Talent tightrope: Tailor employee experience to support two key groups

The employer-employee relationship has fundamentally changed as workers seek greater flexibility, career advancement, higher pay, and work-life balance. In fact, competition for talent remains tight despite economic uncertainty as job openings continue to exceed the number of available workers.

As discussed in a previous post, to traverse this talent tightrope, leaders should consider how to cultivate a more attractive workplace while taking a through-cycle approach to uncertainty. In particular, supporting two employee groups—frontline workers and middle managers—can help many organizations move forward from today’s challenges.

Frontline workers

Frontline workers make significant contributions to the global economy and serve as the “face” of many organizations to customers, but they are not always recognized for the immense value they deliver. Frontline hourly employees report the lowest overall feelings of inclusion of all employees in the workforce. Less than 40 percent of hourly respondents believe their employer takes an objective, empirical view of performance and promotion. Additionally, more than 70 percent of frontline workers want to be promoted within their companies, but only 4 percent make the leap to corporate.

By considering how to best support the front line, organizations can build and maintain a substantial talent pool from which to develop and promote internally.

Middle managers

Well-structured middle management plays a valuable role in organizations. Middle managers serve as the bridge between junior levels and executives, fostering swifter decision making and strategic resource allocation when they are set up for success. In fact, the stronger the middle manager, the more impact they can have in not just developing the front line but also attracting and retaining them in the first place.

Power to the Middle

Power to the Middle

Is 2023 the year of the middle manager?

However, today’s middle managers also bear the brunt of many recent changes in the workplace—managing and supporting colleagues when levels of attrition and burnout are high, facilitating a transition to the hybrid workplace, and more. Like frontline workers, middle managers can benefit from additional support.

The solution

Improvements to employee experience can help empower both groups. These shifts focus on developing a workplace where people want to be, which can benefit the organization both now and after the economic uncertainty has passed.

By taking the following three steps, organizations and their leaders can build upon their existing employee experience to better attract, support, and retain their workforce—most notably, frontline workers and middle managers.

  1. Evaluate experiences. Analytics can help identify key segments of workers for whom the current employee experience falls short. Participate in ongoing dialogue with frontline workers and middle managers who represent these segments to learn more about their specific challenges, needs, and expectations. Then, embed these learnings with a tailored approach.
  2. Design around development. What skills and resources do middle managers need to be effective in their role? What do frontline workers need in order to progress professionally? Break positions down to their most essential responsibilities to really understand what skills are required, then provide learning and development opportunities that align. Additionally, create an internal talent marketplace and individualized career paths to establish clear tracks for the front line to advance within the company.
  3. Foster flexibility. Flexibility can take many forms, and it may look different for each employee. For instance, middle managers may emphasize purposeful presence, going into the office when collaboration is needed. Flexibility for frontline workers may involve redesigning shift work to better support work-life balance. Consider structural changes that can help create flexibility for everyone.

Frontline workers and middle managers enable organizational success, especially in times of uncertainty. By fostering a work environment that empowers these two groups, leaders can best position their company for the long term.

Learn more about our People & Organizational Performance Practice