18 employee engagement activities for frontline teams

Organize employee engagement activities your frontline workers will want to get involved with. We’ve put together a list of ideas to fit any budget and schedule.

What we'll cover

Frontline employee engagement is no easy task. Your frontline employees work varying shift patterns and spend limited time at head office. They don’t tend to get much downtime during their working hours. And they aren’t always kept in the loop when it comes to company comms.  

These obstacles get in the way when you’re trying to connect frontline workers to company culture — and each other. And it’s why standard team-building activities usually fall short.

To make a success of your employee engagement strategy, you have to tailor activities to your deskless workforce. Otherwise, you risk disengagement, plus the productivity and retention issues that go with it. 

That’s why we’ve created this list of 18 employee engagement activities. These ideas are suited to busy frontline workers and their schedules. They’re designed to boost engagement and offer meaningful benefits to your employees.

Why you should care about employee engagement

Employee engagement is particularly important for frontline teams. That’s because deskless employees are less engaged and trusting of leadership than their desk-based peers. They’re also more likely to experience burnout.

This can lead to lower levels of productivity. It can also cause increased staff turnover rates, which already tend to be pretty high in frontline organizations. 

Employee engagement activities, like the ones we’ve included below, help frontline employees feel more connected to their company, role, and co-workers.

And, according to Gallup, improving your employee engagement rates can lead to a range of business benefits. Besides increased productivity and employee retention, these benefits include: 

  • A reduction in safety incidents
  • A decrease in absenteeism
  • An increase in customer loyalty
  • An increase in profitability

Employee engagement is good for employees — and it’s good for business. So let’s take a look at the activities that will help make it happen.

18 employee engagement activities (that work for a frontline workforce)

To engage your frontline workforce, you can incorporate any of the following employee engagement activities into your work days:

1. Engage with employees from day one

2. Celebrate employee milestones and contributions

3. Incentivize goals

4. Create a mentorship program

5. Offer perks that boost employee wellbeing

6. Give regular feedback

7. Encourage group chat

8. Provide shift swap tools

9. Plan a money management month

10. Launch a poll

11. Create online communities

12. Offer professional development opportunities

13. Launch a competition

14. Use video tools

15. Organize a volunteering day

16. Hand the mic to your leaders

17. Run Lunch and Learn sessions

18. Measure employee engagement

Team engagement ideas for frontline workers are different than for other workers. With their variable schedules, you can’t arrange lunch dates or after-work get-togethers. 

Here are a few employee engagement initiatives your frontline workers can benefit from.  

1. Engage with employees from day one

Start strong with comprehensive onboarding for new employees. 30% of new employees leave a job within the first 90 days of being hired.  So the onboarding experience is a key driver of employee engagement.

You can start with employee engagement activities like:

  • Introducing new co-workers (digitally if it’s not possible to introduce everyone in person)
  • Supporting new hires to login and familiarize themselves with your engagement tech tools
  • Sharing a library of online resources that explain the company, their role, and company culture
  • Assigning them a buddy or mentor

New hires need regular guidance, especially from managers. So don’t assume your workers are done onboarding after a few days or weeks. Instead, design a process that lasts for at least 90 days.

2. Celebrate employee milestones and contributions

Employee recognition improves engagement. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and valued by their employer.

So make recognition a regular feature on your company intranet or newsletter. Celebrate birthdays, volunteer work, and project milestones. Recognize the hard work and successes of employees.

You can also encourage peer-to-peer recognition. 75% of employees say that giving recognition makes them want to stay at their current organization longer.

Get co-workers to nominate each other for awards, then hold an award ceremony. Or simply get them to appreciate each other by sending a message on the company news feed.

3. Incentivize goals

Gamify the work environment by offering rewards in return for meeting goals. When employees perform well and meet targets, give them a gift you know they’ll like. Company rewards can include gift cards, discounts, cash prizes, an extra day of paid vacation, or the option to give a charitable donation.

But don’t dive right in. Before you announce your reward program, it’s a good idea to survey employees. Ask them which rewards they’d prefer so you can be sure that workers will be motivated by the prizes on offer.

4. Create a mentorship program

Do you want your employees to engage with each other, learn valuable skills, and help each other at the same time? Try rolling out a mentorship program.

Assign frontline workers a mentor within your organization. You can pair people from different departments and different levels of the company.

