Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel motivated and committed to your company. And in today’s organizations, employee engagement is too often overlooked — especially in those with a frontline presence.
Perhaps that’s no surprise, though. After all, there isn’t one perfect solution to engaging employees. And the challenge is even more acute for frontline leaders. It’s easy to feel lost and unsure how to engage hybrid employees or those who spend their days traveling, based across multiple sites, or out ‘in the field’.
But organizations have to embrace the challenge of employee engagement and learn the best practices. Because when they don’t, they’re likely to experience:
- High employee turnover
- Low levels of employee satisfaction
- Poor team performance
- Poor customer experience
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace for 2023, just 23% of people are engaged at work. So what can a company do to raise that figure and inspire its workforce?
Here we’ll take a look at employee engagement strategy — and the employee engagement best practices that every company should adopt.
Employee engagement strategies: understanding the challenge
Employee disengagement is a widespread issue in both desk-based and frontline businesses alike. Employee engagement scores are likely to be low because of:
- Poor internal communication - A lack of transparency and communication within a business leaves employees feeling disconnected from their teams and leaders. Internal communication can suffer when leaders and managers are overworked, when internal comms are not made a priority, or when the right tooling isn’t in place to make communication easy.
- Not having the right technology - Technology plays a significant role in employee engagement, both in terms of keeping employees engaged (giving them access to the tools they need to succeed in their roles and to communicate with each other) and in measuring engagement today and in the future. This tends to be a bigger problem in frontline businesses as most technology has been built for desk-based teams first.
- Leaders not leading by example - Employee engagement is the outcome of a positive employee experience, and positive employee experience is every leader’s responsibility.
- Poor work-life balance - Stress and burnout are huge issues in many industries. When employees aren’t healthy, they are typically not engaged.
Specific employee engagement challenges for frontline organizations
Any business looking to get the most from its workforce has to stay up-to-date with employee engagement best practices. But for leaders in frontline organizations, the stakes are particularly high.
Frontline teams already experience a high rate of employee turnover. It’s fair to say that frontline employees are dissatisfied with their employee experience… and for several different reasons. McKinsey’s EX Factor framework breaks this employee experience down into nine elements across three categories: social experience, work experience, and organization experience.
- Frontline workers can suffer socially in their roles. They won’t spend much time at HQ, if any. And the nature of their work means they spend their days in different locations, often working in isolation. This makes it hard to maintain a sense of community and engagement, and it risks frontline employees feeling on the margins of your organization, particularly in comparison to their desk-based peers.
- The frontline work experience can be less flexible and rewarding compared to desk-based employees too. Few frontline employees are given development opportunities (despite wanting them) and many fail to get the recognition they deserve. On a more practical level, swapping shifts can be inefficient at best, and impossible at worst.
- Technology is arguably the biggest challenge to resolve in the frontline organization experience. Frontline workers waste significant amounts of time jumping from one not-fit-for-purpose platform to another, and logging in and out of multiple systems in one single shift. It’s no surprise that 52% of frontline workers say they’d leave their job because of the poor quality tech tools provided.
Employee disengagement can have serious consequences in frontline sectors. It can lead to health and safety risks, poor patient outcomes or customer care, and compliance issues — ultimately causing a frontline organization to fail.
So how can frontline businesses turn it around?
6 best practices for employee engagement in 2023
Now that we’ve set the stage for why employee engagement is essential for high-performing businesses, it’s time to look at the employee engagement best practices that every strategy should include.
Each of the best practice recommendations we’ve included here is based on the 5Cs of employee engagement.
The 5Cs of employee engagement
- Care — show employees you care about their wellbeing as well as the company’s bottom line
- Connect — build relationships and foster a sense of togetherness
- Coach — guide your employees to be the best they can be
- Contribute — encourage employees to contribute their thoughts and ideas
- Congratulate — celebrate employees for the great work they do
So read on to discover how to implement the 5Cs and adopt employee engagement best practices within your organization.
1. Create a supportive environment
We’re starting with the first of the 5Cs: care.
When you show genuine care for your employees and their wellbeing, you foster loyalty, trust, and a positive work environment. All of this works wonders for your employee engagement metrics.
44% of employees experience a lot of stress at work. In supportive environments, employers know how to recognize and respond to stress and burnout in frontline workers. But they also do their best to prevent stress and burnout from occurring in the first place.
Supportive employers offer health and wellness programs, mental health support, flexible work arrangements, and professional development opportunities. They maintain strong channels of communication and show employees that they value their work and their input. Employees know who to turn to if they have a problem or need some help.
In 2023, this still stands — but the way companies care for their employees is evolving. And digital tools are becoming a more important part of the picture.
Today’s employees expect their workplace tech solutions to be of the same (or better) quality as the tools they use in their personal lives. Using technology at work should be as simple as sending a direct message or scrolling through a newsfeed for company announcements. When workplace systems aren’t intuitive and familiar, it can add stress to the working day and cause employees to feel burdened and disengaged.
