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In healthcare, frontline workers are the first point of contact between the organisation and its patients. They are the eyes and ears of the organisation; the problem-solvers who are best placed to identify issues and drive improvements. But what does ‘empowering the frontline’ really mean? At its heart, it involves providing these workers with the information and skills they need to best perform in their given roles.

A 2020 Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey gathered the insights of 464 business executives across an array of industries. The findings were clear: organisations empowering their frontline employees are seeing an array of benefits, and those who are not are falling behind. 

empowering frontline workers
Source: Harvard Business Review – Analytic Services (2020)

Moreover, these benefits are not isolated to a particular area; they are organisation-wide, ranging from customer/patient satisfaction to employee engagement to profitability. And they are not just short-term gains, either. As illustrated below, 27% of respondents believe that empowering the frontline workforce now will bring about a ‘significant increase’ in productivity in the short-term, but almost triple this number (74%) believe that the same increase will be felt further down the line. 

This begs the question: how can organisations begin to digitally empower their workforce? Here are our top 4 tips for managing the change.

Keep digital transformation simple 

In order to drive the change that is needed, frontline workers need relevant, real-time data to inform their decisions. But it is crucial that these workers are not inundated with irrelevant data which might leave them confused and overwhelmed. New technologies should provide the frontline with a concise and manageable flow of information that enhances performance, rather than hindering it.

Get senior leaders on board

Frontline empowerment starts at the top. Without strong leadership and commitment from leaders, how can we expect both managers and frontline workers to be engaged in change? Senior leaders must be willing to promote change that places decision-making power in the hands of the frontline, in order to get maximal buy-in from middle management. In fact, 91% of the respondents above believed that those in managerial positions play an ‘essential role’ in empowering the frontline. But at present, only half of respondents think that they are well-equipped to manage the change.

Invest in training – for everyone

Collaboration tools, analytics platforms and AI systems will all soon be commonplace technologies helping frontline workers to become more autonomous in their work. Many workers will not be familiar with these technologies, so it will take time for them to learn how to get the most out of these innovative new products. Training and change-management programmes will equip workers with the knowhow not just to use these tools, but to be able to apply the valuable insights which they generate. 

However, it is crucial that training involves not just those on the frontline, but also managers and those in leadership positions. Only when senior leaders within an organisation acquire a thorough understanding of these new technologies and their benefits will they be able to engage those on the frontline.

Embrace a culture change

Rigid organisational structures and business processes can slow down the shift to more data-driven, autonomous ways of working. Achieving this will require more than just training and coaching; it will require rethinking the ways in which your organisation is run. Exploring lean approaches and agile working methods are examples of techniques that you can use to consolidate this new digitally-enabled work culture. By embracing change rather than resisting it, organisations will uncover inefficiencies they didn’t even know existed.

The ImproveWell solution has been specifically designed to empower frontline healthcare workers to drive change in their organisations. By enabling those on the frontline to suggest meaningful improvements, everyone is able to make a difference. If you would like to find out more about how the ImproveWell solution could help your organisation, please get in touch.


Harvard Business Review – Analytic Services. 2020. The New Decision Makers: Equipping Frontline Workers for Success. Access the full report here.

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