Invisible Hand: The Direct Business Impact of Every Frontline Staff
It often goes unnoticed, but the barista who serves your daily cup of coffee has an invisible yet powerful and direct influence in the way you taste your drink. And we’re not just talking about the way they handle your order.
“I’m sorry ma’am, I just have to assist someone else for a minute,” are words from a bank clerk that can instantly induce frustration in any customer. Bank errands are stressful enough, but this one clerk, whose name I clearly remember to be ‘Jenna’, was one of the best clerks I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with. She smoothly helped me through my transaction and was consistently patient in answering all my questions. She was the kind of clerk that even at four in the afternoon, with only a few minutes left before clocking out, still had the energy to smile at her client like it was just her first hour at work.
What was so remarkable about Jenna isn’t her technical knowledge of the products; it was Jenna’s way of dealing with customers at hand. Her attitude was a subtle yet very clear indication of how happy she was to work for that bank. When I asked about one of the tabletop printouts on her desk, she wasted no time to explain everything and almost immediately presented an investment plan that would fit my lifestyle. It was a sign that she was trained very well; that she was given enough time by the management to read, study, and sell to any kind of customer that she’s faced with. Overall, what would have been a tedious and time-consuming process felt like a mere 15 minutes of talking to a someone I already knew. And the following week when I came back, Jenna was the same person I immediately looked for, because I knew that their branch had someone who can breeze through all my concerns. Suddenly, running bank errands didn’t seem so bad.
People like Jenna have a direct influence on a business’ reputation. Bank clerks, along with many other frontline professions, are one of the most influential people that a business can employ. There is an invisible, direct control that lies with customer-facing staff. They leave a big impact on clients and are a potential bottleneck for prospects. Everything they do determines a customer’s impression on the business, and helps them decide whether or not they will patronise the product or service. Often, it isn’t just the company’s branding or products that really catch attention — it boils down to how properly and professionally their people handle clients’ concerns.
Whether it’s a business that physically or digitally interacts with people, the same effect rings true. In 2018, Tanda received an online review from a client named Rachael, and it read:
“Tanda support is local and has always been prompt and issues [are] resolved straight away. I would have no hesitation in recommending Tanda.”
Since then, it’s been a common sentiment in reviews — clients will almost always bring up how exceptional the customer support team is. “Support is very helpful and quick to respond”; “customer support is amazing and the staff there are very friendly to deal with”; even going as far as, “I honestly think that Tanda support team on its own can be the reason to go with this software.”
Imagine a client recommending a product based on customer support alone.
Back when SaaS was still young, that would probably be hard to believe, but what seems unthinkable then is now one of the greatest leverages any digital business can use to acquire more customers.
Regardless of industry, frontline influence is universal
The power of well-trained frontline staff is universal. Their behaviour constantly influences the public’s perception of the company they represent. The experience they create is what clients will always remember. It’s the same in hospitals, supermarkets, service centres, restaurants, hotels, and cafés. Frontline staff service plays a huge role when it comes to helping a business stand out above the ever-laden competition.
In the case of restaurants, there’s a reason why Michelin Stars, the most notable and popular restaurant-rating system, includes ‘overall dining experience’ in their list of criteria. Mastery of food taste and techniques are important, but one faulty dining experience of an inspector and your hopes for 3 stars are easily out the door.
For hotels, Les Clefs d’Or (The Society of Golden Keys, widely popularised by the 2014 film, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’) was organised formally 90 years ago for the sole purpose of delivering the best quality of customer service in hotels across the globe. Wearing the signature pin of crossed keys in a concierge’s lapel is synonymous with “excellent services rendered by a seasoned professional.” These are the most vital people in any hotel — not just the rooms, value for money, or amenities offered — but the people in front are considered to be the most crucial point of interaction for any hotel guest.
As with coffeehouse chains, I often remember the best drinks to be the ones served promptly and properly as I would order them. Some baristas do not exactly know how to prepare a certain drink, but this only tells me one thing: the company needs to invest more time training them. However, the way they handle orders is not the only thing that factors into a customer’s perception. There’s even an account of Forbidden Bean founder and barista, Vanessa Lee, talking about how a barista’s brand image (dress code) affects the taste of coffee. It is seemingly possible to affect a customer’s impression of coffee even before they taste it, simply from interacting with their server.
Whether you go to a bank for over-the-counter transactions or order coffee in the corner shop, the fact that frontline workers will serve you do not change. Everywhere we go, whatever service or product we buy, their omnipotence is a force that if otherwise existed, will not amount to much of the business’ operations.
