Frontline employees are the brand ambassadors of businesses by being mostly the only face-to-face interaction a customer has with an organisation. They also make up the biggest proportion of a company’s population. In fact, just the frontline staff makes up 80% of the workforce, especially in multi-site organisations.

Given their crucial role, frontline employee engagement is pivotal for a successful business. So how is it possible to really engage these employees that represent your company?

The first domino of an ongoing employee engagement strategy: managers

Many factors such as not being aligned with the company’s goals and vision, lack of recognition/support by managers and poor company communication can cause low employee engagement. That’s why employees don’t become engaged overnight when you just give them recognition from time to time or offer them a few carrots in the form of a ping pong table at the office or just giving tablets to those who work on the field. This should be an ongoing process which needs to be acknowledged as a company strategy, ingrained in your company culture.

Achieving sustainable employee engagement starts with managers. A fully engaged manager encourages innovation, motivates others and produces a 50% higher engagement rate among the team members, and also makes agile business decisions when navigating through different conditions.

But is frontline manager engagement addressed and recognised well in organisations? 

If we go back to our topic of engaging frontline teams, it’s clear that companies need to equip their frontline managers with the skills they need to manage effectively. However, turning these managers into mentors and innovators is not easy in real life, unless the right approach with the right mindset is applied.

The frontline managers are the day-to-day leaders, usually busily tasked with operational, financial and commercial management, as well as being the bridge between the upper management and their teams. 

McKinsey suggests that they spend between 30 to 60% of their time on administrative work and meetings, and between 10 to 50% on non-managerial tasks – resulting in many companies forgetting why they were actually hired for – to manage! The same study shows that frontline managers spend only 10 to 40% managing employees by, for instance, coaching them directly.

Source: McKinsey 

This inefficient use of talent results in organisations being less productive, less agile and less innovative – and of course, it costs industries billions of dollars annually.

In addition, from our experiences at SparkUs, we see that even the organisations which support managers with coaching or training programs aren’t providing the right solutions. With these traditional development programs, the managers are usually provided with short-term or basic training to ensure sales and operational success – leaving out the most important factors such as effective leadership, mentorship and coaching. For instance, a pharmaceutical company that required coaching for their field sales managers indicated that they know of coaching only as ‘sales coaching’ and they’ve never used it for the development of their employees.

In this regard, choosing the right leadership development program is essential to unleash managers’ potential and unlock their team’s abilities. 

Transforming managers into true leaders

Employee engagement is highly related to employee development and it starts with having coach-like managers (a must-have Leadership 4.0 skill). This is because the biggest impact on employees’ performance and behaviour is their direct manager. As Josh Bersin states: “most supervisors learn how to manage from another manager. If a strong development program is not in place, employees are learning how to lead by chance”. 

In order to build sustainable employee engagement and learning culture, organisations will have to invest in their managers in order for them to learn and practice coaching in the first place. And there are some critical points to consider: 

  • Organisations should create a coaching strategy in line with its objectives, values, vision, and business strategy.A clear framework and a roadmap should be determined for organisational learning and cultural change.
  • The leadership development programme should be applicable and aligned with organisational needs.
  • Coaching process should start with managers or team leaders. This means they need to be coached first and trained to have coaching skills. This way they can practice and understand how their team will experience so that the coaching culture, coaching literacy and mindset can be applied in every part of the organisation.
  • Coaching has to be an ongoing process where managers and employees are supported as a part of everyday routines. According to a Sales Executive Council study, the sales representatives who consistently received more than three hours of coaching/month achieved 107% of their performance target, while those who received less than two hours underperformed. 
  • Organisations should be able to apply coaching at a larger scale. As mentioned before, especially in the retail, pharmaceutical, healthcare and manufacturing industries, sales and frontline managers are the majority of the workforce and they are usually found across multiple locations. So a traditional coaching program wouldn’t meet the needs of such large organisations.

Digital coaching

Thanks to the developments in HR technology, digital coaching enables organisations to apply leadership programs according to their short-term objectives and long-term strategic goals. This helps managers to understand the company vision and gain the ability to shape their teams accordingly. 

When coach-like managers spend their time coaching and mentoring their teams periodically, the employees will:

  • Understand the organisation’s vision and goal and see the bigger picture
  • Understand their role in the organisation better, make decisions and take initiatives about how to accomplish their jobs
  • Feel that their work is meaningful and feel more connected to the organisation
  • Get a sense of personal fulfilment and well-being in their work

Needless to say, this will create sustainable employee engagement.

Moreover, digital coaching enables organisations to coach everyone in the workforce regardless of time and place. 

Organisations should redefine the job of the frontline managers to utilise their true potential. And one of the successful approaches is helping them to become true leaders through coaching.

SparkUs “Manager-as-a-Coach Program”

That’s where our “Manager-as-a-Coach Program” comes into play. The program is designed to train leaders in the fundamentals of coaching as well as to provide practical experience on ‘when and how’ to coach. It provides training and supervision via the SparkUs platform and our skilled team of coaches.

Coaching Training for Managers: We provide exceptional training focusing on coaching mindset and coaching skills to managers and support them with digital coaching packages. The managers also have the chance to practice and understand how their team members experience the SparkUs platform and coaching in general.

Peer Coaching: Our training also includes peer coaching and hands-on supervision by professional coaches. Our customised content helps leaders see the big picture and understand how they can practically implement their training in the workplace.

Sustainable Coaching: Our platform supports leaders with pre-generated, themed coaching content for their employees to serve as a basis for their coaching dialogue.

Measurable Coaching Process: The Sparkus platform allows the stakeholders (HR managers, coaches, program managers etc.) to monitor the coaching process in real-time, without violating the confidentiality of the sessions. This ensures all necessary outputs to be transformed into tangible insights and measurable results, as well as unbiased, fact-based evaluation.

High Employee Engagement: Employees access our platform ahead of their coaching sessions with their managers, which ensures they gain a basic “coaching literacy” and are ready to address issues and take action. As a result, regular coaching by their managers leads to higher employee engagement and performance.

And as an end-to-end solution partner, we clearly outline the coaching strategy in line with the organisational goals, provide ongoing support, and help you to develop a coaching culture that ensures the ROI in coaching.

Last but not least, to see how it is possible to increase employee engagement by building a coaching culture and coach-like managers, take a look at our Penta Technology case study. 

Let’s build the workforce of the future together!

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