Then, set a regular schedule of mentor meet-ups. Mentors and mentees might like to conduct meetings online to better suit their work schedules.  

Also, offer guidance on how constructive meetings should be run. The aim is for mentees to set workplace goals and come up with a plan for achieving them.

5. Offer perks that boost employee wellbeing

A healthy worker is a productive worker. So encourage fun runs, offer free healthy snacks, and provide discount gym memberships.

Also, try to provide flexible scheduling when possible to give employees a better work-life balance. You’ll reduce employee stress and their risk of burnout.

To ensure frontline employees can access wellbeing activities, you can use a wellbeing app. Via this type of tool, you can provide employee engagement activities. Things like mindfulness and meditation sessions, nutrition planning, and health tracking, all via an employee’s mobile device.  

6. Give regular feedback

Gallup research shows that 80% of employees who say they’ve received meaningful feedback in the past week are fully engaged in their work.

So schedule activities where employees receive regular feedback from managers. Make it constructive and useful for employees, so it’s not an appointment they dread.  

Also, take a few hours each week to run an online open-door session. This is a time when employees can meet with managers digitally to ask questions and express any concerns.

7. Use the company news feed

A user-friendly employee app with a company news feed acts as a virtual water cooler. It’s a place where frontline workers, who may spend little time with co-workers, get to build stronger workplace relationships.

The comms team can support engagement by using the news feed to share a mix of essential and informal posts. They can announce news, celebrate birthdays, and share tips — encouraging workers to comment, like, and post.

Also, consider these engagement-boosting ideas:

  • A weekly challenge — a photo contest, a trivia quiz, or a step-count competition
  • Employee spotlight — highlight a different employee each week, describing their achievements, personal stories, and contributions
  • A survey — whether the topic is something fun or something more serious, surveys are a great way to engage your workforce
  • Health and wellness tips — share tips and articles related to physical and mental health, all suited to the demands of frontline roles

8. Provide shift swap tools

Frontline employees want greater levels of flexibility. It’s not always easy for frontline organizations to provide this when there are fixed shifts to fill.

But with shift swap tools, you make it easy for workers to achieve a little more work-life balance. They can swap shifts with co-workers without HR or managers having to get involved.

You can provide other self-serve tools, too. For example, via the Blink interface, employees can access their pay stubs, request time off, and view their shift schedules.

Automating HR tasks like this gives more control to your frontline workers and lightens the load for your HR team.

employee engagement activities like fun runs and wellness programs improve health.

9. Plan a money management month

Money worries can affect an employee’s wellbeing and their engagement with work. And employee engagement activities are most effective when they provide real value for your workers.

So plan a money management month to help employees make informed financial decisions. Use quizzes and polls to engage employees in the conversation. Challenge employees to a low or no spend day. Provide money advice over 1:1 chats or via your company resource center.

This is exactly what they’ve done at supermarket chain, Tesco, where they recognized the strain that the cost of living crisis has put on employees. In response, they introduced a range of new initiatives:

  • Skills training activities so employees develop store-wide skills and can pick up extra shifts
  • A Pay Advance scheme that allows workers to access earned pay ahead of payday
  • Personalized videos explaining to every worker how much their pension will be worth

10. Launch a poll

Polls give employees a chance to share their ideas and opinions. It’s a way to make their voices heard.

You can launch polls online, with the help of a tool like Blink Surveys. This allows you to quickly and easily find out what frontline employees are thinking about your chosen topic.

You might like to ask questions related to internal communications, company change, employee engagement, or simply the layout of the break room. Using this insight, you can make changes that make a real difference to your employees.

Just be sure to keep them updated with poll findings and your plan of action so they know that you’re really listening to what they have to say.

11. Create online communities

It’s easier to build connections with co-workers when you have something in common with one another. Online communities — based around shared interests — make it easy for frontline workers to find like-minded work friends.

So create space on your intranet for these types of communities. Perhaps you have a group that loves to run in their spare time. A gaggle of gamers. Or a bunch of bookworms. An online community helps bring these co-workers together.

12. Offer professional development opportunities

Training is a great way to improve workplace engagement. 71% of frontline workers have a strong desire for more learning opportunities at work. But a third of workers say that employers don’t invest enough in their growth.

