How to build an employee engagement strategy for the frontline

A comprehensive guide on crafting a targeted employee engagement strategy for frontline workers, complete with practical steps, expert insights, and an actionable workbook to enhance organizational productivity and worker loyalty.

Download the workbook

RESOURCES How to build an employee engagement strategy for the frontline

In today’s work environment, it’s no surprise that engaged employees are more productive, creative, and loyal, leading to improved business performance. Thus, having an employee engagement strategy is crucial to organizational success.

This comprehensive employee engagement strategy guide will provide you with a step-by-step approach to creating an effective strategy tailored specifically to the frontline workforce, including:

Recognizing the gap in practical, actionable resources for organizations to address these challenges, we collaborated with industry experts to create a tool that not only guides but also encourages active participation in strategy development. A special thank you to Veronica Hawkins, Ph.D., and Angel McNeal Lowman, DVP, Human Resources at Aspire Bakeries for offering their Human Resources expertise and experience throughout this guide.


The frontline employee engagement strategy workbook

Download the accompanying workbook to access practical exercises to help you analyze your current state and build a comprehensive employee engagement strategy unique to your organization.

Download the Workbook

Assessing the organizational landscape for a frontline-focused employee engagement strategy

Creating a successful employee engagement strategy begins with developing a thorough understanding of the organizational landscape. This involves examining various factors influencing employee engagement and organizational dynamics.

Begin by compiling a thorough assessment of the organizational landscape within each of the following areas to identify where to focus your strategy’s attention.

 Organizational structure and teams

Gain a clear understanding of the organizational structure, including leadership hierarchy, industry, regions, divisions, departments, shifts, scope, scale, complexity, and size. Identify different teams and their roles within the organization and tailor your strategy to suit the unique needs and challenges of each team.

Recent changes within the organization

Consider any recent changes within the organization that may have impacted employees. Whether it be leadership changes, turnover, or localized issues these changes affect employee morale and engagement levels, so addressing them when creating a frontline employee engagement strategy is crucial.

Business environment

Analyze the current business environment, including regulatory changes, increases in bargaining unit agreements, and the organization’s profitability. Assess whether profitability is positively affecting frontline workers and consider how the business environment may influence employee engagement.

Industry and frontline worker roles

Dive into the industry in which your organization operates and the nature of frontline worker roles. Visit the frontline workplace to observe how work happens and gain insights into the challenges and opportunities they face daily. This will help you design engagement strategies that are relevant and impactful for this specific workforce.


Diversity of the workforce

Recognize the diversity of the workforce in terms of demographics, backgrounds, and perspectives. Consider how cultural differences, generational gaps, and individual needs may influence employee engagement and tailor your strategy accordingly.

Internal signs and metrics

Examine internal signs and metrics, such as turnover rates, to gauge the current level of employee engagement. Identify areas for improvement and prioritize addressing those concerns in your strategy.

Capacity, resources, and priorities

Assess the organization’s capacity, resources, and priorities for employee engagement. Consider the HR team’s involvement, budget allocation, technology, and tools available in addition to regional, national, and global landscape.

Emerging trends and the competitive landscape

Stay updated on emerging trends in employee engagement and the competitive landscape. Analyze how other organizations approach it and identify best practices to adopt within your organization.

External political and societal issues

Consider external political and societal issues that may impact frontline employee engagement including economic conditions, social movements, or technological advancements. Make sure your engagement strategy can adapt to changing external factors.

Assessing current engagement levels by obtaining associate feedback

It is important to have a sense of where the organization is versus where it wants to be. Start by assessing current engagement levels to understand where gaps exist for frontline employees. Use surveys, focus groups, one-on-one discussions, eNPS, exit interviews, internal communication receptiveness, and other methods to collect feedback that can then be used to identify specific areas for improvement and determine the best approach for addressing them. It is important to create a safe and open environment for associates to share their thoughts and concerns.

By thoroughly assessing and understanding the organizational landscape, you gain valuable insights into the factors that influence employee engagement within your organization. This comprehensive understanding forms the foundation for developing an effective frontline employee engagement strategy that addresses their unique needs and challenges.

Creating your frontline employee engagement strategy

Creating an effective frontline employee engagement strategy involves tailoring the plan to specific pain points, wants, and needs, and aligning various key elements to create an environment that fosters motivation, productivity, and satisfaction among frontline workers. As a corporate HR professional, it’s important to understand the different roles, challenges, and needs of your workforce. From there, engagement strategies can be customized accordingly.


After you’ve analyzed and assessed the organizational landscape and overall current state of employee engagement, you’ll begin to compile your strategy with seven core sections:


1. Vision and purpose

Frontline employees should have a clear understanding of the company’s vision, mission, and values. Define and document these alongside your strategic priorities to ensure employees feel connected to the organization’s purpose and can align their daily tasks with broader objectives.


2. Organization landscape overview

Translate your analysis and insights around your organizational landscape into actionable data by documenting specific organizational details, such as employee count, structure, recent changes, and challenges. By articulating these elements, you’ll create a detailed snapshot of your organization’s current state, enabling targeted strategic planning and benchmarking progress over time.


