6 Actions to Help Manage Frontline and Essential Employees in a Time of Crisis

Simon Rakosi
March 31, 2020
6 Actions to Help Manage Frontline and Essential Employees in a Time of Crisis

Across the U.S., non-essential businesses are shuttering in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In turn, essential businesses are harboring the weight of consumer needs, helping to hold up communities by keeping vital systems (like mail and shipping, food and grocery, utilities and sanitation) running.

This new strain on frontline employees—whether back-of-house, at the register or part of the logistics and supply chain—is throwing workforce dynamics into flux.

Now more than ever, it is vital to support and engage these teams.
That support and engagement will look different for different teams, businesses and industries, but there are recognizable throughlines.

Butterfly was built for the frontline workforce, offering deskless teams a way to check in and share actionable feedback with ease. Based on our work with essential businesses and frontline teams across industries, we’ve identified six vital actions that, when mixed and matched, can help a business run effectively and safely both today and in the future.

1. Acknowledge—Recognize the people who are coming to work every day. In a moment like this, these employees are putting themselves at risk; if their managers and leaders don’t acknowledge that fact, it makes it much, much harder for them to be at work.

Make an effort to call this out. Thank employees for the service they are providing, both to the business and also to the public. Whether this is through a text message, email, group or one-on-one meeting (virtual or safely in-person), it will reinforce that what they are doing is big, brave and important. These messages can even be sent using software like Butterfly.

Similarly, acknowledge feedback from employees. These employees are in the thick of it, day in and day out; what they see and experience is important to understand and act on.

2. Motivate — Employees should never work from a place of fear or stress. In times like these, it’s not easy to build a calm and comforting workplace, but it is necessary. Use teamwork and togetherness to build a working environment in which stress and fear can melt away.

Motivation can run low when employees don’t feel heard or understood. Encourage feedback and ideas by setting up automated pulse surveys, like those from Butterfly, that employees can complete quickly and easily.

If team members pitch ideas to optimize workflow while abiding pandemic protocols, call it out when they are successfully implemented. When employees know they have been heard and their ideas have been adopted, they will continue to share suggestions for improving life at work during this unprecedented time.

3. Enforce Safety — Right now, safety protocols are imperative. A company that ignores social distancing, store capacities, calls to quarantine and other required  health practices puts everyone in danger.

Diligently keep up with local regulations for essential businesses and follow quarantine protocols. If an employee calls out sick, managers must ensure employees feel supported if they need to take time off of work for illness.

At the same time, understand that distractions might be more prevalent in the current climate. Evaluate other processes throughout the store or warehouse to see where safety can be improved with temporary changes. Pose questions about what can be done to help employees feel more safe and supported using a feedback tool like Butterfly.

4. Be transparent—There is so much unknown in the current situation, where news moves at the speed of light. Create a workplace where employees can feel confident that they know as much as their managers and leadership teams.

Daily updates by text or email might be comforting for employees. Consider start-of-shift meetings to announce any changes to working capacity, operating hours or other processes. If things haven’t changed from day to day, use the time to remind employees of the latest updates.

Transparency is exceptionally important as many companies cut costs with layoffs, furloughs and reduced hours. Remember, these changes can have a huge effect on the lives of employees. Try to be as open as possible about developments like these.

5. Support —Put simply, different people experience change in different ways. Understand how team members are digesting and dealing with the adjustments to their work schedules and changes to their family lives. Then, assess how best to support them.

Spend time learning how employees are coping, how their families are doing, and what anxieties or concerns the situation is creating for them. Get a full picture of what they’re dealing with to better set expectations and understand the context of feedback they share. Butterfly pulse surveys can be set up to help gather this feedback in an easily digestible way.

Financially, emotionally, or in any other way possible, offer employees continuous support.

6. Over-communicate—There is no benefit to silence or opaque communications. Talk to employees daily. Let them voice their concerns, listen to their feedback, act on what they share and stay connected as much as possible.

Communication is the most important resource for the entire ecosystem at work in times of crisis. Automate one of hopefully many communications using a tool like Butterfly. Send a pulse survey out and get an instant gauge on the well-being of each employee—from how enabled they feel to do their job safely to their level of happiness day-to-day.

Armed with these six actions, we believe any essential business can successfully and thoughtfully connect with  its frontline workforce during these unprecedented, tumultuous times. While we often stress the value of engagement on increasing productivity and reducing turnover, employee safety and well-being are what’s most important right now.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more posts with quick tips to help you build on these ideas, addressing things like:

A. What are the best methods for motivating employees, from the register to the delivery truck?

B. How can you offer support as an individual manager?

C. What tips and tools can streamline these new engagement processes so we can roll them out quickly?

Additionally, we are offering access to our industry-leading engagement and communication tools, built especially for the frontline workforce, totally free for 90 days. Get in touch and we will set you up.

We already support 30,000+ frontline managers worldwide

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