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Frontline operations managers have weathered a lot of change in the past few years.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic upended operations, forcing managers to adapt on their feet to continuous changes. After that, the economic recovery and Great Resignation put more pressure than ever on managers to keep shifts staffed and respond to customer needs.
Now, as we head into 2023, the challenges and opportunities for frontline operations managers are shifting once again. In this article, we’ll take a look at six trends to expect over the coming year and explain how operations managers can stay ahead of the curve.
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Culture Is More Important Than Ever
The term workplace culture was on the tongue of every frontline operations manager in 2022. An overwhelming number of employees who quit during the Great Resignation cited an unfavorable workplace culture as a key reason for their departure.
In fact, a survey from FlexJobs last year found that a “toxic company culture” was the number one reason that employees quit their job. Salary concerns came in second.
Even though the labor market is now tightening, managers shouldn’t take their eye off the ball when it comes to addressing cultural concerns. Your employees might not quit outright, but burnout from poor workplace culture can have a significant negative effect on their productivity and morale.
So what can frontline operations managers do to address potential culture issues? A good place to start is by conducting a culture audit.
Ask your employees what they think about your company culture and what improvements they want to see. While you’re at it, ask for your customers’ impressions from interactions with your employees. A tool like Connecteam surveys can help with this process.
Once you have results, put them into action—and importantly, include your employees in the process. Bring potential solutions to your employees for feedback before implementation. It’s critical to make sure that your changes create long-term culture change rather than serve as a temporary band-aid.
In addition, keep in mind that workplace culture is an ever-evolving thing that you’ll need to keep updating. Document your culture in an employee handbook to introduce new employees to it. You might also benefit from a culture committee, staffed with managers and employees, to keep things moving in the right direction.
Employees Want to Be Empowered
Empowering your employees goes hand in hand with improving workplace culture. Employees not only want to take pride in their work but also have some say in how they work. Being overly controlling can make them feel underappreciated and stop them from achieving a work-life balance.
Managers might be surprised at how small changes can make a big difference in the sense of ownership frontline workers have in their work.
For example, you could switch to a shift scheduling platform like Connecteam that enables employees to easily swap shifts. You get peace of mind that shifts are covered by qualified staff, and your employees have more power to work when it suits them best.
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Another way to empower employees is to get their input on managerial decisions. You can use surveys to collect ideas about potential areas of investment and to get feedback after implementing changes. Just be sure to follow up so workers know their voices are being heard, even when you decide not to pursue a suggestion.
Managers should also strive to be transparent in their decision-making. Connecteam’s announcement feed is a great place to share not just new policies with employees, but also the reasoning behind them. The more you can bring employees on board with your decisions, the more likely they are to adapt.
It’s not always easy, but the biggest change you can make is to put more trust in your employees. Delegate tasks and set clear expectations, but don’t hover. When employees see that you’re trusting them with an important task, they’re more likely to take ownership of it and achieve a strong result.
The Role of Automation Will Continue Expanding
Automation has an enormous role to play in frontline operations management. It can help employees be more productive, reduce errors, and eliminate some of their most tedious tasks. Automations can also help you oversee employees while focusing on more important tasks.
Many managers have already incorporated some automations into their processes. Maybe you use time management software that automatically clocks employees in when they reach a job site. Or you might use shift scheduling software to draft schedules automatically based on employees’ availability.
In 2023, automation will be more important and more powerful than ever. It will increasingly take care of day-to-day operations, freeing you up to focus on strategic projects and new opportunities. Employees will rely on automations to save time and meet growing customer demands.
Before investing in any new automations, be sure to ask frontline employees what they actually want. Employees often know more about which tasks are ripe for automation and which require human judgment.
In addition, make sure you thoroughly train your workers in new automations before going live in the field. You should also offer ways for employees to provide feedback so that automations can be refined to their needs.
Communication Needs to Be Seamless
Another trend we expect to see is the increasing diversity of communication platforms for both work and personal use. Employees are used to being able to pick and choose the platforms that work best for them.
So, it can be frustrating for both frontline employees and customers if your internal and external communication platforms aren’t up to par.
Communications needs will differ depending on your day-to-day operations. However, reliability, ease of use, and flexibility are key for all platforms.
Communication systems need to be able to run reliably 100% of the time, no matter where your employees are. If your employees can’t speak with each other or managers, or if customers can’t contact your business, productivity will quickly grind to a halt. This can delay work, increasing pressure on employees and potentially risking burnout.
Ease of use is critical because employees need to have quick access to managers. There’s nothing worse than an urgent problem arising and having to spend valuable time navigating a clunky communications app just to get your message through.
Intuitive user interfaces also make it easier to train new employees on a communications tool. So, they can jump into operations much more quickly.
Flexibility matters because employees often need to adapt to situations quickly. Need to send a photo? Your communication platform should allow it. Group messaging? Should be easy. The more functions you can provide, the more options a frontline employee has at their disposal when the unexpected happens.
Customers Expect Speed Above All Else
Ecommerce has placed an emphasis on speed that has rippled into almost all other industries. Whether your business is in the Ecommerce field or not, customers have come to expect quick solutions.
That creates a whole new set of challenges for frontline managers. You need to make sure that planned jobs are staffed with qualified employees, and that you have the resources to respond to unexpected requests as quickly as possible.
In practice, that might mean relying on employee location tracking software to see where your employees are in real-time and redeploy them as needed. Connecteam and other tracking tools incorporate communication tools, making it easier to update workers and make sure that every job is filled.
You might also want modeling tools to forecast future demand. These make it easier to decide how many employees to assign to any given day, who to schedule, and how many employees to keep in reserve in case of extra work. Connecteam’s built-in reporting tools enable you to see how many shifts were needed last holiday season so you can accurately plan for the next one.
While navigating customers’ demands for speedy service can be a serious challenge, it is also an opportunity. Businesses that can consistently provide fast, high-quality service will differentiate themselves from the competition. Customers remember speedy service, so they’ll be more likely to return to your business.
Unified Operations Management Platforms Are on the Rise
One very positive trend heading into 2023 is that more and more operations tools are being unified into management platforms like Connecteam. These platforms offer everything from seamless communication and automation tools to shift scheduling and task management features.
Moving all the operational tools your business needs onto a single platform is hugely beneficial for employees. They only have to learn how to use one software to handle most of their work. When there’s a lot else going on, this little bit of simplicity can make a big difference.
Using a unified operating management platform also cuts down on training. New features might be added to the platform, but the fundamental functionality won’t change. Employees don’t need to keep learning new platforms for each new task.
For managers, there are even more benefits to putting all your operations data in one place. You can switch seamlessly between communicating with employees in the field and scheduling the right people for upcoming jobs. You can also check employees’ locations, pull time reports, and assign tasks, all from a single platform.
2023 is setting up to be another year of rapid change for frontline operations managers.
In the year ahead, you’ll need to pay close attention to employees’ needs to retain top talent. You’ll also need to proactively deploy new automations to keep efficiency high and deliver speedy service for customers. To manage these tasks, unified management platforms including seamless communication tools can help.
Balancing the demands of employees, customers, and businesses is certain to be a challenge in the year ahead. At the same time, there’s an enormous opportunity for managers who get this balance right.
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