Essential workers must be empowered if you want them to stay: Recruit and retain

Learn what your essential workers need to thrive and stay for the long run when your goal is to recruit and retain. Empower them to be engaged frontline workers.

There’s a science to recruiting and retaining essential workers, and organisations that get the formula right can benefit from higher productivity and employee retention. Empowering your frontline staff is vital for building engagement and loyalty.

What is an essential worker?

Australia has not yet defined the term ‘essential worker’ in legislation. However, there is consensus that an essential worker is one whose job is essential to societal functioning and without which public health, safety, or welfare would be jeopardised or adversely affected.

Essential workers during COVID-19

The concept of the ‘essential worker’ came to public attention with the need to support the economy and ensure ongoing provision of vital products and services throughout COVID-19 emergency measures. 

In Australia, the responsibility for implementing COVID-19 protection measures lies with state and territory governments. This means essential worker categories can vary across the country. In the Northern Territory, for example, an essential worker is defined as an employee or contractor engaged for a wide range of undertakings across numerous industries – including health and care services, food and beverage, education, construction, and emergency services. Similar classifications of essential work status exist for other states and territories.

What jobs fall under essential services?

After widespread issues resulting from pressure on workforces and critical supply chains early this year, Australia’s national cabinet agreed to exempt more workers from COVID-19 close contact isolation measures.

Their list of essential services includes, among others:

  • Health, welfare, care and support – including essential healthcare workers, housing/homelessness support, and residential aged care

  • Food, beverage and other critical goods – including essential food and drink and hospitality (for takeaway or food delivery)

  • Education and childcare – including schools and higher education

  • Transport, freight and logistics – including transport operations and delivery services

  • Energy, resources, water, and waste management – including mining and FIFO workers, resource recovery services and waste disposal services

  • Emergency services, law enforcement, and correctional services

  • Critical government functions and public works – including local government services

  • Building and construction

  • Media services.

The value of essential workers to the economy and businesses

The impact of the lack of essential workers early this year emphasised how vital this workforce is to our economy. As workers went into isolation due to illness or close contact rules, supply chains ground to a standstill, supermarket shelves emptied, and the government recruited military personnel to assist during critical shortages in the aged care workforce.

Furthermore, lack of workers meant many businesses were forced to close or operate in a limited capacity. Cafes, restaurants, aged care providers and more were heavily impacted by essential worker shortages.

Remember, quality recruits are scarce

The effect on businesses further highlighted the need for adequate high calibre talent. Especially in sectors where staff turnover tends to be high, such as retail and hospitality, finding enough trained and motivated staff is often difficult at the best of times.

The disconnect most organisations face with essential workers

This challenge has been amplified as the forces underlying the Great Resignation have come to the fore. Research has exposed the disconnect between values and work felt by many essential workers. For example, a study by US business management experts discovered a toxic corporate culture was the strongest predictor of employee turnover during the Great Resignation. Also on the list were job insecurity and failure to recognise employee performance.

Significantly, companies boasting a reputation for a healthy culture – such as Johnson & Johnson and LinkedIn – had lower-than-average turnover in the first six months of the Great Resignation.

Organisations seeking to overcome workforce challenges and emulate the success of high-retention workplaces need effective strategies to recruit and retain quality employees.

Define clear EVPs and understand how they work in frontline employment

A crucial step in this process involves designing and providing a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) tailored to suit the needs and preferences of your essential workers.

The abovementioned report found managers could take four immediate actions to reduce attrition of frontline workers:

  • Provide opportunities for lateral job moves – workers given a chance to take on fresh challenges or different roles (without a promotion) are less likely to quit

  • Sponsor corporate social events – to reinforce positive culture and strengthen employees’ personal connections to their team members

  • Make schedules more predictable – this was a powerful predictor of frontline employee retention

  • Offer remote work options –  this had a modest impact on retention

Technology makes a real difference to frontline workers

You might be wondering how you can provide benefits like corporate social events, remote work options and predictable schedules when your day-to-day operations render this impossible. This is where technology can play a key role in delivering on your EVP for essential frontline workers. 

However, not any technology will do. It’s vital to find solutions that have been designed to suit the needs of what are typically deskless, shift-based employees. 

Humanforce has been purposely built to boost employee enjoyment and workplace morale for the essential workforce. Features that make our workforce management solution ideally suited for essential workers include:

Seamless onboarding

Starting out on the right foot helps ensure your frontline workers are set up for a long and positive relationship with your organisation. Humanforce’s fast and easy paperless mobile onboarding can capture key employee data including superannuation, TFN and bank details, making onboarding a seamless and stress-free experience.

Enhanced connectivity

Arranging social events can be difficult with a workforce operating across different times and locations, but technology means you can stay connected. Our convenient mobile app allows managers and team members to communicate important updates, celebrate wins, share tips, and recognise great work.

Control over schedules

Our rostering and scheduling tool allows your frontline workers to select and manage their shifts, fostering an increased sense of autonomy and providing the predictability and work-life balance employees crave.

Empower great work

Few things are more frustrating than knowing you can do something faster or smarter with support or software. With Humanforce, your staff have the necessary tools to do their jobs successfully.

If you’re unsure what your frontline workers need to feel empowered in their roles, just ask. This simple act affirms the value of their opinions and will have positive ripple effects.

Humanforce assists your frontline workers and your business by helping ensure your shifts are covered, facilitating compliance with awards, and providing data-based analytical insights around key organisational measures.

Empowering your essential workers is key to building a sustainable business. Humanforce helps by creating a welcoming workspace where workers feel valued, thus increasing morale and helping you retain and recruit for long-term success.  

If you want to speak to us about how the Humanforce software can boost your organisation’s employee retention and recruitment efforts, schedule a demo, or contact us here.   

Humanforce is a leading provider of shift-based workforce management solutions that simplifies onboarding, scheduling, time and attendance, employee engagement, and communication. Customers in more than 23 countries use Humanforce to optimise costs, realise compliance confidence, empower their team, and drive growth. Humanforce was founded in Sydney in 2002, and today has offices across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.