Frontline workers are employees who provide some form of essential service to the public that helps society function and contributes to economic growth in their communities. They work in roles with high rates of face-to-face interactions and usually must report in person to complete their job responsibilities—which can be unsafe and labor intensive. An overwhelming majority hold hourly positions and are subject to shift work. Types of frontline workers include health care, education, child care, food and goods, transportation, and utilities. These workers typically perform their duties in hospitals, restaurants, salons, stores, educational institutions, factories, and warehouses.
Demographics and statistics
Frontline workers are crucial to society and ensuring that it runs smoothly:
- Nearly 90% of all companies rely on frontline workers
- 82% of all workers in the U.S. are in frontline roles
- 20% are members of the U.S. healthcare industry
- 62% are female and 38% are male
- 51% of the worker population is 20-30 years old
- 38% hold a bachelor’s degree
With the current news around layoffs and a potential recession, you would think that employers hiring frontline workers would have no problem filling their open positions. However, fueled by pandemic fatigue and worker burnout across frontline industries, companies are faced with worker shortages. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce website states that “when taking a look at the labor shortage across different industries, the transportation, health care and social assistance, and the accommodation and food sectors have had the highest numbers of job openings.”
A Lighthouse Research and Advisory study found that as high as 7 percent of frontline workers have quit their jobs in the last year to focus on gig work, contract roles, and sole proprietorship. Ben Eubanks, Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse states, “7% doesn’t sound like much, but when you imagine that seven out of every 100 potential frontline workers have opted NOT to do frontline work in favor of other things, you start to realize just how much of a challenge this presents.”
- Healthcare: 58 percent of medical practices feel that staffing is going to be their biggest challenge this year. Low-wage healthcare workers, including nursing assistants and home and personal care aides, are leaving the profession at rates higher than before the pandemic. Between January 2019 and December 2021, 40 percent of direct care workers transitioned to another occupation.
- Leisure and hospitality (L&H): The L&H industry is still down approximately a million jobs from February 2020 with much of the shortage in housekeeping and culinary department roles. Job growth averaged just 79,000 per month in 2022 which is significantly lower than the 2021 monthly average of 196,000.
- Manufacturing:S. manufacturing is expected to have 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030 while the digital transformation of the industry continues to progress creating a worker skills gap. The textile industry alone is facing a 20 percent worker shortage and the metal fabrication industry predicts a 400,000-worker shortage by 2024.
What workers want
Frontline workers are critical to your business’s reputation and productivity and supporting them is more important than ever. How can you stand out from your competitors to attract and retain these workers?
Offer fair compensation: The Frontline Worker Study concluded that two out of three workers feel they are paid fairly and “the number one reason these workers are satisfied at work is because they think they are paid fairly.” Compensation encompasses more than salary and an employer can stand out from competitors by offering signing and retention bonuses, unique benefits, and perks.
Redefine flexibility: Because frontline workers are required to perform their job in person onsite, they don’t have a choice in where they work. However, Lighthouse concluded that frontline workers prefer to work for a company that offers flexibility and choices in:
- When they work
- How they get their work done
- Training and growth opportunities
- Sharing ideas and suggestions
Gartner states, “In 2023, smart organizations will stop limiting flexibility in the name of fairness and will pursue formal strategies for more flexibility for the frontline workforce.”
Foster effective leaders: Frontline managers play a key role in bolstering worker morale and keeping them motivated to perform. Lighthouse found that frontline managers possess an “outsized role” in facilitating or destroying an employee’s workplace engagement and satisfaction:
- Health: workers with improved well-being are 2.5X more likely to have a good manager
- Retention: employees who don’t feel supported are 4X more likely to leave than those who do
- Belonging: workers who feel respected at work are 800+% more likely to have a supportive leader
Implementing these strategies in 2023 will set you on the path to providing the compensation, flexibility, and support required to attract and retain these workers who are our communities’ backbone.
Broadleaf Results offers a comprehensive suite of workforce solutions to organizations in frontline worker-focused industries. Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to streamline your talent acquisition and workforce management needs.
This blog was written by Broadleaf Solution Designer Tiffany Bennett.