By adopting a digital approach, companies can also use technology to ensure all workers — including those who don’t sit at their desktop computer all day — feel cared for and supported by the company.
With a super-app like Blink, you can send important communications straight to every worker’s fingertips. You can point them in the direction of health and wellbeing resources, and reinforce the communication that helps build a strong company culture.
2. Foster meaningful relationships
Humans are naturally social. Neuroscientists now know that we crave social connection in the same way we crave food when we’re hungry.
The best workplaces satisfy this craving. They provide a network of strong relationships and connections.
As well as helping frontline workers to feel like part of the company team, connection brings business benefits too. McKinsey reports that well-connected teams see a productivity increase of 20-25%. Employees are more collaborative. Team building becomes easier. And employees are more connected to the wider aims of your organization.
When developing employee engagement best practices, you have to consider two different types of connections within your workplace.
What stops a worker from moving from one hospital to another? Or one bus company to another? More often than not, a company’s values, culture, and sense of community play an important role in people choosing to stay — or to leave.
Dispersed workers need regular connection with their co-workers. And leaders need to provide tools that help team members from across the organization feel part of the company community.
Meaningful relationships are built on two-way communication, and they involve people from all levels of an organization.
When companies start a conversation with employees, frontline teams get to hear from their leaders and vice versa.
And when companies use the right tools, this conversation can continue even when a worker is on the road or based over multiple sites
Open communication is the foundation of company connection. And when your team is dispersed, this requires a tailored approach. Here are some ideas to inform your strategy.
Look beyond the intranet
The company intranet may be the traditional forum for company communications, but this type of platform is best suited to top-down news and one-way conversations. It’s outdated and it doesn’t live up to the digital experience employees expect in 2023.
If the company intranet is the only communication tool you’re currently using, it’s time for a refresh. New tools will make it much easier for you to build a company-wide community.
A mobile-first application allows you to meet your employees where they are. This is particularly important for frontline organizations where the vast majority of the workforce will rarely (or never) have access to a desktop device in order to send and receive important communications.
Are you still sending paper paystubs, circulating employee surveys via the mail, or relying on paper notices on walls and doors in your frontline environment? Then it’s time to go mobile.
Use a single platform
It gets confusing when employees have to look in lots of different places for company communications. Emails from leadership. WhatsApp messages from co-workers. The office noticeboard for the latest team building event.
Make life easier for everyone by choosing a digital solution that provides a home for all company communication. Blink facilitates employee connection via private chat, group chat, and a social-media-style news feed, so every employee can stay connected, even when they’re on the go.
You can go one step further too, using your company communication tool as an all-through-one platform for the tools and resources employees need to succeed.
By providing all of the resources and tools your employees need in one place, it will be much easier for them to adopt. This will make leadership even more confident that their messages are being received by everyone in the organization, fostering the two-way communication that is needed.
3. Invest in employee development
According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, there are five main reasons why people decide to leave a job. Three of these five reasons are to do with lack of growth:
- I want to experience new challenges
- I want to advance in my career
- I want learning and development opportunities
This is why employee development is another employee engagement best practice. Employee development makes staff more loyal and engaged. And it’s not just for office-based teams. Frontline employees want the chance to learn new skills and earn promotions, too.
70% of frontline workers surveyed by McKinsey said they had applied for career advancement opportunities. But the McKinsey survey also revealed that 65% of frontline employees were unaware or unsure of how to achieve advancement.
To keep employees engaged, companies have to provide equal access to learning and career opportunities, such as training courses or mentorship programs.
Employee development case studies
Let’s take a look at two companies that are investing heavily in employee development.
Amazon is keeping a close eye on the future. Through courses and apprenticeships, the company is helping employees to develop technical expertise. New tech skills will benefit both employees and the company over the years to come.
But Amazon isn’t just offering L&D in areas closely linked to business goals. In 2021, the company committed an incredible $1.2 billion to employee L&D. This fund covers all sorts of education.
Frontline employees can use it to pay for college tuition fees. It’s also funding high school completion and English as a Second Language (ESL) certifications.
While these courses may not provide direct benefit to Amazon, the employee loyalty and engagement it fosters are well worth the investment.
Employee L&D is fun and digital at McDonald’s. The company created a cash register training program that looked and felt like a computer game. Learners had to respond to customer orders under timed conditions, they could use lifelines and win bonuses as they did their best to keep customers happy.
This gamification was successful. A high proportion of employees engaged with the training, and McDonald’s reduced the time it took to serve each customer while increasing the average paycheck
4. Encourage employee contributions
Employees feel a greater sense of belonging and are more motivated to succeed when they are empowered to contribute their ideas, skills, and expertise.
And the company benefits too.
You avoid working in an echo chamber because you get to hear a wide variety of perspectives. You develop leadership skills among your workforce, which can help with succession planning. And you encourage employees to take greater ownership of their work and results.
