Burnout is the biggest driver of the “Great Resignation” for frontline workers, according to results of a new report from training and communications specialist Axonify, which surveyed over 2,500 frontline employees from a range of industries including retail, grocery, finance, banking, insurance and professional sales to learn more about the experience of working on the frontlines through the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s 5th annual Global State of Frontline Work Experience Study revealed that nearly 50% of frontline workers are preparing to leave their current jobs, with 58% citing burnout as the top reason.
“Everyone is talking about the future of work, but too many of these conversations focus solely on the corporate employee experience and don’t consider the frontline. The time has come to rethink the frontline work experience,” said Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify. “Successful companies realize that frontline workers are the face of their brand. We need to emphasize the importance of this group’s experience to ensure they are supported and provided with equitable opportunities so they can advance their careers — and serve as brand ambassadors.”
While many frontline employees report pay as a motivator to stay at a company (49%), compensation doesn’t even make the top three resignation factors. Frontline workers aren’t just looking for better pay, the study finds, they’re more likely to look for better conditions when they are overworked and burned out.
When frontline employees were asked why they’re planning to resign, over half of respondents cited feeling burned out at work (58%), followed by a lack of appreciation from management and/or peers (53%) and a lack of interest in daily work (52%), with poor compensation (52%) coming in fourth. In addition, when looking at the different industries, retail workers reported burnout (63%) as being a more important motivating factor for resigning compared to compensation (50%).
While compensation matters, employees say they also want more flexible scheduling (44.2%), more appreciation (42.6%) and more positive relationships at work (42%).
While an increased spotlight on social justice has motivated organizations to rethink their approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), the Axonify report shows employers still have a long way to go. Based on the 2021 findings, three key areas of equity disparity on the frontline emerged: gender, work location (frontline vs. corporate) and job status.
• Gender: There is a clear gender gap in the frontline work experience. Employees that identify as male reported higher satisfaction with their compensation (70%) compared to employees that identify as female (60%). These same employees reported greater satisfaction on issues like manager trust (72% vs. 62%), pandemic support (78% vs. 70%) and career development (69% vs. 59%).
• Frontline vs. Corporate: The data also revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has expanded the existing disparity gap between corporate and frontline workers. Office workers were much more satisfied (86%) with their support as compared to store/branch employees (67%). Similarly, more than eight out of 10 office workers were happy with everyday work (81%), but less than two-thirds of store/branch employees felt the same (64%).
• Job Status: Full-time employees reported higher job satisfaction compared to part-time workers. Just a little less than two-thirds of part-time workers (vs. 80% of full-time workers) were satisfied with the support provided by their employers during the pandemic. Half of part-time workers trust their manager to consider employee well-being when making decisions vs.72% for full-time workers.
“Fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace shouldn’t even be a question,” said Leaman. “Every single person deserves the opportunity to do and be their best at work. And not only is it the right thing to do, but focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is also a strong business strategy. Yet, employers with frontline employees still have considerable room for improvement in this area.”
Frontline training tends to take a backseat due to access and turnover, the study notes. Retail associates, grocery workers, contact center agents and delivery drivers are difficult to reach with traditional courses and training programs. And heavy turnover in frontline roles often makes training less of a priority. Based on this year’s findings, internal skill development remains inconsistent but is in demand.
Over one-third of employees say they only receive training during big job changes like transfers and promotions (36%) and nearly one-quarter reported rarely or never receiving additional training (20%). When employees were asked about access to skill development, less than half indicated having access to developing their career advancement skills like management and leadership even though more than one-third had requested it.
Notably, training and skills development is even bleaker in retail and grocery with only half of retail workers and less than two-thirds of grocery workers surveyed getting the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and advance their careers.
Training can be a motivator to help combat burnout, the report concluded. When frontline employees were asked what would motivate them to stay at a company, one-third said more career advancement opportunities (34%) and access to more training and skill development (32%).