Employee Engagement

How annual employee engagement surveys make the frontline more productive

June 12, 2023

RESOURCES How annual employee engagement surveys make the frontline more productive

Ensuring that employees feel connected and valued is a vital part of a thriving business strategy. This holds particularly true for frontline workers, who are the friendly faces representing the company, engaging directly with customers, and playing a pivotal role in delivering excellent products and services. While often the face of the company, frontline employees though often don’t receive the attention they deserve when it comes to employee engagement efforts, which can leave them feeling unappreciated and disconnected.

We’ll explore the importance of annual employee engagement surveys specifically for frontline workers and how these can improve productivity in the workplace. And also the best practices for conducting successful surveys and discuss common mistakes to avoid.

The benefits of employee engagement for frontline workers

Think of annual engagement surveys as your yearly check-up at the doctor’s office, while check-in and pulse surveys are more akin to preventative care like eating well and exercising, sticking to a fitness plan, or visiting a walk-in. They may just be one part of the continuous listening strategy necessary to successfully combat frontline challenges, but they provide a vital baseline for pulses and check-ins to build from.

Annual surveys typically deliver a single set of questions across the entire organization, though some companies opt to vary the questions slightly between frontline and salaried workers. This “wide-net” approach helps leaders identify and combat systemic issues while being incredibly prescriptive while solving niche, site-specific challenges. Here are some ways insight and subsequent action derived from annual engagement surveys benefits frontline workers:

  • Increased productivity: Engaged employees are more productive, resulting in increased output and higher quality work. According to a study by Gallup, engaged employees are 18% more productive than their disengaged counterparts.
  • Higher commitment: Engaged employees are more committed to their work and to their organization. They are more likely to go above and beyond in their job duties and are more aligned to the organization’s mission and values. This commitment leads to lower turnover rates and higher eNPS scores.
  • Greater job satisfaction: Engaged employees are more satisfied with their jobs, leading to a more positive work environment and improved employee morale. This can lead to better mental health and well-being for employees.
  • Improved safety: Companies with high engagement see a 64% decrease in safety incidents because issues are more commonly reported, maintenance to machines issued, and risks resolved. Engaged employees are also more attentive at work, aware of their surroundings, and likely to treat their tools and equipment with extra care.
  • Decreased turnover: Organizations report a 43% decrease in turnover from highly engaged employees, since this population of workers have learned to trust that their organization listens to feedback and makes operational decisions with the voice of the employee in mind. This also indicates that employees who are more engaged believe they can develop a career within their organization.
  • Lower absenteeism: Adding everything else together, employees who are more committed to the company mission, understand their voice matters, and see a clear path for growth are 81% less likely to call out or miss work.

Annual employee engagement surveys provide significant benefits to frontline workers by giving them a voice in the workplace and the opportunity to provide feedback on their experiences. These surveys help to identify areas where improvements can be made, leading to greater job satisfaction, increased commitment, and improved productivity. By taking the time to listen to frontline workers and address their concerns, organizations can foster a more positive work environment, which can lead to better business outcomes and improved employee well-being.

The business case for a more engaged workforce

Employee engagement has a profound impact on the success of any business. According to a study by Gallup, companies with engaged employees have 23% higher profitability than those with disengaged employees. This is especially true for frontline workers, who play a critical role in delivering products and services, interacting directly with customers, and keeping the supply chain running smoothly. Annual engagement surveys give site leaders and executive teams a wide-angle view of the challenges their organization is facing as a whole. They use tools, like WorkStep, to dissect that data and deliver meaningful, targeted action plans into the segmented workforce populations that will be impacted the most.

The benefits of employee engagement are not just anecdotal; there is a significant body of research that supports these claims. In fact, The Harvard Business Review took a deep dive into Glassdoor metrics, looking at 293 enterprise companies spanning 13 unique industries. They compared the average Glassdoor rating (1-5 stars) to the The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI, 0-100) score over a 10-year period and found that each one-star employee satisfaction rating on Glassdoor correlates to a 1.3-point out of 100 improvement to Cx scores on the ACSI scale. This number is twice as large in industries with direct customer-facing roles.

So what does this mean?

A subsequent study published in the Journal of Marketing titled, “Customer Satisfaction and Stock Prices.” indicates that each 1% improvement to an organization’s ACSI score is associated with a 4.6% increase in overall stock market value. This means that for every one-star improvement on Glassdoor employer ratings, leaders should expect a 7.8% to 18.9% improvement in long-term market valuation depending on the industry.

These statistics demonstrate the significant impact that employee engagement can have on a business’s bottom line. By prioritizing engagement initiatives, such as annual engagement surveys for frontline workers, businesses can improve productivity, increase employee commitment and satisfaction – ultimately achieving better business outcomes.

The challenges of engaging frontline workers

Engaging frontline workers can be particularly challenging for organizations, as these workers often have limited access to technology and training opportunities. These issues can make it difficult to connect with frontline populations and gather their feedback, which can ultimately hinder efforts to improve engagement and productivity.

