Recruiting and Retaining the Best for Your Frontline

The associates on your frontline are vital to your company. They represent the organization to your customers and to other stakeholders. So how do you find the best people for these positions, and once you find them, how do you retain them?

How to recruit the best

When looking for the best frontline representatives, a typical starting point is to screen for the typical skills required in that position: speaking voice, listening skills, writing skills, technical skills, industry knowledge, and other skills required to interact with your customers. But there are other skills to consider too.

Soft skills often make the difference between the good and the best frontline employees. Soft skills are those skills related to social interactions. Applicants with strong soft skills have lots of energy, enthusiasm, and an aptitude to integrate and foster collaboration required in teamwork. Soft skills are also related to an applicant’s cultural fit. Finding frontline representatives who “fit in” with your company’s DNA is a must.

There are a couple of different ways to evaluate applicants on the basis of traditional skills, technical skills, soft skills, and the ability to “fit in”:

  • Use pre-hiring testing

Pre-hiring testing is often used to save time and money in the recruiting process by significantly narrowing the applicant pool to only those with specific skills. But also consider using a pre-hiring profile or behavioral testing to evaluate those “soft skills” and predict an applicant’s potential success in the position.

  • Have the applicants participate in simulations

Simulations and role-playing with representatives of your company will help to further narrow your candidates. In addition, these exercises will give the candidate a chance to experience the position prior to hiring.

  • Allow the applicant to shadow

There’s no substitute for hands-on experiences and interactions. Another valuable way to evaluate a candidate is to have them shadow someone within your department for a minimum of a half a day, or a full day if possible. This gives both the company and the applicant valuable, hands-on insights.

How to retain the best

Finding the best employees is only half of the story. Once that employee is hired, trained and integrated into your company, the challenge then becomes retaining that individual. And this is a whole different challenge or opportunity, depending on how you look at it. There are five key factors that will influence your ability to retain your best frontline employees.

  1. Empower your employees

The success of your frontline employees depends on the degree to which you empower these representatives to service your customers. If they are not empowered to solve your customers’ problems, or if they consistently need to rely on management to solve problems, your frontline employees will be ineffective from the start and will fail your customer. You have to give each frontline employee the authority to solve your customers’ needs. This empowerment will benefit the customer as well as your frontline employee. Because customers often enter into a service experience with little to no expectations, your frontline representatives are in the best position to win your customers now and into the future. By empowering your frontline representatives to solve situations, you are positioning your company to deliver a positive customer experience.

2. Design a pathway to advancement

Frontline representatives are often stuck in a flat structure with little room for growth and advancement. But if you design your structure with the clear skill set requirements and expectations for each step of career advancement, your frontline employees will stay motivated, which will improve employee retention. By retaining your frontline employees, while allowing for career advancement, you also build your corporate knowledge base. This will, in turn, enhance your customer’s experience.

3. Encourage regular interaction with managers

Encourage your managers to consistently interact with each of the employees. This is not just a walk-through to say “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good night.” It’s important to engage in meaningful interactions such as being a part of their conversations with the department, with other departments, and most importantly while they are interacting with customers. Managers should follow up with each employee, asking questions and most importantly, being there to support them in meeting your customers’ needs. When managers have a consistent presence with your frontline representatives, it sends a clear signal that the company places the highest degree of emphasis on servicing its customers. And when your Frontline has this support your, customers always benefit.

4. Provide access to technology

While technology may play a key role in servicing your customers, it also adds a level of complexity that all employees need to face. In any role, employees need to know how to use each of the applications required in their daily job function. But for frontline employees, there is the additional burden of mastering a number of other forms of technology — the phone system, Customer Relations Management Application (CRM), the document management application, the customer web portal, the time and attendance system, the payroll system, corporate email, and various other applications — used to service your customers. Consider how technology has transformed the workplace adding complexity even for small businesses.

5. Never stop training

Your frontline representatives need to have knowledge about the inner workings of the company as well as access to all of the subject matter experts in the company. This knowledge and access to expertise will enable employees to move quickly to solve your customers’ needs. That’s why it’s vitally important to create a comprehensive training program for acclimating employees to the systems, procedures and processes that they need to understand to service your customers.

Recruiting the right employees for your frontline is only part of the equation. Once your representative is in place, they must be empowered and have the right infrastructure, knowledge, and support to make them successful in servicing your customers. Ownership of the relationship between the client and the company will give you the successful frontline that your business needs.

About the author: Carl Draves

Carl Draves is a 30+ veteran the Professional Employer Organization Industry with focuses in both the IT and Operations departments. Currently, Carl resides as the Director of Strategic Implementation at ChampionPEO in downtown Mount Clemens, Michigan.