Yet, majority of the world’s businesses who hire frontline workers either pay them less or make them work more than the maximum hours, sometimes even both, resulting in rampant cases of wage theft across different industries.
Millions and billions unpaid annually
Recently, in the United States, J.V. Car Wash and its sister locations were caught in a lawsuit for a wage theft case amounting to approximately $8.5 million. It was the result of underpaying their workers $4 per hour, $50 per day. On average, that amounts to $350 a week. To put this on a clearer light, the average American’s weekly spend on food is $161, not taking into account that shelter is at $450 per week and transportation is at $200 per week, all on average. That’s already way beyond the $350 a week that J.V. Car Wash employees were getting.
And this type of case is not at all exclusive in the West. A 2017 report by Middlesex University and the Trust for London notes that “unpaid labour” is not limited to the failure of employers to properly pay employees, however even covering cases such as forced labour, “workfare”, unpaid internships, cessation of pay in company insolvency, and even unwaged domestic work and childcare. The same report concluded that there are between 35,000 and 40,000 cases of unpaid wages every year in the UK alone. Business Insider also reported that these amount to £2.7 billion every year, excluding any unsettled statutory pay and self-employed individuals.
In Australia, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) apprehended and penalised businesses in 2018 that amounted to a whopping A$10 million. The penalties were in response to improper payroll processing and underpayment of employees, most of whom were found to be students and immigrants. Among those businesses apprehended, labour issues were most rampant among the fast food industry, restaurant, hospitality, transportation, and manufacturing.
One case is that of Degani Café. On 21 December 2018 they were penalised A$140,000 for underpaying staff and providing inspectors with false records, according to FWO. Only 5 months prior to FWO’s notice, Degani was also the subject of a non-compliance report, particular of 15 of their outlets. The problems identified were consistent: Underpayment and record-keeping breaches.
Yet, the cases of businesses not paying staff accurately remains on its toes. Unfortunately, no big change has been heard of in terms of these issues. As I’m writing this, approximately A$2.3 million in underpayments and wage theft has been announced by FWO — and we’re only halfway the month of March. So, where exactly is this issue coming from and why is it supposedly so difficult to resolve?
A complex system’s inner workings
Massive cosmetic brand, Lush blamed “serious payroll system errors” as a reason of underpaying staff after they became the subject of Australian controversy in July 2018. It was found that over 5,000 retail and manufacturing workers were improperly paid over the duration of 8 years, amounting to over A$2 million in penalties. What’s interesting to note however, is that their statement also attributed the penalties with the transition of payroll systems to the Fair Work Act’s system of Modern Awards in 2010.
Australia’s system of awards has not been short of public dissensions. Putting simply, the legal document serves as a guide in paying staff, where different levels of employee classification, pay rates that change based on hours and days, and the industry covered are indicated. Many factors are taken into consideration when paying people due to this system, and it’s hardly ever a fixed rate for staff since conditions will vary depending on shifts undertaken. One example of this multi-layered complexity was made by SMSF Adviser:
“For example, under the Cleaning Services Award 2010 there are three levels of classification, different rates for ordinary hours, Saturdays, Sundays, Public holidays as well as shifts that start prior to 6am, commence after 6pm or for permanent night shift as well as split shift allowances.
Additionally, there are allowances for toilet cleaning – if a large portion of the day involves cleaning toilets an allowance of 1.766 per cent of the standard rate per week is paid or 0.359 per cent per shift, a cold place and hot place allowance if you work more than one hour of your shift in a cold or hot place – the amount of allowance varying depending on the temperature.
Height allowance, own transport allowance, first aid, leading hand, meal allowance if you work an additional 2 hours without prior notice, refuse collection allowance if a major portion of time is on refuse collection, uniform, higher duties allowance – if you perform higher duties for more than 4 hours in the day you are paid for the whole day if under 4 hours just the actual time you performed higher duties.”
I will not even attempt to do the math with the statement above. But imagine the concentration it requires to sift through such details. And then imagine that you’re a business owner whose forte isn’t exactly wage and pay calculation. This makes it strenuous for managers to keep up, what with updates on rates from the Fair Work frequently released.
It’s true that complex systems pose major bottlenecks in accurately paying staff; however, it’s also important to take into account that another reason why employees do not get paid well is due to their lack of awareness of how much they should be paid in the first place. In the case of J.V. Car Wash, the workers had barely an idea of what their base wage should be, and whether or not the tips were theirs to take home. If you look at it, this should really not be the case if a business has a proper onboarding system. It’s not solely an employee’s responsibility to understand how the system works — let alone a complex one — rather shouldn’t it be under the employer’s discretion to explain and disclose what an employee should expect?