Try to make training more accessible to your frontline workforce. Remember that it doesn’t have to take place in a classroom. You can put training resources into the palm of frontline workers’ hands with the help of the right technology.

You can offer micro-learning modules that workers can complete on mobile devices during a break. And provide fun online courses, with competitive and gamified features.

Also, remember that a lot of worker engagement can be tracked back to your managers. So ensure that managers get the employee engagement training they need, too.  

13. Launch a competition

Pit teams of employees against each other with a fun company-wide competition. For an engagement boost, link your competition to company goals and values.

For example, if you’re championing employee wellbeing, set workers a steps or fitness challenge.

If you’re focused on employee development, encourage workers to complete training modules by setting them a training challenge.

To highlight your commitment to a chosen charity, set a fundraising contest.

Alternatively, improve engagement on the company app with a quick photo caption competition.

Pick challenges that can be completed remotely, without teams having to meet up in person. Also, plan rewards for the winners and give regular updates via your comms channels to keep competitors engaged.

14. Use video tools

When you can’t meet face to face, video is the next best thing. You can film leadership updates, company events, and new product demos to give employees more insight into the organization and their roles.

Videos are a great option for town hall meetings. Post the video on your employee news feed and employees who can’t attend in person can watch the video back later.

Similarly, get new hires to film a video to introduce themselves and post it to the news feed. Their co-workers can comment on the post to say hello and help their new co-worker feel more at home.

15. Organize a volunteering day

Offering employees opportunities to volunteer is good for their wellbeing and engagement levels. You can make this activity more appealing to frontline workers by giving them paid time off to volunteer and by giving them flexibility over the days they choose.

Salesforce leads the way on this. They give employees seven business days every year to volunteer for one of the non-profit organizations that Salesforce formally supports — or one of their own choosing.

Jamie Olsen, senior director of Citizen Philanthropy at Salesforce says:

“These are the types of programs that people want and that are attracting them to companies right now. They better the community. They improve people’s happiness.”

16. Hand the mic to your leaders

According to Axios 2023 State of Workplace Communications report, 77% of leaders think the communications they share have the context employees need to do their jobs well. But only 46% of employees agree.

You can ensure everyone is on the same page by conducting a virtual Q&A session with one of your leadership team.

This type of event gives employees direct access to leadership. It bridges the gap between the frontline and head office. It also helps employees make their voices heard, which makes them feel valued and motivated.

The prospect of a Q&A can be a little daunting for leaders. But remember, a moderator can facilitate the session, reading out pre-submitted questions and managing live questions.

Also bear in mind that there are huge benefits to be gained. These include frontline insights, improved communication, and a stronger workplace culture.  

17. Run lunch and learn sessions

When employees have all the information they need to do their jobs well, they feel more engaged. So give employees access to an online library of resources, transferring any old paper documents to a digital format.

With this library, you can then run virtual Lunch and Learn sessions. This is where a group of employees watches or reads a selected resource. Afterwards, they discuss their reflections either over video call or via group messaging.

18. Measure employee engagement

The last on our list of employee engagement activities is one for your people team, not your frontline employees. And it’s a really important part of any employee engagement strategy.

Find out how you’re doing by tracking employee engagement KPIs. Track your employee net promoter score (eNPS), engagement with your intranet platform, or employee survey results.

You can then set goals and — by drilling down into the data provided by your platform analytics — find actionable areas for improvement.

Final thoughts: employee engagement activities and ideas

To make a success of frontline employee engagement, you need to:

  • Provide employee engagement activities that offer real benefits for frontline employees
  • Make these activities accessible to the frontline with the help of flexible, digital solutions
  • Combine these activities with employee engagement best practices

You then create a culture that employees can play an active part in, no matter their schedule or location. You also motivate frontline workers to engage with company culture out of choice, making time for it in their busy days.

Incorporating the activities above into your frontline workplace is much easier when you have the right technology. And an employee engagement app comes in very useful. It’s a way to put all content and communication into the palm of every employee.

By creating online spaces where employees can gather, chat, share knowledge, and connect with company culture, you extend employee engagement to your hardest-to-reach employees — those on the frontline.

An app like Blink provides features including:

  • Surveys and polls
  • A news feed and group messaging
  • An online library of resources
  • Self-service functions

Take a look at Blink’s full range of features here.

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