A frontline business can encourage employee contributions by:
- Providing a dedicated platform for idea sharing - It’s not always easy for frontline workers to share their ideas: where and when they work can both give them little access to office-based decision-makers. An ‘open door’ policy doesn’t work for frontline employees who work the night shift or spend their day on the road. You need to use technology to recreate the experience in an equitable way. With a dedicated employee voice platform, all staff can offer their contributions. And managers can give those valuable contributions the recognition they deserve.
- Seek feedback from employees - Surveys are another great way to make employees feel heard. And they’re an easy way for you to ask for employee opinion. Regularly request employee feedback on the topics that matter most to your employees and your organization.
- Act on employee input - However you choose to receive employee input, be sure to act upon it. Employees only have faith in the process if they feel listened to. So keep employees in the loop. Tell them that you’ve received their contributions. Tell them what plan of action you’ve put in place, giving realistic timescales where possible. And once your plan has produced results, share these with employees too.
5. Recognize employee achievements
Recognizing and celebrating employee achievements is another of our employee engagement best practices. Research from Deloitte shows that an employee recognition program can increase employee engagement, productivity, and performance by 14%.
The first thing businesses tend to think of when they think of recognition is monetary reward. And of course, employees want to be paid fairly for the work that they do. You can use pay rises and financial bonuses to recognize a job well done.
But monetary rewards aren’t the only way to recognize employee achievement. McKinsey found that up to 55% of employee engagement is driven by non-monetary recognition. And according to Deloitte, a simple “thank you” goes a surprisingly long way.
This employee engagement best practice is great news for budget-holders, as very few businesses have unlimited reward budgets at their disposal! Make use of these non-monetary ways to celebrate employee contributions: offer verbal praise, celebrate employees in team meetings, or reward a team's success by buying them lunch.
To get the most out of non-monetary benefits:
- Get to know employee recognition preferences – and then tailor rewards to teams and individuals wherever possible
- Make it equal – all employees, whether they work in the office or on the frontline, should have equal opportunity for praise and reward
Encourage peer-to-peer employee recognition – it’s not just down to leaders and managers, so allow coworkers to highlight and celebrate each other’s good work
With Blink’s recognition feature, you can shout out employee successes, congratulate someone on a promotion, celebrate team milestones, and even wish your coworkers a happy birthday, all within the company newsfeed.
You can decide who sees your recognition post and have the option to create personalized messages too. See our recognition feature in action.
6. Analyze & optimize
A good employee engagement strategy is always evolving. Once you’ve adopted the 5Cs and established employee engagement best practices, it’s time to analyze and optimize the process.
There are various metrics you can track to establish the success of your employee engagement program. These include statistics on employee retention, sick leave, satisfaction, and employee engagement tool usage. You can also get insight from staff surveys.
Bear in mind, if you’re to make good use of the available data, you have to understand two things. First, your metrics before you made changes to your employee engagement program. And second, what employee engagement goals do you want to achieve?
For example, you may decide that you want to improve your employee retention rate from 60% to 80% within the next quarter. Or that you plan to outshine your competitors by beating the industry average for staff satisfaction within the next year.
By setting goals and regularly analyzing your employee engagement metrics, you get to see the progress you’re making. And you get to make changes according to insight, rather than anecdotal evidence or gut instinct.
The end result? An employee engagement program that is continually improving, better meeting the needs of your frontline team and your business with each passing day.
This is another part of the employee engagement process that Blink can help with. Our app comes with powerful frontline analytics. Get data on employee engagement, retention, and satisfaction. Launch in-app surveys to find out how your employees are feeling. And hone your communication style with insight into your most popular posts and topics.
What to take away from these employee engagement best practices
When you’re managing a frontline team, employee engagement strategies require a little extra thought and attention.
Finding ways to connect your team, offer training opportunities, get employee input, and show recognition can be tricky when your teams aren’t spending their days together in the same office environment.
But when you manage to incorporate the 5Cs into your employee engagement best practice, you can count on numerous benefits: improved employee retention, engaged employees productivity, and performance, to name just a few.
Go North West, a transport company in the north of England, used Blink to improve communication between office-based staff and drivers. The app drove employee engagement and moved the company on lightyears from the office noticeboard full of old news that they’d been using previously.
Take a look at the full Go North West case study here.
Employee Engagement Best Practices FAQs
What are best practices in employee engagement?
Some best practices in employee engagement include creating a culture of open communication, making sure employees feel heard and understood, recognizing employee achievements, offering flexible working opportunities, and analyzing and optimizing regularly. By implementing these best practices, alongside always providing the right employee tech, you will be well on your way to improved employee engagement.
What are the 5 C's of employee engagement?
The 5 C's of employee engagement are: care, connect, coach, contribute, and congratulate.
Together, these five areas can help you show employees that you care about their wellbeing, build relationships and foster a sense of togetherness, encourage employees to contribute their thoughts and ideas, and better celebrate employees for the great work they do. This all leads to improved employee engagement.
What factors improve employee engagement?
There are a number of factors that can improve employee engagement, such as open communication and feedback, recognizing employee achievements, providing engaging tech solutions for employees, and creating an inclusive culture.
Integrating these factors into your business processes will help you create a positive workplace environment that encourages employee engagement.