Empowering Frontline Involvement in Change Management

How Do Frontline Employees Drive the Change Management Process?

How Do Frontline Employees Drive the Change Management Process?

Last updated on June 17, 2024 at 08:39 am

Change is a constant in today’s business world, and frontline employees—the backbone of any organization—experience it firsthand. 

A recent study reveals a critical gap: 15% of frontline workers are stressed by the constant churn of change. This highlights the importance of understanding how frontline employees can actively drive the change management process.

Unfortunately, conventional change management approaches often overlook the invaluable contributions of frontline staff. These people have unique insights into operational realities and customer needs from their everyday encounters with customers. Consequently, it is imperative that this error be corrected by actively integrating frontline staff members into the change process.

This article looks at ways to make the most of your frontline employees when implementing change, leading to a more resilient and productive workplace.

Read on!

Why Frontline Employees Matter in Change Management


Millions of frontline workers are the cornerstone of daily operations. From cashiers to educators, they directly interact with the public across various industries.  These individuals, exceeding 31.6 million in the US alone (2020), play a critical role in organizational success.

Frontline workers possess a distinct advantage.  Unlike leadership, they experience the daily realities firsthand. Waiters witness customer preferences, while receptionists gauge sentiment directly.

This “boots-on-ground” perspective bridges knowledge gaps and allows for a bottom-up approach to problem-solving; by incorporating this expertise during change implementation, organizations can ensure smoother and more effective transitions.

Here’s how you can benefit from your frontline’s experience and knowledge to catalyze change within your organization:

1. Identify Roadblocks

The first people to face difficulties with new procedures or technology are frontline staff.

They are skilled at seeing possible obstacles before they become significant problems because of their in-depth comprehension of the intricate nuances of their work processes, which has been developed by first-hand experience. This could include everything from unexpected logistical challenges in a redesigned procedure to software bugs in a new system.

2. Propose Practical Solutions

Based on their real-world experience, frontline workers can suggest practical solutions that address the day-to-day challenges of implementing change.

These answers frequently stem from a realistic comprehension of the workflow. For instance, a manufacturing worker may offer changes to a new assembly line to reduce errors, or a cashier may suggest modifications to a new point-of-sale system to increase efficiency.

3. Champion Change as Brand Ambassadors

Frontline workers who understand the benefits of change can become vocal advocates within their teams. Their firsthand experience can help alleviate concerns and persuade colleagues about the value of the new approach.

Essentially, they become change champions, acting as trusted sources of information and dispelling anxieties. This not only boosts morale but also accelerates the adoption process.

Also Read: Best Practices for Effective Frontline Onboarding

How Frontline Employees Can Drive Change


Only 7% of companies are providing their people with the tools and resources necessary to carry out this strategy, despite the fact that almost 90% of them understand the need for empowered frontline decision-making.

The substantial disparity between expressed goals and practical execution presents a substantial risk to the accomplishment of transformation programs.

To bridge this divide, organizations must move beyond mere pronouncements and prioritize the following:

1. Early Inclusion

Successful change initiatives hinge on clear and consistent two-way communication. Frontline workers require comprehensive knowledge of the change rationale (early messages) and its impact on their roles (later messages).

Proactive communication empowers them to adapt and manage the inherent uncertainties associated with change. Don’t wait for all the answers; communicate openly about what is known and establish a clear timeline for addressing the remaining unknowns. 

Furthermore, actively involve employees in the change implementation process. Brainstorming sessions and soliciting feedback on proposed changes foster trust, reduce negativity, and encourage them to become active participants.  An informed and engaged workforce demonstrates greater change resilience, ultimately leading to a smoother and more successful change management experience. 

2. Communication Champions

Clear communication is vital for change management. Frontline employees and trusted advisors within their teams are a goldmine of information for peers. Organizations can leverage this trust by training frontline workers on upcoming changes and empowering them to become change champions within their teams, able to answer questions and advocate for the initiative. 

Transparency is key, too. Open dialogue inspires frontline workers to communicate updates, dispel rumors, and build trust with colleagues. In general, empowering the frontline bridges the gap between change leadership and the workforce, fostering motivation for a smoother change process.

3. Problem-solvers and Adapters

The success of change initiatives is not solely top-down. Frontline employees hold immense power over implementation.

Their deep understanding of workflows allows them to identify practical challenges and suggest improvements. Imagine a retail worker proposing layout tweaks based on customer feedback. This on-the-ground perspective smooths transitions for everyone.

Furthermore, frontline workers are crucial for employee influence. They translate high-level directives into actionable steps for their peers, adapting them based on real-time feedback. This ensures the change addresses actual needs and delivers the desired outcome.