Oftentimes, annual engagement surveys are the only way executive leadership teams gather feedback from the people who keep their supply chain running smoothly. As a result, especially for organizations with high turnover, many employees never get the chance to share feedback before leaving for another company. What’s worse, are some organizations forego surveying their frontline workforce entirely in lieu of gathering feedback from their salaried deskforce. This often leads to misaligned action plans for frontline populations.

In order to successfully manage an employee engagement initiative, all employees must have space and the voice to share vital site or role-specific feedback. The point where business leaders can gain traction with their frontline workforce begins with annual engagement surveys and grows into a relationship where employees are more receptive to sharing feedback during pulse questionnaires and recurring check-ins. Much like Rome, a great employee experience program can’t be built in a day. Annual engagement surveys provide a strong foundation from which to set the other stones.

One of the biggest challenges facing organizations when it comes to engaging frontline workers is access to technology. Many frontline workers do not have regular access to computers or email, making it difficult to communicate with them in a timely and effective manner. This can limit their ability to participate in surveys or other engagement initiatives, making it difficult to gather their feedback and input. This is why WorkStep utilizes both email and SMS messaging to connect with frontline employees, because we understand that they do not have the time to stop at an in-office desktop terminal to fill out a survey and should not be expected to have access to a home computer to log in and share feedback on their own time.

Another challenge is the limited availability of training opportunities for frontline workers. Many organizations do not invest in training programs for these employees, which can lead to a lack of skills or knowledge necessary to perform their jobs effectively. There is a clear sink or swim mentality that is still owned by many site leaders and while the best experience is earned by “simply doing,” there should be a clear understanding of what each task entails. Otherwise, this can result in a sense of frustration or disengagement among frontline workers, as they may feel that they do not have the support they need to succeed and no resources to find the information on their own. Annual engagement surveys provide the space for this population of workers to share insight on their experiences, especially since they receive so few instances to do so through the year within most organizations.

In order to overcome these challenges, companies must be proactive in engaging with their frontline workers. This may include investing in training programs or communication tools that can improve access to technology and facilitate engagement, such as email and SMS accessible annual engagement surveys. By recognizing the unique challenges faced by frontline workers and taking steps to address them, organizations can create a more positive and engaged workforce, ultimately driving better business outcomes.

Best practices for conducting annual employee engagement surveys

By taking a strategic and thoughtful approach, organizations can maximize the impact of their annual engagement surveys and drive improvements in employee satisfaction and productivity. One key way to do this is to ensure that the survey questions are relevant and meaningful for frontline workers, so consider utilizing different question sets than sent to salaried desk workers. This may involve tailoring questions specifically for this employee population, or providing context and examples to help employees understand the purpose of the survey. By asking questions that are relevant to frontline workers and their experiences, organizations can gather more useful feedback and insights.

Communicate clearly and frequently with frontline workers about the survey process. This may involve providing advance notice about the survey, explaining why it is important, and providing regular updates on the results and any subsequent actions taken. By keeping frontline workers informed and engaged throughout the survey process, organizations can build trust and transparency, which can ultimately lead to better engagement outcomes in the future.

It is also important to ensure that the survey results are analyzed and acted upon in a timely manner. There should never be a situation where an issue reaches critical mass months, nevermind years after it initially came across the radar. This may involve identifying key themes or areas for improvement, and developing targeted action plans to address these issues. By taking swift action on the survey results and closing the loop with their employees, organizations can demonstrate a commitment to improving the employee experience and building a more engaged workforce.

Great leaders leverage technology to enhance the survey process and improve engagement outcomes. For example, using mobile-friendly survey platforms can help to increase participation rates among frontline workers who may not have regular access to computers or email. Additionally, using data analytics tools can help organizations to more effectively identify trends and patterns in the survey results, leading to more targeted and effective action plans.

Putting an end to gaps in frontline employee engagement strategies

Annual employee engagement surveys are a critical tool for organizations looking to improve the engagement and productivity of their frontline workers. By following best practices and leveraging technology, organizations can maximize the impact of their surveys and drive meaningful improvements in the employee experience.

At WorkStep, we offer a range of products and services designed to help organizations meet their employee engagement goals. Our mobile-friendly survey platform makes it easy to gather feedback from frontline workers, even those who may not have regular access to computers or email. Our people analytics tools help organizations to more effectively analyze and act on survey results, identifying key themes and areas for improvement, and providing leaders with the means to close the loop on important issues with their team.

In addition to our survey tools, we also offer white-glove support services to help frontline leaders build impactful surveys and meet their engagement metrics. Our goal is to provide organizations with a holistic approach to employee engagement with a suite of continuous listening tools that recognizes the unique needs and challenges of the frontline workforce.

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Tom Goyette

Tom Goyette, Product Marketing Manager | tom.goyette@workstep.com

Tom Goyette is a Product Marketing Manager at WorkStep. With experience in start-up and enterprise level SaaS and eCommerce organizations, Tom excels at managing and creating content, marketing, and analytics. Tom believes people are at the center of every great organization and is eager to share stories that highlights the value of the employee voice.