Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute Executive Director, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR and includes a conversation featuring Workforce Institute board member, John Frehse.

I’ve been hooked on the new “Leadership in the Labor Shortage” video series (also known as “No Suits, No Slides”), and I was privileged to personally join the conversation for the latest episode.

In episode five, I join Workforce Institute advisory board member John Frehse, senior managing director at Ankura; Dave Gilbertson, a vice president at UKG; and Kylene Zenk, a director of industry marketing at UKG; for another great candid conversation.

We discuss the importance of showing gratitude for frontline workers, from emergency room nurses to retail store associates, who are doing essential work every day. Kylene wrote a standout article on this very topic last year, in the early days of the pandemic. We talk about the simple ways managers can show their appreciation, so employees know they’re managers are grateful for their service — and why doing right by your people is also good for your business.

Hope you enjoy this chat as much as I did.

If you missed any episodes from the “No Suits, No Slides” series, you can view the entire lineup of episodes via the links below.

Episode 1: Hiring, Turnover, and the Economy

Episode 2: Where Did All the Workers Go? How Can We Get Them Back?

Episode 3:
How Meaningful ESG Drives Performance: Part One

Episode 4: How Meaningful ESG Drives Performance: Part Two

In today's post, we asked three Kronos Workforce Dimensions Technology Partners to share the lessons they are learning about frontline workforce management during the pandemic: Butterfly on frontline engagement, SYRG on staffing levels, and Widget Brain on scheduling.  

Managing a business with frontline workers during a global pandemic is extremely difficult. Employers need to rethink their operations from small gestures to fundamental assumptions. Below, our contributors respond to three questions that employers with frontline hourly workforces are asking themselves, or being asked by their leadership teams and boards. 

How should organizations approach hiring to meet changing and unpredictable needs?  

For companies that have just gone through furloughs and layoffs, are facing financial insecurity, and have no model for what the future holds, the intuition may be to conservatively rehire and to staff stores leanly. This will prove to be a dangerous mistake. We now live in a world where demand is unpredictable and employee availability and willingness to work is ever-changing. Employers who respond slowly will find themselves fighting last month's fires, unable to take advantage of emerging opportunities. 

Leaders should consider embracing a staffing model based on the United States Army Reserves, with a pool of trained staff at the ready to be activated on-demand. 

Companies cannot afford to only focus on active employees. They need to re-engage furloughed employees, rehire former employees, hire seasonal workers, and activate applicants. Some may even enter workforce sharing agreements with other companies. To enable all of these employee populations proactively, employers must make training and certification more accessible, simple, and digital. Just as importantly, they need to make it easy for frontline managers to quickly tap into this new workforce asset as needs arise. 

Companies have little choice. In an uncertain, unpredictable world, they need to leverage their total talent network to meet evolving needs.  

What can be done to keep frontline employees engaged in these challenging times? 

Acknowledgment and recognition goes a long way, whether it be from a manager or someone very senior within the organization.  Humility and appreciation from leadership can help make coming into work every day–and possibly putting themselves at risk–feel more worth it.  

Here are the top ways to help incorporate acknowledgement and recognition into management culture: 

How can fatigue and safety be factored into scheduling? 


Employees are the lifeblood of an organization. Managing fatigue and burnout is more important than ever in the current climate, as their physical, mental, and overall well being translates to the quality of their work and the success of the organization. While this can be a daunting task as a manager or business leader, it's important to consider all aspects of the situation.

That means leaders should be factoring in the new and incremental burdens their workers face: increased emphasis on tasks (cleaning, sanitizing, restocking); extra stressors (caring for family members); and extra demands (new store hours, fewer available employees). Leveraging a modern workforce management solution is imperative to gain valuable insight into the factors needed to help make essential work as safe and comfortable as possible.  

Here are a few scheduling strategies to consider:  

About the partners featured in this post 

Butterfly is an employee engagement software built for the frontline workforce 

Syrg helps companies redeploy and extend their workforces 

Widget Brain helps companies optimize employee happiness, ensure compliance and improve business performance with our Workforce Optimization AI Services.  

This podcast is contributed by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute. This is the second of a series of podcasts I'll be hosting on key ideas from our most recently published book, Being Present: A Practical Guide for Transforming the Employee Experience of Your Frontline Workforce. Here, I interview Workforce Institute board member Bob Clements, President at Axsium Group about his chapter focused on using mobile technology to build a digital relationship with your frontline workforce. Axsium helps organizations around the world improve their performance by maximizing the productivity of their people and Bob has significant real world experience helping clients deploy mobile solutions to that end.

In our conversation, we cover:

You can listen in on our conversation on the player below. And feel free to comment on this post to add your own insights.

Conversation with Bob Clements about using mobile technology to enhance employee experience.

This post is courtesy of Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. We recently published a new book, "Being Present: A Practical Guide for Transforming the Employee Experience of Your Frontline Workers". Please join us on Wednesday, December 11 at noon ET for a tweet chat discussion with a number of our authors. Use the hashtag #KronosChat to join.

In our book, we talk about a number of different strategies that can transform the experience of your frontline workers. We'd love to hear from you about your experience managing - or being - a frontline worker. You can join us at noon ET 12/11/19 at #Kronoschat to add your voice to this conversation. And if you do, you might just get a free link to the e-version of the book!

  1. Many jobs require employees to be present to do their jobs. We call these frontline employees.  How can organizations provide them with schedule flexibility?  
  2. What are effective techniques to improve frontline employee experience and morale? 
  3. What are effective ways to collect insights and opinions from frontline employees? 
  4. As artificial intelligence and robotics technologies have an increasing presence and impact in the workplace, what skills will workers need to be successful in these hybrid workplaces? 
  5. Access to information can allow employees to make better decisions faster. What kinds of information can the frontline worker use to be more engaged and productive at work?  
  6. When it comes to workforce development, what's the responsibility of the employee vs. their manager?  
  7. What skills make someone an effective leader?  And how do you hold leaders accountable for developing those skills? 
  8. Millennials and Gen Zers represent the majority of active workers.  How do their needs and concerns differ in your workplace from those of their older peers?   
  9. How are schools and companies partnering to close skills gaps and improve talent pipelines? 
  10. How should organizations take care of their people in a crisis?  
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