In an era where people work multiple jobs to make ends meet, slaving on a nine-to-five job for meagre pay doesn’t quite cut it. This is what many companies – particularly in retail and other frontline industries – have learned in the wake of the Great Resignation. As frontline workers left in droves, employers were left frantically trying to retain their loyal employees and to fill up the vacancies.
Businesses found out the hard way that frontline employees are more than willing to leave stressful jobs for a better life. Given their importance and the great demand for people in their line of work, frontline workers now have greater choice than ever before.
Who are the frontline workers?
We define frontline workers as employees who provide an essential service. They absolutely need to remain in the workplace to keep the business or facility running. Such employees include health workers like doctors and nurses and service sector employees such as those who work in retail, warehouses, hospitality and customer service businesses.
The importance of frontline employees
Frontline workers not only keep the lights on – literally and figuratively – for their respective companies; they are also key members of society that support their community in times of dire need. During the pandemic, they are the people risking contact with the dreaded coronavirus to continue serving their community and keep the economy running.
Furthermore, they serve as the lifeline of businesses in the midst of COVID-19’s rampage. Not all businesses can afford a 100% work-from-home setup. Some industries cannot survive without at least a skeleton crew on board – the retail, hospitality, and customer service industries especially come to mind.
Why it’s now a frontline worker market
The Great Resignation left many vacancies in frontline employee positions. Frontline jobs are notoriously hard and typically have low pay, especially in sectors outside of healthcare. While job seekers used to stand in long lines for jobs like those in retail and hospitality, the opposite is now true. Employers and recruiters are working their hardest to fill in the gaps in their organisations, particularly those in the frontline positions.
This reversal empowered frontline employees. They are now in the position to negotiate with prospective employers and have little to lose when they turn down unattractive offers. As predicted by Karin Kimbrough, LinkedIn’s chief economist, frontline workers will be able to make harder bargains in their favour, and their position is potentially backed by positive economic developments in 2022.
The current situation also encouraged employers to do more than simply create job postings and wait for interested applicants. Amazon, for instance, started offering a $1,000 signing bonus to get new employees on board last year and is expected to triple that amount.
Arguably, frontline employees have more power over recruiters and employers than at any point in history. This is something that they should take advantage of to encourage reforms in the employment process and employer-employee relationships. Employers should also take time to reflect on this shift and implement innovative ways to attract workers and retain their loyal employees.