It's critical that HR and operations partner rather than work separately if frontline workers are to be successfully retained, says Rachel Bates, chief revenue officer at WorkStep.
Retaining employees on the company’s frontline begins at the hiring stage, Bates says. Talent acquisition typically is done through an organization’s human resources department, and its function is not a matter of bringing in just anyone, but the right people to begin with.
“It’s thinking about setting realistic job expectations, thinking about recruiting a diverse workforce, thinking about how we make sure that we get people who know all about our benefits and career paths and opportunities to grow within the company,” Bates says. “That all starts with the HR and talent acquisition team.”
Quite often the HR department is responsible not just for onboarding but for employee engagement as well. Annual surveys of employees, typically done once a year, is something that usually works well with desk-based workers, but it can be quite a bit different for frontline workers, including “people who might not be at a desk, who might not speak English, who might not be trusting in terms of the information that they're sharing. So there's a lot that HR can do to support frontline workers and operations teams.”
Today, there are many “gig workers” or those who demand great flexibility in the hours and days they want to work. HR needs to work with their scheduling.
“Safety is a huge issue on the floor,” Bates says. “If people don't feel safe in the environment, perhaps because they don't have the right equipment to wear, gloves are worn out, or forklift truck drivers are driving too fast, then those are things that need to be addressed immediately. They know they have options, and they will go work somewhere else.”
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