CEO Interview: How to Empower Frontline Employees in 2021

05 January 2021

News & trends

It still seems surreal, but we've finally put 2020 in our rearview mirrors. However, there's still a whole lot of uncertainty on the road ahead, especially for businesses employing frontline staff.

We sat down with our CEO, Fabrice Haïat, to discuss 2020's biggest lessons and the importance of frontline employee empowerment in 2021.  

Fabrice-Haiat-YOOBIC

Employee empowerment is a bit of a buzzword these days. What do you think it actually means to empower frontline employees? 

To me, frontline employee empowerment is about more than just providing the right tools and knowledge. It also means being aware of, and actively addressing, the challenges frontline employees face every day. 

When we launched YOOBIC 6 years ago, our goal was to fully understand the daily realities of working as a frontline employee. As a result, we’ve developed the YOOBIC platform to tackle the most challenging aspects of the frontline employee role.

Feeling disconnected from the rest of the company, lacking sufficient time for high-value tasks and being under-served by tech investments are just a few of these challenges. 

Empowered frontline employees have the right resources to make the right decisions autonomously, and that can’t happen unless the organization has an in-depth understanding of what they experience every day. 

 

How do you think the pandemic has highlighted the necessity of investing in the frontline employee experience? 

Frontline employees, whatever industry they work in, have always been central to business continuity. They’re in direct contact with customers, they’re creating and delivering products and ultimately carrying out their company’s mission every day. 

Frontline employees have never gotten much coverage in the media until last year.

Now that everyone is acutely aware of the personal risk, stress and overwhelm they face every day, we’re collectively more conscious of the fact that these teams need to be supported and valued just as much as any office worker. 

The businesses we’ve partnered with this year realized they didn’t have the right tools to support their frontline teams, and decided to invest in improving employee experience. 


"Investing in the frontline employee experience at this crucial time is the best way to differentiate yourself from competitors. The businesses that do so, or that have already done so, will be the ones to thrive when this terrible crisis is behind us."

 

What main lessons should businesses with frontline employees take away from 2020? 

Organizations have had to close, reopen and completely change the way they operate with mere days’ notice.

From that, we’ve learned that the old ways of connecting with frontline teams can’t keep up with this rapidly fluctuating and unpredictable new landscape. The most adaptable organizations are the ones that realized this early on and addressed it quickly.

With that in mind, agility is at the top of every company’s wish list right now - and it begins with frontline workers.

Frontline employees are the ones actually testing out and implementing new technologies and new ways of serving customers. So unless they're mobilized, informed and ultimately empowered, businesses will struggle to attain the agility they need to stay competitive now and in the future.

It’s important to remember that information is the precursor to motivation. Communicating effectively and transparently with your teams - keeping them in the loop, and listening to their concerns and feedback - creates a culture of support, empathy and empowerment.

 

"Agility is at the top of every company’s wish list right now - and it begins with frontline workers."

 

What are the biggest barriers to empowering frontline employees in 2021? 

Even with the COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out, we’re still a long way off from any return to even semi-normalcy. But once restrictions are eventually relaxed, there might be the temptation to drift back into old ways of working.  

Industries employing frontline employees, especially retail and hospitality, are traditionally managed in very top-down ways. This pandemic has been our wake-up call that this approach doesn’t work anymore - for employees, for customers or for organizations. 

Tech is a main ingredient for employee empowerment, and it’s at the heart of everything we do at YOOBIC. Before this year, there was still a certain degree of hesitancy about equipping frontline staff with the tech they need to perform their best. 

But now, just as office-based workers have had to adapt to remote working, frontline workers have had to adapt to working safely with increased job pressures and responsibilities during a pandemic.

Investing in frontline employee experience at this crucial time is the best way to differentiate yourself from competitors. The businesses that do so, or that have already done so, will be the ones to thrive when this terrible crisis is behind us. 

I think another barrier organizations will have to be mindful of is investing in tech that isn’t necessarily user-friendly or tailored specifically to the way frontline employees actually work. If the tech they roll out is neither of these things, the bottom line is that employees won’t start using it, and it will be a wasted investment.

 

How should companies empower their employees in 2021? 

Frontline employee empowerment should, first and foremost, be focused on overcoming challenges unique to the day-to-day experience of frontline employees. 

Over the years we’ve spent working with companies employing frontline teams, we’ve honed in on all the major ones. 

Firstly, frontline employees need tools that simplify and streamline the manual administrative tasks they spend a lot of time on. This gives them time to focus on the area where they can have the most impact - whether that be helping customers, improving quality or being more productive. When tasks are easier to manage and complete, expectations become more transparent, employees have clear priorities, and organizations can be sure processes and guidelines are being followed to the letter. 

Secondly, frontline employees need to be connected to the rest of the company. It’s been an intensely difficult year, both personally and professionally, for many frontline employees. Creating a feeling of community through internal communications is one of the best ways to get started with empowerment. Everyone wants to know that their work is valued and that they’ll be recognized for their achievements. If companies want to keep attracting and retaining top talent, investing in effective internal communications is the first step. 

And finally, frontline employees need training that gives them the right information at the right time, and in the right amounts. Training budgets were among the first to be cut earlier this year, and organizing training when in-person gatherings aren’t an option is difficult for employees in all industries. But as frontline employees’ responsibilities and job pressures have grown over the last 9 months, so has their need for training.

Many businesses have realized the link between organizational performance and frontline employee knowledge, and have invested in new ways of training frontline teams. This is empowering because by training employees in the right way, you’re investing in your people, which makes your organization a more attractive place to work. 


"If companies want to keep attracting and retaining top talent, investing in effective internal communications is the first step."

 

How have you adapted the YOOBIC platform during the pandemic? 

 

"When we compare 2019 and 2020, we see that in 2020 YOOBIC users completed 76% more tasks, took 98% more photos, and spent 3252% more hours on training."

 

Although frontline teams are still working in stores, restaurants, warehouses and out on the road, their in-person contact with managers and peers has been dramatically reduced.

As a result we've seen our customers exponentially ramp up digitization of tasks, communications and team training using the YOOBIC platform.

When we compare 2019 and 2020, we see that YOOBIC users completed 76% more tasks, took 98% more photos, and spent 3252% more hours on training.

To help customers ramp up this digital collaboration even further, we’ve developed new features that make it easier for teams to work together on the same task, and for managers to support their teams remotely. 

If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that processing and understanding data is key to making the right business decisions. For this reason, we’ve worked on using AI to automate time-consuming data analysis and turn data into actionable steps towards improvement. Frontline teams can then access that information directly, instead of waiting for it to trickle down from management. 

And finally, we’ve developed new virtual services to help our customers - especially those in retail - meet consumer demand through virtual video shopping, queueing and appointment booking. These new services put consumers in control of their experience. 

 

"If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that processing and understanding data is key to making the right business decisions."

 

How has the team at YOOBIC adapted to new ways of working?  

I’m really proud of everything that the YOOBIC team has achieved in 2020.

The truth is, it’s been a challenging year for everyone, but we’ve developed innovative new ways of using the platform, partnered with some great brands and so much more. 

We’re a social team, and although I know many of us appreciate the flexibility of working from home, it’s been tough not seeing each other in-person. As a company we’ve spent 43,000 hours on Zoom over the last year. I know we’re all looking forward to seeing each other again when it’s safe to do so. 

Last month we had a company meeting where each team shared their achievements. Seeing what everyone has accomplished - as well as how we’ve all supported each other during the crisis - was definitely my favorite moment of 2020. 

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See how YOOBIC can help you make 2021 the best year yet for your frontline teams! 

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