Why Frontline Employees Are Heading for the Door, and What You Can Do To Change It

AskNicely Team

Every second of every day, more and more frontline employees are turning in their name tags and heading for the door. With turnover hitting more than 55 percent in 2021, it’s fair to say that the max exodus of frontline workers has become a global phenomenon. As frontline workers leave, recruitment costs skyrocket, customer experiences become more inconsistent, and loyalty, growth, and revenue all take a big hit. However, a recent study by WorkStep that examined 155 supply chain companies, gaining anonymous feedback from more than 18,000 frontline workers, found that 75% of turnover could be prevented if companies knew the top reasons for their resignations. So, what are the reasons? Spoiler alert: it's not all about money.

More Than a Paycheck

A common misconception about high rates of frontline turnover is that money is the driving factor. Well, it’s not. Money is ONE of the reasons why employees are quitting their jobs, but it’s certainly not at the top of the list. Food is expensive, college tuition is exponentially increasing, and steep petrol prices have people dreading returning to the office, so, understandably, money is a contributing factor. With 64% of job seekers saying that money is an important driver for a job search, it's only fair if employees run to places that provide better pay. 

However, money is just one piece of the pie. And a smaller portion than people think, too. 

So what are the other, thicker slices causing this mass exodus?

Purpose & Connection 

Employees want more than just a paycheck. They want a purpose, and meaningful connections with their colleagues and managers. Yet, an overwhelming majority of frontline workers feel disconnected and disengaged, and over 75% of employees feel frustrated by their managers. 

So, what can you do as a company to foster meaningful relationships with your employees? 

  • Share your personal story and experiences: As a business leader, learning how and when to use your personal story will help you stay relevant, foster genuine connections, and build empathy with your team. Learn how Ish Cheyne, Head of Fitness at Les Mills uses his personal story to create authentic relationships with his team.

  • Prioritize well-being: 40% of U.S employees indicated that burnout is the main reason they call it quits. The manager's responsibility is to create a work environment where employees feel comfortable raising issues around stress, lack of support, and life outside of work.

  • Listen up: Companies that fail to listen to their employees will continue to be slapped in the face by high employee turnover. Listening builds trust, and trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. Your frontline team has one of the most critical roles in the business, and it’s crucial they’re provided a space where they feel safe, valued, and heard. 

  • Lead with Empathy: As Anna Egan, a guest at the 2022 Frontline Experience Summit, says, “you can’t have a growth story without an engaged team, and you can’t have an engaged team without empathy.” Step into your employee’s shoes, and take a compassionate approach to leadership. 

Hello, Can You Hear Us?

While listening is a part of purpose and connection, it deserves its own time in the spotlight. Research from UKG found that 86% of employees, or four in five, feel colleagues at their organization are not heard fairly or equally – with 47% of teams claiming underrepresented voices are totally undervalued by their leaders. 

When people don’t feel heard, they walk away. Companies can prevent employee turnover by simply sitting down with them, and providing a listening ear. Make time for regular check-ins, use an employee feedback tool, and remember to act on the feedback, to make employees truly feel heard. 

There is no escaping it: frontline workers are heading for the door and they’re on their way now. With 40% of employees saying that they're planning to resign from their jobs in the next 3 months, service businesses need to act with urgency. The good news is, by understanding the reasons for turnover and taking action on those reasons, you can build a team of frontline employees who feel motivated, appreciated, empowered, and armed with the skills they need to deliver fantastic customer experiences every time. 

A Lack of Real Recognition

A lack of employee recognition is yet another slice that makes up the unsavory frontline turnover pie. A whopping 54% of employees who resigned from their jobs felt that their employers didn't value them. Through working with thousands of people-powered businesses here at AskNicely, we’ve recognized (no pun intended) this to be a serious issue: costing businesses money, time and, most importantly, awesome human beings. 

The world’s best service brands prioritize recognition and rewards, which is why we’ve made recognition one of The Seven Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams.


  • Releases dopamine in the brain, making employees feel good. 
  • Reinforces positive behavior, increasing both employee and customer experience. 
  • Makes employees feel seen, heard, valued, and appreciated. 

When you recognize employees for the work they’re doing, which by the way, can be as simple as saying “Thank you. You’re great at what you do. We can’t possibly do this without you.”, it provides a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose and belonging, means frontline workers are more likely to feel fulfilled in their job, and less likely to look elsewhere.

A Desire for Clear Career Growth:

In the study by Workstep, 18,000 frontline employees said that a lack of career growth is the number one reason for leaving their frontline jobs. Employees want to be able to grow into roles, be promoted, and develop their skills, not be stuck in a role of sameness. 

Picture this: Poppy has been a hospitality worker for almost 15 years. She gets along with her coworkers, brings the bucks home, and feels generally happy with her job. But in comes the pandemic and Poppy has a lot of time to think about her life. In the few months that she was stuck at home, she realized that she wanted more out of life than to clock in, clock out, and be employee of the month. So Poppy comes back to her job with a new perspective and new motivation, only to be told by her boss they won't provide any, leaving Poppy no other option than to look for opportunities elsewhere. 

With 63% of employees quitting their jobs due to a lack of opportunity, companies need to focus on opening the horizon for their employees. What are the career progressions? What opportunities are available for your employees? What coaching and training programs will your employees get to enter? These are all vital questions to consider.  

So what can employers do?

  1. Create clear promotion pathways: your employees should know what the potential career progressions at your company are and what they can do to reach them.

  2. Provide employees with regular feedback: Dan Johnston, co-founder, and CEO of WorkStep (and a former warehouse manager), says “We've found that very few organizations properly engage their employees, and collect and act on meaningful feedback." When you connect employees to real-time customer feedback, you help them understand what they’re doing well, and what they can work on to excel in their careers.

  3. Invest in personalized coaching: Growth doesn’t happen without a coach. To make meaningful career progression, employees need to receive personalized coaching. When companies do focus on coaching, particularly for small improvements, trust between managers and employees increases, morale is boosted, and employee retention skyrockets. 

To recap: 

  • Foster a culture for meaningful relationships to prosper.

  • Listen. Learn. Listen.

  • Prioritize recognition. Employees should feel appreciated and valued for the work they do.

  • Set clear career pathways for your employees. Show them the possible trajectories and provide the coaching to help them get there. 

Need some help with the above? Book a demo with AskNicely today. 

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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