Read more: Onboarding: The Employer’s Checklist
Shaping staff confidence to build client confidence
Why does accurately paying your staff matter anyway? Underpayment is one factor that leads to low employee morale, and when your frontline staff has low morale, it can significantly affect the way they treat your customers. According to Snap Surveys, any one of these signs are red flags in the company that you should fix ASAP:
- Poor communication with management and team
- Frequent absenteeism
- Excessive complaining over small matters
- Increased employee conflicts or fighting among staff
- Poor work quality
- Increased customer complaints
If left unattended, low employee morale will affect business operations faster than managers realise. Productivity will go down, and staff will eventually stop caring about the service they provide to clients. And through the power of social media, it is now easy to leave thoughts and feelings about a company in just one tap. Unsurprisingly, many comments left on websites are not about the product but about the company’s customer service. In fact, according to a PwC survey, 65% of respondents find that great customer service is more influential than great advertising. As Peter Shankman put it:
“Customer service is no longer about telling people how great you are. It’s about producing amazing moments in time, and letting those moments become the focal point of how amazing you are, told not by you, but by the customer who you thrilled. They tell their friends, and the trust level goes up at a factor of a thousand. Think about it: Who do you trust more? An advertisement, or a friend telling you how awesome something is?”
Employees who are not confident in the job they perform says more about how their employers treat them than anything else. Should a business decide to build their clients’ trust, the trust should begin between managers and employee first, e.g. proper onboarding, decent training, just payouts, and an open feedback system, among others.
Read more: Actionable feedback from the front line
The truth of the matter is that the demand for frontline staff will not die down for as long as businesses like banks, department stores, coffee shops, and groceries operate. Even when businesses opt to turn digital, customer service representatives still play an essential role of setting a brand image for clients. The way employers treat frontline staff translates into the way they treat their customers, which in turn makes or breaks a brand. For as long as employers fail to provide their customer-facing employees the proper training, fair pay, and flexibility to do the best work they can, these industries will continue to lose more than they can afford — and we’re talking more than just the revenue, more so the overall quality of operations and lifetime value that they have in the books.
Know more about how you can empower your frontline staff with our FREE eBook:
Industry Insights |
What is the Contingent Workforce and how can you leverage it in your business?
Phil caught up with the team at Sidekicker to learn more about how the contingent workforce is shaping successful workforces of the future. When we think of the contingent or temp workforce, we imagine the young Christmas casual or the temp that fills in at reception. These caricatures don’t inspire visions of influence and power and they certainly don’t appear as the kind of people that will have immense pull over the shape of the future. However, these workers are not only integral to keeping businesses moving but when they are empowered and treated right, they’re set to resculpt the entire employment landscape. What is the Contingent Workforce? Far more diverse than our initial imaginings of the temp receptionist, the contingent workforce is a subsection of the broader workforce that works flexibly. This includes casuals, contractors, and temps across a wide range of skill sets and capabilities. Contingent workers may choose to work for one business at a time or make up their working schedules across a variety of employers – but they are defined by their flexibility and impermanence. For businesses, these flexible workers solve a number of problems. From assisting in times of peak demand, covering for absent workers, lending external expertise, or allowing businesses safer, and simpler scalability, contingent workers allow businesses to improve productivity without the risk of additional permanent wages. How does the Contingent Workforce generate influence? Today, the contingent workforce makes up more than one-third of the entire AU/NZ workforce. This number is growing rapidly, and with it, the opportunity for businesses to benefit from the flexibility these workers bring. As the size and saturation of the contingent workforce grows – so too do the impacts they have on the way businesses and workers see employment. With 163,000 new contingent workers joining the workforce in recent years, and early results from 2017 showing considerable growth in both people looking for flexible opportunities, and businesses offering them – the size of this labour pool is only set to increase. Research shows that many senior HR Managers expect the contingent share of the workforce to grow to almost 50%. The bigger the size of the workforce and the more businesses that benefit, the more the impacts of bringing in contingent workers are amplified. In this way, the contingent workforce begins to exert greater influence over the working landscape. What does this power mean for the future? The impacts of this growing, flexible workforce are already beginning to manifest in a handful of ways. These considerations are integral to how flexible workers will be dealt with in future and what the landscape could look like. 1. Contingent workers are changing management styles. As more and more business engage contingent workers, they create situations where permanent and temporary staff must cooperate regularly to achieve business goals. This will force managers to reconsider the way they deal with their teams. How do you unite and motivate a team who aren’t always together? 2. Contingent workers are changing the way staff are engaged. The more the contingent workforce grows, the more it drives development of technology that supports it. As technology gets better, more and more connections between businesses and the appropriate flexible workers will happen digitally and simultaneously – making employee engagement simpler and allowing staffing managers to focus on other aspects of their role. 3. Contingent workers are changing the quality of the contingent workforce. With more businesses recognising the value in flexible engagements, the more they will engage the third party recruitment firms that know where to access them. Because it is in the best interests of these firms to present only the top-tier candidates, the overall pool of flexible workers will improve. The top-tier will build skills through constant engagement and the remaining talent will need to work to improve their performance to access opportunities. Growing at a rapid pace and picking up considerable influence, the contingent workforce is something businesses can no longer ignore. While recognising and leveraging their benefits in your business is a great first step – it’s important to understand how you will respond to the trends they are creating. To learn more about how flexible workers are impacting the future of work, check out the Contingent Workforces eBook here.
