A majority of Americans are introduced to the workforce through frontline jobs. In fact, approximately “70 percent of the current US workforce is concentrated in frontline positions.” Experts define frontline workers as hourly and salaried roles such as retail salespeople, cooks, and store managers (filled by 95 million workers) who earn an average annual income of $33,000.
Too often, however, frontline jobs are both a starting point and an end point for workers. This research report from McKinsey found this is especially true for frontline workers of color, who face “an array of impediments to moving up the ladder.” And while their research clearly demonstrates that this demographic wants to develop and progress, it often feels impossible.
At Kantola, we know that when people believe they have a fair chance of succeeding, they feel like they are truly a part of the organization. To that end, there are opportunities for companies to mobilize and develop their front line, creating benefits for workers and organizational culture alike. McKinsey’s research offers some facts that help to illuminate the situation in the hope of bettering the future.
In that regard, there’s opportunity for companies to mobilize and develop their front line, creating benefits for workers and organizational culture alike. But how? McKinsey’s research starts by pointing out the facts, in hopes of bettering the future.
The study introduces a concept of “gateway occupations” that are especially effective at transforming job progressions into an employee’s goal position. These roles are designed to “effectively help workers develop new skills (for example, a customer service representative moving into an IT role) or broaden existing skills gained through work experience (such as a medical assistant moving into a more advanced role in healthcare).”
These roles are broken down through the lens and needs of experience. For example, the study discusses the Black frontline experience as overcoming a trust deficit, the complicated Asian stereotype, and a lack of support for Latino workers. Each section presents first person discussion and startling statistics meant to validate the need for change.
Plus, in order to enact these pathway positions, McKinsey’s study points out that companies must provide more support to frontline workers to enable this type of advancement. This will require organizations to “reassess their traditional approach to the front line and directly address previous bias.”
Reassessing the traditional approach when it comes to your frontline workers
McKinsey’s experts point out multiple steps organizations can take to debunk myths and provide a clearer path for their frontline workers.
- Formalize paths for advancement from the front line to higher-paying roles
- Overhaul the frontline talent management system
- Establish a talent market program
- Define the skills frontline workers need for higher-level roles
- Reward experience rather than relying on credentials
- Identify Gateway jobs within the organization and remove artificial barriers to promotion
- Give a voice to frontline workers
- “Raise the floor” on the frontline experience
- Invest in frontline managers