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How to Retain Talent and Empower Front-line Facilities Teams

FMs have a lot on their plates. Already feeling stretched thin and shorthanded, they have little time to invest in their company’s employee communication strategy. But it’s proving to be the most effective way to retain talent, while also empowering front-line personnel to safely deliver on evolving client expectations.  

When ESFM was at IFMA’s World Workplace in Nashville last September, we shared some learnings from our award-winning communication strategy that inverted the traditional top-down communication model. What we shared seemed to resonate, as many people we spoke with throughout the conference related to the challenges ESFM faced before developing the strategy. We decided to share some replicable takeaways, focused on two critical areas, safety and talent retention, that remain top of mind for FMs. 

Watch ESFM's full presentation at World Workplace here.




The challenge of employee satisfaction and retention 

By a conservative estimate, the cost of replacing an employee is somewhere around one-and-a-half to two times their salary. A 2022 report revealed that 51% of FM workers want to quit their jobs, so it shouldn’t be surprising that voluntary turnover remains at a near-record high. 

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you value your team; it’s just difficult to show it — hourly employees are not bound to a desk, and many don’t have a company email. So, how do we move the needle and engage these hard-to-reach employees? 

ESFM found that mobile-first communications enabled the company to directly connect with employees coast-to-coast, across all shifts and service lines.  

The process was about more than finding the right platform or app, ESFM committed to evaluating what frontline employees need to know to do their job better and safer, and measuring how effective that communication was with business outcomes. 

The ability to directly tie a communications campaign with a relevant business outcome seemed to be the most impactful concept to our World Workplace audience. It’s not enough to measure email open rates or count employee signatures after training. Company communications should impact key drivers across your business.  

To drive engagement, make the communications platform a destination, gamifying the content to incentivize employees to earn points. High scores provide the opportunity to earn prizes. Now, physical, and even geographic walls no longer separate employees: messages are universal and available no matter when or where someone is working. Team members are encouraged to celebrate one another and to hold conversations sparked by discussion threads around key programs and initiatives. The platform is also used to share company resources, job postings and training opportunities. 

The result of this shift was a greater connection to the larger purpose of our team’s work and a 7% reduction in voluntary turnover of hourly employees — across the company, not just among app users. 

Nudging the safety culture forward 

With the practice of nudging, ESFM tapped into a behavioral principle that encourages positive behavior change, as opposed to enforcing or simply educating. 

The Nudging Behavior Theory is based on the idea of influencing individual or group decision-making through indirect suggestions and positive reinforcement. 

This can be accomplished by breaking down complex ideas into simple messages, something that can be read in 30 seconds. Then, a few days later, quiz participants to see if the information is being retained and understood.  

How do you know your safety talks are resonating? Simple, test them. Gamification makes this process fun, and earning points incentivizes participation. Follow that up with evaluating company safety metrics from one quarter to the next.  

 ESFM realized the success of this in seeing a 28% reduction in safety incidents in the first year. 


Developing the right communication strategy for your business is not a simple copy-and-paste solution. Your company culture will play a role in how well campaigns resonate with your employees. But the steps outlined in this article can help start you down the path to success.  

  • Utilize the communication medium that will reach the largest segment of your employee population. 
  • Connect directly with your audience. 
  • Keep it simple and fun using gamification, incentives, and employee recognition. 
  • Tie communications to a business outcome — not just open rate — to measure how effective the campaign is. 
  • Ask for feedback. 
  • Continuously evolve/improve to align with the business and audience needs. 

If you authentically look for ways to connect with your employees, they will sense it. The results should follow. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrea Rossitter leads marketing and supports communications and employee engagement as Senior Director of Marketing for ESFM. Andrea has 20 years of experience in marketing and communications, with an extensive background in health & wellness. 

Andrea joined Compass Group in 2013 and has held multiple positions across marketing, wellness and operations in food and facility services divisions, supporting both higher education and corporate clients. In 2017 Andrea became ESFM’s Director of Marketing and has since built out a team that executes all internal and external communications, marketing, and employee recognition programming, while also supporting business development and client retention efforts.