Industry Insights |
Achieving Workforce Success: Becoming a Data-driven Workforce
Achieving workforce success (WS) means being driven, open-minded, empowering, and the ultimate master of your work. In this part of the series, we’ll focus on being driven. WS Champions are driven because they are doers who maximise their resources in order to deliver quality outputs. One readily available, indeed ubiquitous, resource is data. How do you use data to achieve WS? Today’s professionals constantly and consistently use the cloud, analytics, mobile, and social technologies. Data, and how we share data, is at the very core of how we get work done. From the way we calendar meetings to how we collaborate on reports and track progress, we always use some form of technology. The applications of technology have gone far. But they can go much further, right into the heart of business: workforce management. No company or organization will survive without its workforce. However, we often use outdated systems to manage them. Data and digital technology are highly transformative, and businesses need to take advantage of it. So what does it mean to have a data-driven workforce? It means harnessing technology to not only solve challenges in the workplace, but also to optimize it. Investing in the correct workforce technology can empower employees while resulting in long-term savings for the business. Below, we explore how your organization can develop a more data-driven workforce. Automating time and attendance Cloud, analytics, mobile, and social technologies are key innovations that have had an impact on the workplace. Integrating any and all of these into day-to-day operations can revolutionize the way you work. You can do this via cloud-based automation of time and attendance. This is a popular solution because time and attendance are “highly necessary but tedious processes that are the fastest and cheapest to automate,” according to Terry Walby of the FinancialDirector. When you shift to a cloud-based HR platform, you can expect reduced administrative costs. You can also expect automated onboarding for new employees, and more accurate timesheets. You will no longer need to manually track leaves, sort out onboarding documents and attendance records, or calculate payroll manually. Best of all, you will never need to worry about wage theft accusations. Read more: Taking Back Time: Solving the enduring wage theft problem in Australia Wage theft, and the millions in back pay some businesses have had to comply with, is not an issue with the correct automation software. With all this out of the way, managers can spend more resources planning for the business and improving morale. Integrating automation Besides time and attendance, management firm Ascentis also recommends automating benefit calculation and legal compliance. Optimizing shifts and shift swapping Cloud-based HR can also help you optimize shifts by ensuring that you have the right person, in the right place, at the right time without having to physically check in on your employees. Software like Tanda can predict staff counts: it determines staffing levels with smart algorithms and facilitates updating your roster to reflect that. This way, you can save money on labor while delivering the best possible service to your customers. Even better, Tanda’s new feature, Shift Swapping, takes shift management in service-oriented industries to another level. Hospitality staff, for example, can request to drop or cover a shift right from their app, while the manager controls all swap approvals and roster updates. Absences are inevitable, but unfilled shifts are not, so the shift swapping feature is a useful addition to service-oriented industries. Read more: Achieving Workforce Success: Shift Swapping for Managers Using data to expand business Finally, a data-driven workforce means being able to use data to not only succeed in the day-to-day tasks but also to expand the business. More systems today are being integrated, facilitating a better analysis of how the business works. They make it easy for owners and managers to generate financial and operations reports. Seeing the big picture and planning for the future is easier with the right data at hand. With cloud-based HR, managers and business owners have access to insights that were not available before. You can correlate different types of data for better benchmarking purposes. For example, Tanda lets managers track business revenue and labor costs in real time while complying with all the labor and data privacy laws. Managers can make smarter decisions and ensure that the business will grow over time, without having to do excessive administrative work. Read more: The Digital Workforce Success Revolution: Why you need to shift to cloud-based HR today Data has had an unprecedented impact over the way we do things at work. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine a time before the cloud, analytics, mobile, and social technologies. The long-term benefits are more than worth the initial birthing pains, as most businesses see an increase in workforce productivity and savings. Taking advantage of these innovations may well determine if a business will succeed in this increasingly fast-paced world. Ready to find out what Tanda can do for your business? Book a demo today.
