Given 80% of the global workforce consists of hourly, deskless workers, a company’s frontline workforce forms the backbone of daily operations. To fully understand the experience of this critical workforce, it’s crucial to first understand the role of frontline supervisors.

Frontline supervisors act as the bridge between management and the frontline workforce, exerting a profound influence on everything from culture to safety to career growth. Yet, 54% of their time is spent working on administrative activities1. No wonder more than half of supervisors report feeling burned out!

75% of employees stay - or leave - due to their manager.2

With a clear correlation between supervisor performance and employee retention, it’s critical that organizations prioritize the development of their leaders. To better understand how organizations can begin to do this, we tapped into a trusted expert, Ron Storn, who is the Chief People Officer at Truckstop.

Ron’s experience includes roles at Lyft and Booster, where he played an integral part in nurturing exceptional company cultures and driving workforce growth. He’s learned simple, yet effective, strategies that empower supervisors to drive engagement and productivity within their teams.

Cultivating a Sense of Belonging

Statistics indicate that 56% of employees who feel a strong sense of belonging report a better overall performance.3 Frontline supervisors play a pivotal role in fostering this by establishing rapport, encouraging open communication, and creating an inclusive environment.

Ron simplifies this by highlighting two key touch points that supervisors can use to better support their teams - team stand-ups and one-on-one conversations. And while he suggests doing these weekly, it’s most critical to establish a cadence that supervisors can commit to and employees can rely on.

“Trust is important here,” Ron warns. “You’re building a relationship with this person on a regular basis. It’s important that they know you’re there for them. It’s important that you don’t cancel it.”

When supervisors actively promote inclusivity and appreciation, it not only enhances job satisfaction but also elevates productivity and morale among the frontline workforce.

“Communicate in a way that makes your employees feel comfortable going to you,” Ron advises. “That open communication will go a long way in order for them to trust you. That trust, that engagement is going to lead to better productivity, better retention, and, ultimately, better results.”

Research reveals that 88% of employees perform better when they feel supported and valued by their supervisors.4

Impact on Upward Mobility

Frontline supervisors are instrumental in identifying and nurturing talent within their teams. In fact, 78% of employees believe their immediate manager is crucial for their professional development.5 These supervisors serve as mentors, providing guidance, skill development opportunities, and constructive feedback.

Ron points out that delegation is a powerful way to develop employees, while simultaneously lightening the administrative workload that many supervisors carry.  “By distributing work to more of your frontline workers, you are giving them an opportunity to grow and expand their career, “ he says. “People are always trying to learn and develop new skills and new opportunities so they can shine.”

By advocating for their team members and recommending them for promotions or added responsibilities, supervisors pave the way for career growth within the organization.

67% of employees state that their manager’s support is a significant factor in their decision to stay in their current role.6

Ensuring Safety

Safety in the workplace is paramount. Frontline supervisors lead by example, enforcing safety protocols, conducting regular checks, and ensuring teams have adequate resources for their tasks. This not only prevents accidents but also fosters a culture where employees feel secure and cared for in their work environment.

One way to ensure safety is top of mind for everyone - and not only the leadership team - is by incorporating the topic into your stand-ups and one-on-ones. Make safety the consistent discussion topic - regardless of the urgency or seasonality of the business. Consistency is key and repetition is critical to creating the right habits.

Also, find ways to engage employees in the effort. Solicit feedback. Encourage employees to be proactive, not just reactive, to safety concerns. Set safety and reportable goals, recognize and celebrate periods of zero-safety incidents and incentivize teams to stay ahead of safety issues.

Studies reveal that 70% of employees consider their supervisor's commitment to safety as a critical factor in preventing accidents.7

Enhancing Overall Engagement

Engagement levels significantly impact an organization's success. Research shows that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability.8 Frontline supervisors directly influence engagement levels by being approachable, recognizing achievements, and involving employees in decision-making. When employees feel engaged, they are more committed to the organization’s goals, resulting in increased productivity and a positive work atmosphere.

Ron shares that one of the most important things a supervisor can do is help their employees understand how their roles and responsibilities ultimately generate revenue for the company.

“Engaging and letting people know what their impact is on the business elevates their engagement significantly,” he explained. “It makes them care about what they’re doing.”

To Sum It Up...

The role of frontline supervisors transcends mere task management. They profoundly shape the work experience for the frontline workforce. Their ability to nurture belonging, support career advancement, ensure safety, and foster engagement significantly impacts both employee well-being and organizational success. Investing in the training and development of frontline supervisors is, therefore, an investment in creating a thriving, cohesive, and high-performing workforce.

Want to hear more advice from Ron Storn? The full conversation, "Activate, Automate & Amplify:
Empowering Supervisors for Stronger Frontline Employee Engagement
" is available on-demand for free here!



4Harvard Business Review


7National Safety Council