Frontline workers – who are they and what do they do?

Frontline workers took over the spotlight in 2020, and they’ll likely be a topic of conversation regarding the workforce and employment rates. One of the clearest realizations made in the midst of industrial transformation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has been that global manufacturing is powered by the frontline workforce.

Frontline vs. essential worker

Frontline workers are employees in an organization that provide some essential service to the general public. Not all essential workers are considered frontline workers. The distinction is based on how much interaction they have with people, and whether they’re customers or recipients of the service provided. For example, frontline workers have a higher rate of face-to-face interactions than essential workers, who aren’t necessarily required to work in public-facing roles.

Some essential workers can work from home, while frontline workers usually have to report in-person to complete their job responsibilities. Both essential and frontline workers help society function and contribute to the economic growth of the communities in which they live and serve.

Being a frontline worker today

The industry witnessed a sea of change: a significant disruption in terms of business continuity, operational visibility, remote work, employee safety, and the list goes on. Businesses across the supply chain have responded—and are continually adapting as we all embrace the recovery process—and the organizations that include their frontline in that process are reaping the benefit of accelerated growth and productivity. When the working world split between those who could do their jobs from home and those who could not, the frontline transformed beyond anyone’s expectations.

Frontline jobs have both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to their title. In recent months, frontline employees had access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Due to the nature of their work, it was necessary to vaccinate frontline employees because of their proximity to the public. Limiting the spread helps the country move past the pandemic and allows workers to transition back into the office.

Frontline workers received recognition for the work they did during the height of the pandemic. Many people were thankful for the work they performed, whether it was saving lives in a hospital or continuing to bag groceries while risking exposure to the virus.

Frontline workers’ future

We all know the current global workforce shortage and skills gap crisis are challenging our industry in profound ways. The “Great Resignation” is adding to the already enormous labor challenges within the industry. The United States is predicted to leave as many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs unfilled through 2030. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, projects that its workforce will shrink by about 4 million by 2030 as the baby boomer generation retires.

Addressing the common issues frontline workers face is no simple task. However, industries need to try and improve working conditions for the people who provide these services. In addition, it’s clear that frontline workers play a significant role in economic growth, so investing in their well-being would be beneficial. If potential workers see that being a frontline worker is a great career opportunity, the workforce would be more diverse and well-rounded, and employee satisfaction would likely improve.

Convincing younger generations that manufacturing is a future-focused, technologically advanced career choice will become increasingly critical, and providing mobile-based digital tools and on-the-job learning opportunities are now tablestakes to ensure employees stick around.

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