The Power of Recognition for Boosting Frontline Workers’ Morale

Aug 03, 2023
The Power of Recognition for Boosting Frontline Workers’ Morale
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The backbone of the global economy, frontline workers and on-site customer service representatives alike often find themselves underappreciated even in developed countries, let alone developing ones. In the United States alone – home to over 30 million frontline workers, 16.1 million of which represent healthcare – experienced deskless workers earn two times less than the rest: around $16 per hour vs. $33 per hour.

Unfortunately, low wages are just the tip of the iceberg of challenges modern frontline workers face. According to the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey, field workers are heavily exposed to anxiety, exhaustion, burnout, depression, and adverse social behavior. Even after the notorious pandemic was finally harnessed, the unceasingly high work demands, lack of workforce, and social stigmas are taking their toll on frontline personnel.


There are more reasons to take special care of your frontline workers, but we’ve already made the point. From managers to supervisors to human resource specialists, companies must put collective effort into keeping the frontline workers’ morale high, recognizing the best and encouraging the rest to follow their example.

So how do you recognize your top worker bees while nipping jealousy in the bud? Let’s dig into the three most effective recognition strategies for frontline workers.

Wonder who counts as a frontline worker? Here’s an explanation guide.

1. Keep Your Frontline Workers Connected

Since frontline workers are physically detached from the in-house team, it’s essential to connect them online. A mobile workforce management platform may be what you need. Not only will such a platform connect all your employees to a single ecosystem, ensuring the unity of in-house and frontline workers, but it will also provide you with an overarching business view and open up countless recognition opportunities.

Missing the obvious in employee recognition | Claire McCarty | TEDxUWRiverFalls

The sky’s the limit to how you can recognize and motivate frontline workers within your workforce system. You can set up an employee recognition board, issue employee recognition cards, or collect employee recognition gifts ideas to understand what your deskless workers really want.

Source: Microsoft

At the same time, it’s crucial to implement new technologies gradually so your frontline workers have time to adapt. In fact, 55% of deskless workers are forced to learn new digital tools on the fly, without supervised formal training or at least specifically allocated hours, with 46% fearing losing their jobs due to the inability to harness cutting-edge tech.

2. Provide Frequent and Specific Feedback

One might think the pandemic should have turned the tables to finally highlight the underappreciation of frontline personnel, such as healthcare workers and essential service providers, but that didn’t happen.

With this in mind, give your frontline workers regular and specific feedback when they deserve it rather than exclusively with quarterly or annual reviews. Only 13% of employees receive recognition weekly, with the rest waiting until the end of the quarter or year or not receiving recognition whatsoever.

Here’s how you can recognize your essential workers through feedback:

  • Show maximum respect at all times. Whether expressing gratitude, correcting mistakes, or providing guidance, do it respectfully. Around 75% of frontline workers need respect more than yet another employee recognition letter.

  • Be specific. Generic “You’ve done a great job this quarter” is only marginally better than no feedback at all. Lack of quality feedback disengages 40% of workers, whereas the most engaged workers receive specific feedback weekly or even daily. Reinforce your feedback with specific examples to make frontline workers believe you follow their work, not just substitute names in a template thank-you note.

  • Sandwich your feedback. Whenever you have mixed feedback, sandwich drawbacks and recommendations between positive comments. Not only is a feedback sandwich proven effective by studies, but it’s also perceived positively by around 30% of employees.

Long story short, you need a feedback system that keeps your frontline workers in the loop with frequent updates – concise yet suggestive – while providing an elaborate sum up at the end of a month, quarter, or year.

3. Present Your Best Frontline Workers as a Role Model

The benefits of having a relatable role model are clear not only for entrepreneurs themselves – 76% claim a role model helped them enliven their dreams – but also for employees and frontline workers in particular. Even if you cringe at an “employee-of-the-month” placard in your mall, make no mistake, recognizing your frontline workers publicly and holding them as a role model in specific business dimensions is a powerful motivation source.

Here’s how you can establish your best frontline workers as a role model:

Step 1. Set Clear Expectations

Make sure your employees clearly understand what you expect from them – numbers, qualities, behaviors, and KPIs – and how they can achieve it. Explain to your frontline workers how these goals fit the bigger picture and why your success depends on them.

Step 2. Monitor Success in Real-Time and Foster Healthy Competition

Facilitate knowledge exchange and peer learning among your field workers. Unambiguously point out where a specific frontline worker surpassed standards and expectations. Emphasize the achievements, not the person, so other workers don’t suspect you of favoritism.

  • 94% of employees stay longer in companies that invest in their development, with 70% ready to change their company to a company known for heavy staff investment. Only 29% of employees are satisfied with their career opportunities within their company.

While delegating additional responsibilities and opportunities to your best frontline workers, keep the door open for the rest. Offer workshops, training programs, conferences, and other growth opportunities. Likewise, after promoting your best employees, acknowledge their aspiring peers that bonuses are still up for grabs even if some juicy positions are already occupied.

Step 3. Showcase Noteworthy Accomplishments

Recognize your best frontline employees via digital communication channels so your in-house employees can know about them too. Highlight specific examples of outstanding performance and encourage runners-up for the next season.

In no case should you leave your frontline workers in the dark: unrecognized employees are 200% more likely to hunt for a new job. 

This is what makes employees happy at work | The Way We Work, a TED series

What Are the Most Successful Forms of Recognition for Frontline Workers?

Well-thought-out recognition should reflect the preferences of your frontline personnel, being meaningful – ideally, something your employees cannot afford – and personalized to the needs and wants of a particular employee. From monetary incentives to awards to certificates, it won’t be hard to develop recognition ideas if you know your staff.

Here are the statistics you can rely on when suggesting or implementing recognition incentives:

  • 65% of employees prefer non-cash incentives, such as travel awards and merchandise. At the same time, fair payment is the top reason to stay at a company for 39.4% of employees.

  • 40% of employees would work harder if they were recognized more frequently, with 85% of companies that spend at least 1% of payroll on employee recognition noticing an increase in employee engagement.

  • 63% of employees would not quit their job if recognized properly.

But then again, what works well for other companies may not work for you. For starters, learn about your frontline employees through surveys, interviews, and data-driven performance analytics.

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Author Bio:

This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.

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