Thought Leadership

The Experience of America’s Frontline Worker

By John Frehse, Senior Managing Director, Labor Strategy at Ankura and Dr. Jessica Kriegel, Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture at Culture Partners 

With the current strength of the labor market, it is imperative to understand the sentiments of frontline employees to identify ways to help retain them. Culture Partners collaborated with Ankura, a global advisory firm, to survey around 50,000 frontline employees to better understand their relationship with their employers. Our findings underscore the missed opportunity for management to continue to care for employees and communicate well them within their first year, and the impacts this can have on their stress at work.  

When asked about how much their management team cared about the employees at their organization, our survey results showed a trend of declining management team care as the employees’ tenure increased. Workers start off with a strong sense of care within their first month on the job with 72% of respondents saying their management team cares about them. However, about 51% of employees who were at 3 months on the job felt management cared about them. This downward trend only continued as employees came to the end of their first 12 months in their role, with just over a third (37%) of these employees saying management cares about employees. These results show that frontline workers sense that management cares about them only continues to fade over the course of their first year at work. See the table below for the full results for frontline employees within their first year on the job.  

Percent of Respondents Saying that the “Management Team Cares About the Employees” 

1 month or less 2 months 3 months 4-6 months 7-12 months 
72% 56% 51% 46% 37% 

We also found a similar decline in employees’ view of how well management communicates with them. In our survey, 64% employees who had been at their organization for less than a month said that management communicates well with them. For employees in the third month in their role, this percent already fell to less than half (47%) of respondents feeling like management communicates well. By the end of the first year, this number had fallen to only 32% of frontline employees saying management communicates well with them. As with employee’s sense that management cares, their sense of receiving good communication from management only continued to decline after they finished their first month of work. See the table below for the full results for frontline employees within their first year on the job. 

Percent of Respondents Saying that the “Management Team Communicates Well with Shift Workers” 

1 month or less 2 months 3 months 4-6 months 7-12 months 
64% 51% 47% 40% 32% 

We found an intriguing correlation when we looked deeper into the relationship between the responses from these two questions. Our analysis showed that they are highly correlated with a correlation coefficient of .9917. This indicate that there is little difference between how cared about an employee feels and how well management communicates with them. When management communicates well with their employees, they will also feel that management cares about them. This would match what we saw from our survey results. When an employee first starts, they are usually flooded with communication and so they feel like they are cared about. As their tenure continues, and that level of communication from management becomes more infrequent, they feel less and less cared about. This is a trend that management should be wary of if they hope to keep their employees engaged, let alone keep them at all.  

Understanding Stress in the Workplace: The Impact of Management’s Care and Communication on Employee Stress

Our analysis further delves into the stress levels experienced by employees, highlighting a significant correlation with their perceptions of managerial care and communication. Notably, 21% of employees describe their job as very stressful, with 48% at above averages stress levels. In stark contrast, only 15% of workers perceive their job as having no or low stress. Remarkably, employees who believe that management communicates effectively are four times less likely to feel stressed. Similarly, those who sense that management genuinely cares about them are three times less likely to feel stress. These findings underscore the profound impact that perceived support and communication from management can have on reducing workplace stress.

When considering how they interact with employees, management needs to remember that in the minds of their workers communication equals care. This basic principle can serve as a foundational pillar for reinvigorating engagement with workers and ensuring that their workers’ feel as engaged by the end of their first year as they did when they started.  

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