employees in 2024. As AI gains prominence in frontline industries, companies do not need to shy away from implementing these technological advancements into their frontline. However, transparency, managerial visibility and communication with your frontline when adopting these AI-powered performance systems are pivotal in ensuring AI is introduced correctly. Only then can managers and deskless workers truly reap the benefits of AI. This will give managers the ability to address the root causes of the frontline disconnect and create a more positive employee experience in doing so.

The disconnect between safety and security is one that leaders need to address to demonstrate they understand workers’ priorities and share their commitment to providing a work environment where all can flourish. Recognizing the collective responsibility held by frontline managers and employers is the first step towards bridging the prominent disconnect on the frontline in 2024.

When asked what limits employee productivity, 52% of office managers chose low morale as the leading contributing cause to limited productivity. In reality, survey results revealed that only 15% of frontline employees chose low morale as a leading cause of limited productivity, according to a recent Beekeeper survey. When initiates don’t align to frontline workers’ top priorities there is a greater chance employees will become disengaged or begin looking for another job. By reaffirming their commitment to protecting, advocating for and supporting frontline employees, managers can pave the way for a prosperous year in 2024.

Cris Grossmann is CEO and co-founder, Beekeeper.

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