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Organizational change can be met with resistance, especially if it excludes employee input.

Managing and implementing change is certainly tough for organization leaders, but it can be even tougher for employees—especially those on the frontlines.

Those employees who interact with customers daily, who ultimately represent their employer to the public and have the insight on how consumers perceive it.

When an organization initiates the change management process, then, it’s vital to engage those employees who have that necessary customer knowledge and insight.

How can company leaders implement smooth, painless change management that also considers employee input? One valuable way is to crowdsource that input from employees—all employees, regardless of department, role, or title.

Below we’ll define more clearly what a frontline employee is and why they’re valuable in the change management process. Then we’ll offer a solution organizations may take for more productive, employee- and consumer-oriented operations.

What Is a Frontline Employee?

Frontline employees are those who carry out basic functions that customers most associate with a business or organization. They are often the first representative customers interact with, providing these employees a perfect opportunity to win them over as return customers.

Such employees include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Customer service representatives who field customer calls or virtual chats;
  • Retail clerks and associates who answer and respond to in-person questions and concerns; and
  • Nurses and other caregivers who provide specialized and generalized care in a variety of healthcare settings.

Given these examples, it’s easy to see how much customer experience—and larger organizational efforts—depend on well-trained, engaged employees.

The current state of employee engagement, however, isn’t all that promising.

Gallup’s 2018 study on employee engagement shows that 34% of workers in the U.S. are engaged, meaning that approximately two-thirds of American employees are either not engaged, or not connected to their work emotionally or cognitively, or actively disengaged, or those employees who have a generally miserable experience at their place of work.

As of 2020, these are the best statistics Gallup has collected. That tells us that the state of employee engagement across the board is lacking—and that it’s important to incorporate them in processes that ultimately affect their roles and responsibilities.

After all, an employee who is not engaged is more likely to become actively disengaged if their employer actively excludes them.

Why Frontline Employees are Vital to the Change Management Process

If change management is the process by which organizations approach large-scale solutions affecting all types of employees, then it makes sense to ask as many employees as possible to share their thoughts and worries.

Writing for Harvard Business Review, CEO and founder of venture capital firm Cue Ball Anthony Tjan defines and describes what frontline employees can share with management as customers’ first point of contact:

“Frontline workers tend to sit at the lower end of the organizational totem pole, meaning their views are often overlooked. But if you take a moment to think about it, some of the best sources of observatory research can come from those at first point of customer contact or first point post customer contact: waiters and bus boys (e.g. most frequently asked food items and most frequently unfinished food items); sales floor personnel and customer service reps (e.g. where people first go to in the store and what frustrates the customer the most); receptionists and cleaning staff (e.g. who is happy coming and leaving).”

Similarly, in a PwC report on customer experience and intelligence, it was established that 73% of customers consider customer service reps as the deciding buying factor. The report also stated that 65% of customers consider positive service experiences as a greater influence on company perception than advertising and other marketing endeavors.

These statistics all point to the goodwill value frontline employees bring to an organization, and that, if asked, they can easily share what their employer is doing well for customers and what could be better.

How Your Organization can Act on and Incorporate Frontline Insight

Simply put, listen.

The pains of employees and management are interconnected: Employees want to be empowered with a voice, especially by their employer, and management wants to ensure that the process is efficient and cost-effective.

Employees know your business best. Those on the frontlines intimately know what customers often say they want, and they can, in turn, inform management of those needs as well as their own.

There are a variety of online platforms that help boost employee engagement that also easily retrieve actionable employee information. Whichever platform your organization implements, you open a dynamic conversation that can result in financial change, regardless of an employee’s role or title.

There are, however, hurdles you have to overcome when implementing crowdsourcing as part of your business model. You might not have a diverse enough crowd; potential participants might not have access or the time to share their ideas; or you never attract enough of the crowd to motion any change in the first place.

Nonetheless, implementing an effective listening platform is necessary to effect smooth, inclusive change. In the end, you will build a culture based on empathetic listening, transparency, and innovative thinking.

About the Author

Carter Liebscher is a Growth Analyst and Copywriter at Ideawake, a technology company offering idea management software as a service to enterprise organizations. He writes about innovation and employee engagement at the Ideawake blog and shares the latest innovation news on Ideawake’s social media:

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Image used under license from Shutterstock.com.