6 Ways to Make Sure Frontline Employees are On the Job this Holiday Season

Barista frontline employee working during the holiday season

If you’re a shopper, November is the time you start worrying about your holiday gift lists.

If you’re a retailer, November is when you start worrying in earnest about your holiday shift schedule – and how to fill it.

And it’s dicey.

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas can constitute nearly a fifth of a retailer’s bottom line, and every missing employee on the floor is a potential lost sale. But people do miss work – a good chunk of the workforce (45% of working parents) will call out because of child care alone. Complicated scheduling can make care for families seem like an unsolvable problem. But it’s really not. 

Here are six facts about frontline employees and what you can do about them.  

Frontline employees want to be on the job. Work pays the bills, especially at the holidays when extra hours mean extra earning potential. 

They have unique care issues. Unlike a 9-5 employee, a shift worker’s schedule changes week-to-week, making care needs difficult to plan for – and then cover -- even when you have a couple of days’ notice. The constant juggle can feel both stressful and futile. Related absenteeism is, predictably, substantial. 

More holiday shifts create more complications. “Surge” hours only increase the need for care options that are available, carefully vetted in advance, and that can be instantly reserved for all ages -- from infants to school-age children to senior relatives. Reliable care means more people on the job. 

There is a formula to fix it. Successful caregiving benefits for these employees can be structured to roll with the schedule challenge, distributing care allotments into on-demand “care banks” that can flex with frontline schedules.  

But it will require a shift in thinking. Rather than treating frontline care programs as a replacement for when primary care is unavailable, your frontline program should be a solution fit for the challenge: flexing to provide easy access to care for the rush of the holiday season or any other busy stretch that requires people to work more frequently or longer than their typical schedule.

Other employers are already acting. We’re already seeing the shift with our back-up care clients, a growing number of whom are expanding coverage to retail, warehouse, and other hourly employee populations. Employees can reserve care right through an app, and can also speak to care consultants 24/7 to have care arranged for them. 

It’s not just an answer for the holidays. Frontline employees, already in limited supply, are some of the workforces biggest year-round shortages. Seasonal is only going to get harder. As Forbes bluntly put it earlier this fall, “For retailers this holiday season, good help will be hard to find.” 

This type of benefit is not only a game changer for the growing number of working caregivers asked to work extra weekend shifts; it also signals an investment in the employees. That means a good seasonal care plan can have long term effects, doing more than preventing absences – but saving careers.

Mom holding child in kitchen

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Written by: Jonathan Corke

November 6, 2019

About the Author

Jonathan Corke at Bright Horizons

As Senior Director, Product Marketing, Jonathan has spent the last decade working at the intersection of strategic HR and enterprise technology. He has learned a great deal about converting a talent management strategy into an operating plan through direct conversations with HR leaders and numerous industry surveys. These experiences have sparked a fascination with how leading employers create a better environment for their workforce, and how that environment drives consistent business performance. Jonathan holds an MBA from Clark University.