Strategies for Empowering Frontline Employees in Change Management


While talent retention is a universal concern, it is an existential issue for organizations reliant on frontline employees. These individuals are the cornerstone of customer experience, directly shaping brand perception through every interaction. Given this critical role, fostering a culture that empowers and engages these employees during change implementation becomes paramount. Here are various strategies to achieve this:

1. Clear and Transparent Communication

Only 39% of frontline workers feel heard, a critical communication gap hindering successful change management. When engaged, these customer-facing personnel offer invaluable insights.

To bridge this gap and foster employee involvement, organizations can leverage communication tools like a Frontline Employee Mobile App, along with the following additional communication tactics: 

  1. Regular Updates & Proactive Concern AddressingEmpower the organization’s frontline through regular communication and timely updates. Deliver clear, consistent updates on the change process, addressing potential concerns proactively. Anticipate questions and provide concise information on the “why” and “how” of the change, ensuring its impact on daily tasks is well-understood.
  2. Multiple Communication Channels: Employ a diverse communication toolbox—in-person meetings, internal communication platforms, email blasts, and leadership videos—to tailor messages to different learning styles and ensure all frontline employees are effectively informed.
  3. Open DialogueTo leverage frontline expertise and boost retention (89% stay with receptive employers), create a safe space for feedback through anonymous surveys, focus groups, or suggestion boxes. These efforts encourage open dialogue and develop employee ownership concerning a smoother transition.

2. Training and Development

Investing in frontline development is key to successful change management. 43% of frontline managers report that a lack of training hinders their daily work. Proper training empowers them to adapt.

Besides, upskilling your frontline workforce reduces turnover (93% stay with growth opportunities), bridges skill gaps, and prepares them for a digital future (even with automation), boosting talent retention and adaptability. Below are strategies for training and development:

  1. Equip for Change: Provide comprehensive training on new technologies, processes, or customer service approaches to ensure your frontline has the adequate knowledge and skills to navigate change effortlessly.
  2. Continuous Learning: Develop a robust Learning and Development (L&D) strategy with diverse delivery methods to meet the learning needs of your frontline workers. Leverage microlearning (such as EMPLOYEEapp Microlearning Platform) through bite-sized content and mobile learning to cater to their busy schedules.
  3. Foster Engagement: You can also employ gamification to make training and development exciting and interesting for frontline employees. Friendly competition and knowledge-testing games can help increase employee engagement in L&D. 

3. Recognition and Incentives

Employee recognition is a powerful motivator, with 36% of employees citing a lack of recognition as a primary reason for leaving their jobs. 

This holds particular significance for frontline employees during change management initiatives. Consequently, to empower your frontline team and foster a sense of ownership, it is crucial to acknowledge their hard work and reward them accordingly.  A well-rounded approach to rewards and recognition may include:

  1. Performance Reviews: Give regular reviews to provide an opportunity for feedback and recognition of achievements. Such actions boost performance and improve employee involvement.
  2. Incentive Programs: Implementing tailored incentive programs, such as target-based commissions, can motivate desired behaviors during change implementation.
  3. Creative Recognition: Beyond traditional bonuses, appreciative messaging like “Kudos,” “Well-Done,” or personalized gift cards to acknowledge contributions to change management can help augment employee motivation.
Also Read: Employee Onboarding: Why Communication is Critical

Wrapping Up

Effective change management requires more than just directives. Frontline employees, the cornerstone of any organization, possess invaluable daily experience critical to successful implementation. They identify roadblocks, propose practical solutions, and champion change within their teams. However, a communication gap often hinders this crucial role.

Clear communication strategies and targeted training bridge this divide, keeping frontline employees informed and equipped for new processes.

Additionally, recognition programs foster a sense of ownership and encourage acceptance of change. Tools like the EMPLOYEE app can further empower the frontline by streamlining communication, training delivery, and recognition programs. Ultimately, empowered frontline employees strengthen the employee experience, driving a more resilient and successful organization. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do employees fear or resist change?

Fear of the unknown, not change itself, fuels employee resistance. And the predictability of the status quo offers comfort, so change disrupts this sense of security.  Resistance becomes a significant hurdle during change initiatives. 

To overcome this, leaders should understand employee concerns and equip themselves with effective management strategies through training.

2. What are the common mistakes that leaders must avoid during change implementation?

Here are some common leadership mistakes to avoid during change implementation:

  • Lack of Direction: Do not be laissez-faire, indecisive, or lose sight of the big picture.
  • Misplaced Trust: Avoid excessive delegation and ignoring the change process.
  • Poor Communication: Do not make assumptions or impose views. Ensure clear communication.
  • Neglecting People: Avoid assigning blame, ignoring employee needs, or micromanaging.

3. How can organizations develop frontline leadership skills?

Prioritize practice sessions with coaching and feedback to solidify new skills. Equip leaders with practical tools they can use with their teams.

Consider customized training tailored to your organization’s needs. Complement this with assessments to identify development areas and coaching services to support skill application and growth.

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