Employee burnout figures are on the rise, a fact that no company should ignore. According to Gallup research from 2021, nearly three-quarters of all employees report sometimes feeling burned out. And that’s not good for them or their organizations.
Yet burnout isn’t inevitable, including among frontline employees. Frontline workers tend to be especially susceptible to burnout. Often, they’re the ones who deal with immediate, customer-facing issues. Take healthcare workers in the US, for example. The problem of burnout among medical staff members has reached such a critical level that it’s being addressed by the Surgeon General.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent even your frontline teams from experiencing burnout. As Gallup also noted, employees who felt engaged and recognized were less likely to experience burnout. At the same time, they were more productive and not as quick to tender their resignations as their burned-out coworkers.
Here are three engagement strategies that could help your frontline workers avoid burnout:
1. Publicly acknowledge high performers.
Every company has high performers. You want yours to stick around. Show them they’re valued by publicly acknowledging them regularly. For instance, you might want to give out high-quality Employee of the Month plaques as rewards for outstanding efforts. A plaque represents your gratitude in a very tangible and displayable way. This helps frontline workers feel more connected to, and essential in, their roles.
In addition to giving plaques and awards, be sure to highlight Employee of the Month winners in your newsletter and on social media. You can’t say “thank you” enough to the frontline team members who make your organization thrive.
2. Give frontline workers more authority.
Working directly with consumers, customers, patients, and other end users can be challenging. It’s even more challenging when frontline employees can’t do anything without approval. It’s much easier to promote widespread engagement by giving your frontline team members the authority to make decisions within specified parameters.
Consider your customer service personnel. It might save time and money to give them the ability to spend up to a certain dollar amount on each unhappy customer. The dollar amount doesn’t matter — $10, $25, $100, or more — but the sentiment will indicate that you trust their judgment. Don’t be surprised if your frontline personnel start thinking strategically and using their authority in ways that improve your brand image and processes.
3. Hire from within.
Reporting from SHRM reveals that companies that promote from within tend to lose fewer people than those that primarily hire externally. This makes logical sense, given that employees can see that they will be rewarded for longevity. Additionally, they realize that they have the opportunity to embark on a true career—not just have a job—with their employer.
If you don’t already have career mapping and succession planning in place, consider making it happen. Whenever you have a job available above entry-level, be sure all your employees know about it. Frontline workers who are interested can apply. Even if you decide to hire someone else, you’ll know which workers would like to be upwardly mobile in your organization. Think about tapping into their enthusiasm by offering professional training. The next time a role opens up, they might be better suited for candidacy.
No business can afford to lose frontline team members because of disengagement and burnout. Remember: Your frontline people serve as the voices and faces of your company. You need them to succeed. And they’re ready to do their best as long as you treat them with the respect and appreciation they deserve.
Contributed to EO by Mike Szczesny, the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, branded merchandise, and athletic awards. Szczesny takes pride in EDCO’s ability to help companies go the extra mile in expressing gratitude and appreciation to their employees. He also shares great ideas around how to leverage awards in your company’s marketing efforts.