Frontline Worker Trends in 2024   feature

Frontline Worker Trends in 2024

While the remote-vs.-work-from-home debate continues in one employment sector, frontline workers have remained the backbone of essential industries, tasked with roles that require face-to-face interaction and in-person work, from healthcare and education to retail and transportation. 

Recent data highlights a few emerging frontline worker trends in 2024 that organizations must navigate, which we’ll cover here: 

  • A shift in focus from hiring to retention
  • An emphasis on adaptability
  • The “Great Frontline Disconnect”—a persistent gap in understanding between frontline employees and their leadership. 

We’ll walk through these trends and how workforce management teams can adapt. 

Demographics and Statistics

Before we dig deeper into trends among frontline workers, let’s go over some key data points that speak to the frontline workforce in 2024. 

With frontline workers remaining ever-critical to a fully functional society, a theme of dissatisfaction among the workforce should be a cause for concern and a call to action for employers in 2024. Here is how trends are manifesting, and how top employers are beginning to react to meet the needs of their frontline workers. 

Trend 1: Shifting from hiring to retention 

The emphasis in frontline labor markets has shifted significantly from hiring to retention. Retaining experienced workers continues to be more cost-effective and beneficial for maintaining operational stability than the constant cycle of recruiting and training new hires. 

With a seasoned workforce moving toward retirement, organizations are increasingly prioritizing strategies to keep their existing employees engaged and committed. This focus on retention is crucial to preserving institutional knowledge and ensuring a smooth transfer of skills and expertise to younger workers, thereby securing the continuity and efficiency of frontline operations.

Trend 2: Adapting to technology

Frontline workers are increasingly being asked to adapt in the face of rapidly advancing technology and automation, along with evolving customer expectations and preferences. As digital tools and automated systems become more prevalent across essential industries, resisting becomes futile. 

At the same time, customer demands are shifting, with a greater emphasis on speed, personalization, and high-quality service. 

These often competing pressures necessitate buy-in and flexibility from frontline workers, who must not only keep pace with technological advancements but also tailor their approaches to meet and exceed the changing desires of the customers they serve. 

Trend 3: “The Great Frontline Disconnect” 

Beekeeper calls the slew of miscommunications between frontline workers and the people who lead them The Great Frontline Disconnect.

In 2024, frontline workers continue to ask for access to: 

  • Upskilling and reskilling
  • Learning and development
  • Better cross-team communication

It will be key for employers to begin to take real steps towards engaging this massive segment of the workforce, empowering them with the tools they need to engage. 

“Data shows that the things we put in their hands to help them manage their work life … can sway how workers feel about their employer. That gives them more control, more authority in their work and it makes them feel like they’re getting treated more fairly,” said Ben Eubanks, Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory

How Employers are Reacting


In 2024, healthcare sectors are focused on engaging their frontline workers through strategies that prioritize communication, support, and professional development. 

The average cost of turnover for one RN is $52,350, Advisory Board reports; each 1% decrease in RN turnover can save a hospital an average of $380,600 per year.

Examples of how to engage healthcare workers and support their growth include: 

  • Pay sign-on and retention bonuses
  • Enacting policies like fair bed-to-patient ratios that support work-life balance; physical and mental health
  • Providing access to ongoing credentialing and licensing
  • Adapting to telemedicine options that allow healthcare workers a remote work option


Manufacturing still anticipates a long struggle with the talent shortage that started post-pandemic. Despite the addition of nearly 800,000 jobs since 2021, almost 550,000 are still vacant, and research from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute indicates that that will increase. 

An estimated four million manufacturing employees are needed by 2030. If nothing changes, we can expect to be short 2.1 million workers.

Here is how manufacturing sectors are reacting: 

  • 70% of manufacturers have launched new internal training programs to upskill their workforce, with 75% reporting improvements in productivity, promotion opportunities, and employee morale.
  • Some manufacturers are partnering with middle and high schools to combat these misconceptions and recruit young workers.
  • Providing incentives for retention and engagement, such as: 
    • Schedule flexibility, including four-day workweeks and the ability to switch shifts
    • Financial incentives like bonuses and profit-sharing
    • Smaller rewards more frequently, e.g., weekly lunches when targets are met
    • Paid time off

Retail/Leisure and Hospitality (L&H)

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, since the peak of COVID-19, leisure and hospitality has maintained the highest hiring rate among all industries, ranging between 6% to nearly 19%. 

Retention continues to be a focus, as the turnover in this sector sits at about 19% for retail and 17% for hospitality professionals

Here’s how some top employers are reacting to engaging their frontline workers in more meaningful ways: 

  • Pilot Flying J, an operator of 750 North American retail and fueling locations, took advantage of the ubiquity of smartphones to let its mobile workers clock in and out, keep track of schedules, and request changes or paid time off from their mobile devices.
  • Ashley Furniture supplemented email communication with signage in its stores, painted murals, and internal billboards in an “omnichannel communication strategy to make sure everyone gets the same message.”
  • Starbucks is enhancing partner career growth through potential credential and certification programs, building on its Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP) with ASU, which has already seen over 10,000 graduates and supports 23,000 partners in earning degrees, covering all tuition upfront. The company aims to help at least 25,000 partners graduate by 2025, with a projected investment of over $250 million.

Frontline Worker Engagement in 2024 and Beyond

As we move through 2024, it’s crucial for employers to actively listen to their frontline workers and honor their commitments to employee development and support. Employers who make this a priority and follow through with tangible support will be better positioned to meet the challenges of the evolving work environment, ultimately leading to sustained success.