Author Profile Picture

Robert Hicks

Reward Gateway

HR Director

Read more about Robert Hicks

How to engage and reward frontline employees during times of crisis

How can HR better support the unsung heroes of the pandemic, while recognising and rewarding the amazing work they do?

Working in a client-facing role is demanding at the best of times, but as people around the world navigate major change and uncertainty, the challenges for frontline employees are noticeably greater. The Covid-19 pandemic has tested every organisation on how they react to stressful, uncertain circumstances. 

For many organisations, pivoting to online or remote working isn’t an option, and travelling into work each day to provide essential services to thousands of customers or patients can bring high levels of anxiety and stress for employees.

The nation has heralded these workers for ensuring our daily lives are still functioning. But as they continue to battle on the frontline, how should management support their teams during the current climate and help ensure they remain engaged and motivated?

At Reward Gateway, we recently created a Pandemic Action Plan to manage and ensure employee wellbeing. This is just one example of how to keep employees up to date on health and safety policies, show care and concern.

Ensure communications are factual

Whilst many organisations have frontline employees spread out globally, it’s important that information reaches each region equally and factually. So, first and foremost, it’s essential that you follow credible news sources daily and keep yourselves well-educated and informed of what to expect.

Compiling information that is specific and relevant to your employees, such as the number of cases reported in each of the countries that you operate in, and policies on travel and flexible working should also be shared globally. After all, these will differ for each region.

Management may also want to consider an internal Coronavirus Info hub with relevant information for employees, including a way to give managers feedback on whether they need more information or have unanswered questions.

This might not be feasible for all teams, so creating a dedicated email address or a dedicated frontline worker, in which employees can ask questions directly, is a great alternative. All employees should feel confident and armed with information that eradicates any uncertainty, which can hinder the team’s safety and morale as a result.

During times of uncertainty, we often operate in ‘survival mode’ and forget the importance of acknowledging and rewarding the small victories that employees have experienced throughout their day.

Childcare and financial support

With so many children currently being home-schooled, flexible work hours can make a huge difference for many families. Even with the best of intentions, parents may need to spread their focus out over the day, and if you have an employee with children at home, employers should work with them on a plan that supports this.

Perhaps they could work in the morning and then again at night, so they can share childcare with a spouse. Even just letting them know that you understand if they need to take the kids on a walk in the middle of the day will show that you have their support.

For organisations that have employees working with the public, there are also many cases of monetary bonuses. For example, many retailers are upping their hourly rates or providing food or restaurant gift cards to ‘buy them dinner’ as a way of making things easier.

Whilst it might not be financially feasible for all organisations to offer employees food or meals, especially when many restaurants have been forced to close or shift to offer takeaways only, some owners have pivoted to providing frontline workers with complimentary or discounted meals. So, it might be worth reaching out to local businesses as they may have protocols in place.

Celebrate success and recognise talent

During times of uncertainty, we often operate in ‘survival mode’ and forget the importance of acknowledging and rewarding the small victories that employees have experienced throughout their day. Those small rewards, however, are more important than ever before.

A critical factor in this is frequent and continuous reward and recognition, whether that’s a simple thank you after they’ve handled a challenging situation or offering the team a treat or early clock-off after achieving a deadline. What’s important is for employees to receive that positive reinforcement as they journey through these uncertain times.

Let’s use every opportunity we can to anchor our people and give them a sense of purpose and ownership as we navigate this time together.

Call out positive actions

Management can help reinforce the right behaviours by calling it out and thanking employees as they do it – whether that’s following new health and safety procedures or talking a customer calmly through a revised policy.

Recognise employees for how they treat each other too, not just your customers. If employees are staying positive, leveraging new ways to connect with each other, proactively sharing information or improving processes, these are all positive things that will help your business thrive.

To make sure you are heard in an ever-changing environment consider changing up your patterns, such as turning weekly calls to daily quick one-on-ones or increasing the amount of recognition you share organisation-wide to spread the gratitude around.

Another tried and tested method is to publicly recognise when an employee has gone above and beyond; whether that’s on a wall, via employee recognition platforms or even emails. As humans, we seek recognition and validation from our peers as it contributes towards our values, which can further cement an employee’s purpose within their role.

Empathy is key

Frontline staff are ultimately putting their lives and immediate health at risk. Whilst it can be difficult to know where to begin or what steps to rollout, management should remain empathetic and understanding towards all employees – this alone will ensure a common understanding and human-centric approach.

The easier you make it for yourself and others to proactively and intentionally look out for daily wins, the more motivated you’ll become. Let’s use every opportunity we can to anchor our people and give them a sense of purpose and ownership as we navigate this time together.

Author Profile Picture
Robert Hicks

HR Director

Read more from Robert Hicks
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to HRZone's newsletter