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Battle for frontline talent: Five strategies to win

Companies that appeal to frontline talent will have access to a larger talent pool than ever before. Those most adept typically leverage these five strategies.
Matt Fenton

Advises organizations on talent, operating model, and culture topics, helping build strategies to accelerate impact and drive sustained business performance

Neel Gandhi

Advises leading organizations on how to strengthen their talent-management capabilities and build an HR function that operates as a true strategic partner and value driver for the business

Taylor Lauricella

Advises organizations on a range of culture and talent topics with particular expertise in driving behavior change at scale through capability building, cultural transformation, and digital solutions

Employees are quitting or considering doing so at record rates across industries, creating unprecedented movement in talent. This trend—coined the “Great Attrition”—is not expected to change any time soon. According to research published in September 2021, 40 percent of employees are considering leaving their current job within the next six months, and nearly two thirds of them would do so without a job in hand. Frontline-heavy organizations, where employees are less likely to find purpose in their work and are more susceptible to attrition, have been particularly affected.

This rapid movement in talent has created a unique opportunity: Companies that are able to create a winning value proposition will have access to a surplus of quality candidates from a larger talent pool than ever before; those that fail to appeal to frontline talent will find themselves with a large—and growing—deficit.

While steps to retaining frontline talent will be covered in a subsequent post, companies most adept at attracting frontline talent typically leverage these five strategies:

  1. Getting clear on what great looks like. Defining “success profiles” is equally important for frontline talent as it is for other critical roles. Development of such profiles requires a deep understanding of the knowledge, skills, attributes, and experiences indicative of future high performance. Once defined, success profiles help organizations look beyond the “usual suspects” (e.g., candidates with resumes containing very specific industry experience, college degrees, or educational institutions) and enable tailoring of hiring processes—including interviews, realistic job previews, and assessments—to ensure selection of more, better-fit talent.
  2. Improving communication of the organization’s “secret sauce” and distinctive value proposition. An employee value proposition defines the unique promise made to employees regarding experiences and benefits they can expect to receive. Effective value propositions typically encompass four components:
    • company (e.g., purpose, values, culture)
    • leadership (e.g., relationships with managers)
    • role (e.g., developmental opportunities)
    • rewards (e.g., intangible benefits, such as the ability to be home every night at a consistent hour).

    It is critical for companies to be able to communicate this clearly and consistently.
  3. Sourcing talent locally and through non-traditional channels. While centralized sourcing websites (e.g., LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed) are great sources of frontline candidates, the savviest talent acquisition functions supplement these “national” channels with local programs to broaden the applicant pool. “Localized” channels may include aspects such as targeted partnerships with nearby educational institutions (e.g., tech/trade schools, community colleges), radio advertisements, and placement of promotional materials in community “hot spots” (e.g., gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, hardware stores). Some organizations have further differentiated themselves by leveraging social media platforms—such as TikTok and Instagram—to reach the frontline.
  4. Getting talent in the door quickly. Gone are the days of candidates waiting months to start a new job. To be successful in today’s tight talent market, organizations must have a bias to action, moving quickly and decisively on hiring decisions to create first-mover advantage. This is of particular importance, as candidates are often navigating multiple application processes simultaneously. Companies should explore both tech (e.g., automating resume screening and interview scheduling) and non-tech options (e.g., same-day offers, accelerated/contingent start dates) to accelerate hiring.
  5. Offering competitive compensation and benefits packages. Ensuring salary is competitive and calibrated to similar roles within the local marketplace is “table stakes”—especially in today’s tight talent market. Companies that also provide comprehensive benefits packages, including non-financial rewards (e.g., offering continuing education courses), and provide support for employees to make the most use of available benefits are able to further differentiate themselves.

The “Great Attrition” is happening all around us. Leaders should seize this moment as an opportunity to reflect and improve upon talent acquisition; those who do not risk falling behind.

It is important to recognize that getting talent in the door is just the first step—the next challenge is ensuring that same talent chooses to stay. Our second post in this two-part series will explore what organizations can do to retain frontline talent.

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