Industry Insights |
Achieving Workforce Success: Shift Swapping for Managers
Achieving workforce success (WS) means being driven, open-minded, empowering, and the ultimate master of your work. In this part of the series, we’ll focus on empowering. WS Champions are empowering because they help employees succeed – even when someone can’t make it to work. WS Champions know how work-life balance positively impacts productivity and loyalty. Thus, they build a flexible environment while maintaining, and even exceeding, the company’s bottom line. Among the ways that that can be done is shift swapping, which allows employees to cover for each other in an organized and mutually beneficial manner. Shift swapping is “an arrangement that allows shift workers to trade shifts with one another when the need arises.” This lets shift workers strike a balance between their personal commitments and work responsibilities. Finding a staff’s replacement for the shift matters, especially for the service industry. The correct number of staff can often determine if the service is delivered properly. And when service is consistent and customers are satisfied, they are more likely to come back and refer their friends. Read more: Michael Barnard’s Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Customers for Life But shift swapping is not always as easy as it sounds. In fact, many managers have so much trouble with it that they simply don’t allow it. The initial confusion of organizing the system, especially when they try to do it manually, turns them off. This is unfortunate, as it provides an easy solution to the problem of unfilled shifts. Below we’ll take you through how you can set up a shift swapping system for your company. Figure out the need for shift swapping First things first, determine if you actually need shift swapping in the first place. If your business is operating 24/7, or have at least two different shifts in a day, then you might need to consider this arrangement. This applies to many industries like healthcare, retail, hospitality, media, and law enforcement. Shift swapping introduces some flexibility for the employees and helps them avoid burnout in these demanding fields of work. If your managers are attuned to their teams, they should be able to input on this matter. Read more: How to Serve 200 Customers Daily in an 8-seat Restaurant Organize your employee data The success of shift swapping depends on how many employees are qualified to cover for each other. Evaluate each individual and determine which positions they have had some experience with, or would like to learn more about. This will minimize mistakes, increase accountability, and save you time. Once you organize your data, you will be able to make decisions about shift swaps faster. It will also give you a big-picture view of your workforce and allow you to make the necessary adjustments for hiring and promotion. Choose a shift swapping tool Shift swapping requires a tool that can organize your employee database, rosters, and swap requests. Managers often have to choose between manual and automated methods, depending on their resources and goals. Manual methods employ programs like Microsoft Excel to track time, attendance, unavailability, and shift swap requests. While manual methods require no initial investment, many find it unsustainable because of the increased administrative work required. Employees will have to call in their requests, which you will inputted manually into the database. For businesses with more than 20 employees, this can easily become a nightmare — even for the best managers. Read more: From Battlefields to Boardrooms: Finding Good Managers with William Gooderson When you are ready to implement shift swapping, you can explore automated solutions. Tanda, for example, has a shift swapping feature that integrates into its time and attendance web and mobile apps. It lets staff request to drop or cover a shift right from their mobile phone, while managers control all swap approvals and roster updates. It decreases the amount of administrative work, is suitable for over 20 employees, and can even be used to generate an analysis of your workforce. Perhaps the best thing about an automated system is that shift swaps go directly into the timesheets, meaning there is no additional step of calculating for it. Employees will be paid accurately, and businesses will save money on computing for additional pay. With that out of the way, managers can focus on creating a great work environment and building the business. Track the results Once you’ve implemented a shift swapping system, it’s time to track the results. Compare new data with your baseline after 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and so on. This will help you decide what to do next with your shift swapping system. Look at the following indicators: Number of employees who use of shift swapping The frequency of unfilled shifts The ease with which employees are using the system Effect on administrative work hours Effect on productivity and sales If you choose an automated shift swapping system, it would be easy for you to compare performance and labour cost data from month to month. It would also allow you to take advantage of other features such as tracking business revenue and labor costs in real time while complying with all the labor and data privacy laws. Take a free demo to find out how time and attendance automation can help your business. Read more: The Digital Workforce Success Revolution: Why you need to shift to cloud-based HR today Empowering your employees means constantly finding new ways for them to be able to grow in your company and their career. This means building a more flexible work environment that lets them have work-life balance while not disrupting operations. Businesses that are accommodating towards staff are more likely to retain top talent and attract the best in the industry. Secure the future of your business today by being an empowering employer. Ready to find out what Tanda can do for your business? Book a demo today.