3. Transparent goals and objectives

Set clear and achievable goals and objectives for the frontline workforce frontline employees through clear objectives, tactics, and metrics for measuring success. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Make sure that employees understand how their individual contributions align with the organization’s broader organizational goals. Transparent goal-setting fosters a sense of accountability and motivation.


4. Roles and responsibilities

For the greater employee engagement strategy to be effective and sustainable, corporate leaders, site managers, and HR must all participate and have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Corporate leaders must recognize the importance of investing in their employees and provide the necessary resources and support for training and development programs. Site managers play a crucial role in identifying the individual needs and interests of their team members, and working with HR to create plans for their region. HR leaders are responsible for designing and implementing effective training programs for managers to take action on the employee engagement strategy.


5. Clear communication and feedback plan

Develop a framework to establish open, inclusive channels of anonymous and confidential communication to ensure frontline employees feel comfortable giving feedback. Establishing regular, two-way communication is essential for addressing concerns, fostering a sense of value and a culture of continuous learning, and helping employees understand their strengths and areas for improvement.

Effective implementation of an employee engagement strategy requires strong leadership support and commitment. Leaders should actively promote and champion the strategy, demonstrating their commitment through their actions and behaviors. This includes regularly communicating about the importance of employee engagement, recognizing and rewarding frontline workers for their contributions, and creating a positive work environment that fosters motivation and productivity.

6. Resources and Tools

In addition to implementing effective strategies, organizations can leverage various resources and tools to further enhance employee engagement. Employee engagement platforms provide a centralized hub for employees to access relevant information, collaborate with colleagues, and stay connected with the organization. These platforms can facilitate communication, recognition, and professional development opportunities thereby, fostering a sense of belonging and engagement among employees. All tools, budgets, and resourcing needs should be clearly documented within the employee engagement strategy.


7. Defined implementation timeline

To successfully implement a frontline employee engagement strategy, it is crucial to adopt a systematic approach by creating a step-by-step implementation plan outlining the key actions, responsibilities, and timelines for each phase of the strategy. This plan should be developed in collaboration with cross-functional teams including representatives from frontline workers, human resources, operations, and management. By involving diverse perspectives, you ensure that the strategy is comprehensive and addresses frontline workers’ specific needs and challenges.

Setting realistic timelines is essential for successful implementation. Each phase should have clearly defined milestones and deadlines to ensure progress and accountability. Regularly review and monitor the implementation plan’s progress to identify any challenges or areas that require adjustments. Flexibility is key, as circumstances may change during the implementation process, necessitating modifications to the plan.

Based on your industry, decide whether certain warehouse locations require the same strategy. What works at one location might not work at another. Consider working with site managers to gauge the level and frequency of communication that will work best for them.

By systematically implementing an employee engagement strategy, organizations can create a work environment that engages, motivates, and retains their frontline workforce. This leads to increased productivity, improved customer service, and a stronger organizational culture, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of the business.

Measuring success & implementing learnings

Once implemented, it is crucial to monitor your employee engagement strategy’s effectiveness and make data-driven improvements based on the learnings to optimize your approach. Within your employee engagement strategy, include the KPIs and objectives you plan to meet, the supporting tactics, and a glossary with KPI definitions & links to shared reporting to track these over time.

Key metrics to measure and monitor for employee engagement include:

  1. Employee satisfaction scores: Employee satisfaction surveys provide valuable insights into employee perceptions of their work environment, engagement levels, and overall satisfaction. Regularly conducting these surveys allows you to track changes over time and identify areas for improvement.
  2. Retention rates: Retention rates indicate the organization’s ability to retain its employees. High turnover rates can signal engagement issues, while low turnover rates suggest a positive work environment.
  3. Productivity metrics: Productivity metrics such as output, efficiency, and quality of work, can also reflect employee engagement levels.

Additionally, gathering ongoing feedback from employees through pulse surveys, one-on-one conversations, and focus groups provides real-time insights into their concerns, needs, and suggestions. This feedback loop enables you to make adjustments to your strategies and address emerging issues promptly. Regularly analyzing the collected data allows you to assess the impact of your employee engagement initiatives and make informed decisions to enhance overall organizational performance.


People analytics KPIs & calculations

Understand the KPIs you need to measure for people analytics and access the calculations needed to understand the impact.

Download the Frontline Engagement Toolkit & Calculator


The importance of prioritizing employee engagement cannot be overstated. By adopting this approach, businesses create an environment that fosters productivity, satisfaction, and overall organizational success.

Embracing employee engagement as a strategic priority empowers HR professionals to play a transformative role in driving organizational success. By championing this cause, HR professionals cultivate a thriving workforce characterized by high levels of motivation and satisfaction. This, in turn, translates into increased productivity, superior customer service, and sustained business growth. By placing employee engagement at the forefront of their strategies, organizations unlock their full potential and position themselves for long-term success in today’s competitive business environment.

A well-structured employee engagement strategy serves as a key driver in addressing the unique challenges faced by frontline workers. This involves gaining a deep understanding of their roles, actively listening to their concerns, and engaging them in the process of shaping their work experience.