Frontline Managers: Are they in your blind spot?

Evelyn Kwek

Author

PAMELA SNG

Author

RAYMOND TEO

Author

EVELYN KWEK, PAMELA SNG, AND RAYMOND TEO

Authors

CATEGORIES

Categories

While articles about evolving leadership practices and the changing needs of employees abound, much less has been said about the frontline managers or first level supervisors who bridge the gap between these two groups. Great Place to Work® recognizes the important role frontline leaders play and will shine a spotlight on their workplace experience based on data collected on our proprietary Emprising™ survey platform in this series on Frontline Managers.

“Engage your employees.” “Connect with employees on the shop floor.” “Walk the ground to engage your people, hear from them, understand their challenges and concerns…” We have all heard advice like these in one form or other, recognize its importance and acted on it. Especially through the Covid pandemic where leaders are expected to be more visible and engaging, there are clear quantitative and anecdotal accounts of leaders being more accessible to employees and caring for their well-being. Amongst our Great Place to Work-Certified™ community, we have seen leaders step up to the challenge, demonstrate compassion, reach out to employees in a variety of ways, and show authentic care and support these past two years.

The Covid pandemic has added pressure on a group of individuals – frontline managers or first line supervisors. Otherwise known as the sandwich group, our data shows that their workplace experience tends to be the weakest, even before the pandemic struck. Sandwiched between senior leaders and staff, this group of individuals has had to juggle between achieving targets amidst resource constraints, operational issues, and people matters.

They are the individuals whose daily interactions, decisions and behaviors make the difference between an employee having a great day at work, or… A Really Bad Day. They are expected to motivate their teams, bolster morale, and drive employee contributions in line with the company’s strategy. They are responsible for cascading workplace culture initiatives, live out corporate values (or not), and are the linchpin for the success or failure of policies, programs and initiatives being implemented. Yet, they tend to fall into the blind spot in many companies, and struggle with a very different workplace experience from what top management perceives.

Based on our analysis of data and engagements with leaders in our Culture Coaching1 sessions, we identified three key experience gaps between senior executives (the CEO/President and the C-suite executives who report to the CEO) and frontline managers.

1. Clarity in Communications

More senior executives than frontline managers tend to believe that their expectations have been made clear, and that questions asked are effectively addressed. Less positive experiences in these areas are felt more acutely by frontline managers. They are expected to cascade directions from senior leaders down to their team members, be able to defend the decisions made, and respond to questions and challenges from the ground. Unsurprisingly, when this information is not clear to them in the first instance, information gets lost in translation as it moves down the hierarchy – a case of the broken telephone. Oftentimes, without effective communication platforms and a psychologically safe workplace environment, many employees will not be comfortable raising questions or sharing their concerns at ‘All Hands’ meetings or townhalls; it is usually left to frontline managers to deal with their questions and concerns afterward.

2. Consistency of words and actions

Another common experience gap between senior executives and frontline managers is in the consistency between what they see and hear. Working with clients, we find that what tends to be perceived as inconsistency between what has been said and the final decision/action taken is attributable to a gap in communication flow. Oftentimes, frontline managers are not involved in policy decisions or told the rationale behind changes made along the way. This becomes a barrier when they subsequently need to update their team members on changes from what was previously shared by top management, or explain the thinking behind decisions made.

3. Perception of equity

One of the biggest experience gaps between executives and frontline managers is their perception of being fairly rewarded for their contributions. The perception of being fairly paid for their work and receiving a fair share of the profits impacts an individual’s experience of financial wellness, and this is one of the key aspects of overall employee well-being at work2. Often, frontline managers experience the same dissatisfaction around pay and bonuses as many of their team members, but as leaders of their teams, they are expected to represent the company professionally. However, team members can usually sense their frustration and this has a detrimental impact on the rest of the team.

Happily, this is not happening in every company. Data from our Trust Index™ survey comprising 60 core statements showed that among companies on the 2021 Singapore Best Workplaces™ list (“SG Best”), the experience gap of 4% between senior executives and frontline managers is much smaller, as compared with the 13% gap for other organizations (“SG Rest”)3.

SG Best companies have successfully built a culture of trust, enabled employees to maximize their potential, and demonstrated exemplary leadership effectiveness with a purpose-driven, people-first mindset. And importantly, they have done this across all levels in the organization to create a great place to work For All™. Unsurprisingly, 89% of frontline managers in SG Best say that they want to work there for a long time, compared with 75% among SG Rest.

This article is the first in a series spotlighting the workplace experience of frontline managers. In the next article, we will feature practices Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies have introduced to support and enable their frontline managers to lead their teams effectively and thrive at the workplace.

Keen to learn how your frontline managers are experiencing your workplace?

Click here to find out more.

1.  After reviewing results from Trust Index© employee survey, a Great Place to Work® culture consultant works with the client to understand and interpret the survey results, quantify linkages to the strategy and performance, identify high-impact focus areas, and make suitable recommendations, drawing on insights from Best Workplaces™.

2. Researchers at Great Place to Work and Johns Hopkins University partnered on study that reveals key insights in promoting employee well-being. Click here to download the report on Employee Well-Being in the New Workplace. 

3. This refers to other companies, including Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies, that participated in this year’s survey. Not all Certified companies appear on the 2021 Best Workplaces list.

Evelyn Kwek

Evelyn is the Managing Director for Great Place to Work®️ in ASEAN and ANZ. Heading the expansion of Great Place to Work®️ offices in ASEAN, Evelyn is convinced that just as the region is growing exponentially on the economic front, the work of building great workplaces For All™ must go in tandem with economic growth.

A proud mother of 3, Evelyn takes parenting very seriously – she is strict yet giving, result-focused yet generous. Together with husband Roland, they relish exploring new cultures and beautiful places of the world, usually on leisurely self-drive holidays, before the days of Covid.

PAMELA SNG

Pamela is our Senior Consultant and Research Lead for Great Place to Work® ASEAN and ANZ. She has over two decades of consulting and policy experience helping organizations in their journey to become fair and progressive employers. She believes that every organization has the potential to be a great workplace, and works with data to distil insights and develop resources to help them. When she’s not burrowing down the rabbit hole of numbers and words, she’s probably immersed in a new K-drama or catching up with friends over a virtual drinks session.

RAYMOND TEO

Raymond is a talent-builder, having trained and coached hundreds of leaders and staff in systematic problem-solving skills. He is also a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and a LEGO® Serious Play facilitator, using these tools in strategy development, team building, problem solving, visioning and leadership development. Today, as a Senior Consultant for Great Place to Work®, Raymond brings in his extensive coaching, business performance management, and team development experiences to help clients build stronger workplace cultures and employee engagement that is pivotal towards business success.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category