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Survey: Frontline workers don’t feel noticed, have fears

Many frontline workers say their voices are not being heard.

A new survey reveals significant disconnects between frontline workers and corporate management.

According to “Feedback from the Field,” a study from mobile-first workplace management solutions provider SafetyCulture, two-thirds of surveyed U.S., U.K. and Australian frontline workers say they are never, rarely, or only sometimes listened to on topics that matter to them the most. This figure is lower for specific topics such as operations (54%), health/wellbeing (49%), and safety (46%).

The study defines “frontline workers” as individuals who must “physically show up to their job,” including workers in the hospitality, retail, manufacturing, and logistics fields.

When it comes to taking action, just over one in four American and Australian frontline workers (27% each) feel empowered to take action and solve an issue themselves.

The study also reveals Job loss as a result of reporting a safety or quality issue to management, including adherence to COVID-19 protocols, is a real concern for many frontline workers. Almost half of Australian frontline workers (48%), more than one-third of U.S. frontline workers (36%), and more than one in five U.K. frontline workers (22%) agreed this is a potential scenario. 

Fears aside, over one in three frontline workers (34%) agree their willingness to provide workplace feedback is impacted by a belief that “nothing will be done” once reported. More than one in four said they lacked confidence management would address safety issues they raise. 

SafetyCulture’s research also reveals that quality training is of key importance to frontline jobseekers when considering a new role. Seven in 10 surveyed frontline describe training as either very important or a top priority ahead of a competitive holiday allowance (40%).

Feeling confident they have a valued voice was also important for frontline workers when considering new roles, according to 72% of Australian, 60% of U.S., and almost half of U.K. (48%) frontline workers. 

A recent  study from Big Red Rooster, a JLL company, finds that the level of comfort in-store locations may be an underestimated factor in retail frontline employee retention and attraction. A store location that feels safe and comfortable ranked among the top three elements of a job among surveyed retail frontline workers.

When asked to define "safe" and "comfortable," respondents to the Big Red Rooster survey connected feelings of safety to their physical wellbeing, and comfort as an emotional factor. Survey respondents also cited clean, inviting breakrooms stocked with snacks and phone chargers as simple ways to improve their work experience, emphasizing employee desire for a workplace environment that meets both physical and emotional needs. They also cited having a clearly defined career path.

“While frontline workers have kept our nations running over the past 18 months, many don’t feel that their voices are valued,” said Bob Butler, global GM of SafetyCulture. “It’s clear that these critical workers want a say in the operations and running of their workplaces. Two-way communication between frontline workers and management is no longer a ‘nice to have’; it is a business imperative. Leaders need to be arming their teams with the right tools to allow them to add value, be heard, and stay safe.”

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