3 Ways to Prevent Frontline Workers from Quiet Quitting

Discussions around the concept of quiet quitting, brought on by the social media trend where workers establish boundaries at work rather than burning themselves out, have largely centered on corporate employees. Frontline workers are especially at risk of this type of disengagement.

Frontline workers might have more reason to quiet quit than their counterparts. A global survey of front-line workers across 25 industries found that the vast majority (78 percent) said customers are ruder and behave badly more frequently than five years ago. It's hard to provide service with a smile (even a virtual one) and feel content in a role when faced with disrespect and contempt.

Many employers have raised pay to attract and retain talent to compensate for this sometimes challenging work. But higher pay alone is often not enough; Boston Consulting Group found that 15 percent of front-line workers who voluntarily left their jobs for other positions since the start of the pandemic did so for more money. So, organizations need to provide other pathways to engagement and satisfaction as well. Here are three ways they can do just that:>

1. Focus on a career, not the job.

As the saying goes, it's easier to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. The same goes for front-line employees. While new hires might be lured to a new role by a higher salary, benefits, or other perks, existing employees need reasons to stay. Employers can encourage these workers to remain by showing an interest in their career paths and investing in them for the long haul.

Retail clerks, contact center agents, and others who interact with the public as brand ambassadors often become invested in their organizations' visions, missions, and purposes. This is especially important to the members of Gen Z, who are just joining the workforce.

Employers that want to retain these advocates can develop clear pathways to advance in the organization as well as provide the guidance and training to help employees move to the next level. This can be as simple as tapping a star performer to train a newly hired peer as an exercise in management or providing an agent with an aptitude for very technical issues to earn a professional certificate. Showing the path that managers, directors, and executives followed to work their way up the organization also can encourage their entry-level colleagues to view their positions as stepping stones toward rewarding careers.

2. Train for transferable skills.

Many training programs for front-line workers concentrate on the hard skills required to perform the job, such as how to navigate the contact center platform or update customer profiles in the CRM system. While some of these skills might be transferable to other roles within the organization or across different employers, many are relevant only to the job at hand.

Soft skills, such as active listening, creative problem solving, and demonstrating empathy, are equally important for front-line workers but are often considered innate qualities that cannot be taught. Though that might be true to some degree, training can polish these skills. Shadowing experienced agents or those who handle escalated issues, role-playing exercises in which trainees are put in the role of both agent and customer, or replaying recorded interactions with the agent to review what could have been done differently all can bolster the soft skills that are increasingly necessary.

Employers that provide training opportunities that give front-line workers skills that they can confidently leverage to advance in the organization and that they can rely on throughout their professional careers increasingly find their workforces more engaged and satisfied, which has a direct impact on the customer experiences they provide.

3. Cultivate a strong culture.

The environment an employer provides its front-line workers goes beyond the four walls of a storefront or call center cubicle. The intangibles that comprise company culture play a significant role in employee satisfaction and engagement. In addition to providing training and a clear path for promotion, clear, consistent communication from management and policies (both formal and informal) on how to balance professional responsibilities with those on the homefront are frequently cited by happy employees.

Providing public recognition for a job well done is a common way for managers to motivate employees to bring their best every day. Spot bonuses, such as a gift card to a coffee shop or an extra day off, can be a fun way to reward employees who have gone over and above to ensure a positive customer outcome. Other ways to ensure front-line workers feel appreciated and that their work matters include team-building activities and recognizing individual milestones, such as birthdays or work anniversaries. It is not the form of recognition that matters as much as the manner. A recent report from WorkHuman found that nearly a third (30 percent) of employees prefer to receive recognition in private vs. in front of the organization.

While quiet quitting has created an impetus for employers to take action at this time, the ongoing need to keep front-line employees engaged in the workplace and satisfied with their responsibilities is timeless. By investing in their front-line workforces, providing training and a path toward a professional career, as well as sharing in their successes, organizations can improve their employee engagement rates and, by extension, their customer experience.

<p<Bhavana Rana is director of global industry marketing, financial services and insurance at Talkdesk.