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Nudge Theory 101: How to use it to drive frontline productivity, revenue and more

Nudge Theory 101: How to use it to drive frontline productivity, revenue and more

Welcome to the magical world of nudge theory, a concept in behavioral economics popularized by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein in their book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

But what is nudge theory, and why should frontline leaders care? 

What is Nudge Theory?

Nudge theory starts with a simple premise: people don’t always make the decisions that are best for themselves in the long run, even when they know what the right choice is. 

Take getting enough sleep. We all know that a solid night’s sleep has benefits for our physical and mental health. And yet, many of us delay bedtime to binge one more episode, or to cram in a little more time scrolling our phones. 

According to nudge theory, there are several reasons behind this poor decision making: 

  • Having either too much or too little information to make a decision
  • Relying on our “gut instinct” to save time in decision making
  • Lack of willpower 
  • Acting without thinking

To combat this tendency, nudge theory recommends making slight changes to drive better decision making. For example, changing an environment, such as a school cafeteria, so that fruit takes pride of place, while junk food is tucked away. Another form of nudge is introducing defaults, such as automatically enrolling employees into a pension scheme (and allowing them to opt out) rather than using an opt in system. 

According to Thaler and Sunstein, nudges can be a useful tool at the individual, institutional, and national level. The key idea is to create incentives to adopt desired behaviors, rather than use coercion. 

How frontline organizations can use nudge theory

For frontline leaders, nudge theory can be your secret weapon for driving desired behavior, including operational consistency and productivity. It’s all about giving your staff a little nudge (see what we did there?). Here are 5 examples of how to put nudge theory into practice: 

1. Establish norms and best practices

Most people adopt behaviors and practices that align with what their peers are doing. If you can make certain behaviors highly visible to more employees, you’re likely to nudge more people to adopt strategies that boost performance. 

Using your employee communication platform, you could use polls to highlight the norms you want all employees to adopt. For example, a poll that asks “Is it important to greet every customer personally?” will show the value that retail assistants place on customer service within your organization (and remind employees to make sure they’re making connections with customers). 

Alternatively, you might ask employees to contribute best practices on a theme. For example, “What’s your top tip for closing a sale?” This embeds a culture of knowledge sharing and allows best practices to spread across teams and locations. 

Did you know that Nudge’s digital communication platform makes it easy to run skill-testing polls and lead best-practice forums at scale? Collect valuable insights and identify knowledge gaps, no matter how large your frontline workforce. Learn more here

2. Use comparison to increase motivation

As social beings, humans love to know that we’re fitting in with peer groups. Companies can use this to nudge their employees to meet targets by recognizing teams or individuals who are excelling. For example, a retail store running a promotion can incentivize individual locations to boost sales by sharing a leaderboard of stores. Or a restaurant chain trying to reduce food waste may highlight a particular chef who excels in this area. 

Peer-to-peer employee recognition can also be powerful. Enable your teams to celebrate each other’s success through team huddles or – better yet – your digital communication platform. Highlighting, celebrating and rewarding employees not only improves performance but also builds connections and community, which empowers and engages employees. 

3. Make the right choice the easy choice

In order to save time and energy, we default to doing what’s easiest. In busy frontline jobs, employees will often focus on what’s immediate, what’s necessary, and what’s easy to do. However, there may be important tasks that get missed along the way.

Say you want front desk employees to follow a certain procedure when checking in guests, which includes a prompt around your loyalty program. To increase the likelihood that customers are reminded of the program, you could build a workflow into the check-in system that reminds the employee at the right time. Or if you want to ensure a crew of delivery drivers are taking adequate breaks, send them prompts to their phones regularly encouraging them to take a rest. 

4. Inspire ethical behavior

There are many situations where unethical behavior by employees can harm your business – from shrinkage to time theft. Using strict supervision and harsh penalties may be one way to discourage unwanted behavior, but what if you could nudge your employees to do the right thing instead? Behavioral nudge researcher Sreedhari Desai has found that subtle actions can promote ethical behavior. For example, she found that requiring staff to provide itemized receipts in auto repair shops reduced over-billing of customers (a large source of complaints in the industry).

5. Make knowledge sticky

Training and development are critical to getting the most out of your employees. But ensuring what’s learned in training makes it to the frontline can be tricky. Sending bite-size updates can help employees retain key knowledge so that they can perform at their best. 

For example, organizations can  run pop quizzes on key information (such as new promotions, or product lines) or share checklists or other memory aids to embed critical knowledge (like health and safety checks). Also, be sure to provide updates whenever changes are made or new information is available

Extra tips for getting nudge theory right

Nudging your employees can be a powerful way to boost performance, motivation, and even employee engagement. If you’re ready to give nudge theory a go, here are some key considerations for getting started: 

Be transparent: The aim of nudging is not to “trick” employees into doing things they don’t want to. Rather, you want to provide clear choices (and highlight the positive consequences of making the desired choice). Avoid coercive nudges–they’re likely to backfire. 

Co-create with your staff: According to a study of nudges in the healthcare system, employees can react badly to feeling that a nudge is being “done to” them. Nudges don’t need to be hidden in order to be effective, the authors found. In fact, co-creating nudges with team members can be highly effective and reinforce a sense of employee autonomy. 

Use the right tool for the job: Nudging every single member of your frontline staff might seem like an insurmountable challenge. But with the right tool (maybe one with the word “nudge” baked right in…?), you can create a communication strategy your staff wants to be a part of. 

9 books every frontline leader needs to read

9 books every frontline leader needs to read

We’ve talked podcasts. We’ve talked TED talks. Now on to the written word! 

There are thousands of business books out there – each one promising to turn your organization around, make you a better frontline leader, or revolutionize the way you do business. But how do you know which books are worth your time? 

We’ve gathered together nine of the best books for frontline leaders. Check out our general picks below, or flip to our industry-specific selections for leaders in retail or foodservice and hospitality

Enjoy! 📖 


3 books every frontline leader should read: 


The Front-Line Leader: Building a High-Performance Organization from the Ground Up

The Front-Line Leader | NudgeAuthor: Chris Van Gorder

Length: 208 pages / 6 hours 32 mins audiobook

In brief: Van Gorder started his career as a police officer, became a hospital security guard, and is now the President and CEO of Scripps Health. During his tenure, he has overseen a dramatic turnaround, taking the San Diego health system from near bankruptcy to being recognized as one of the most prestigious in the US. 

Why it’s worth your time: Van Gorder’s message definitely fires us up: leaders need to get to know, value, and understand their frontline team members. This is how businesses build accountability, inspire staff, and drive results. Full of practical advice, Van Gorder looks at both large scale strategies and everyday actions that make a difference. 

Key Quote: “When frontline workers are part of any solution, they own it every bit as much as leaders do. Everyone benefits – the organization, workers and, most of all, customers.” 


Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity 

Radical Candor | NudgeAuthor: Kim Scott

Length: 246 pages / 11 hours 55 mins audiobook

In brief: After a long career in the tech world (including stints at Dropbox, Apple, Google, and more), Kim Scott has seen some of the most common management pitfalls: obnoxious aggression, manipulative insincerity, and ruinous empathy. In Radical Candor, Scott offers up a management philosophy based on building personal relationships, being willing to challenge people when needed, taking feedback on your own performance, and investing in others’ growth. 

Why it’s worth your time: No one ever said being a manager is easy, and it can be particularly challenging in the high-stakes environments that frontline leaders work in. Whether you want to improve your own management skills or support your line managers to build strong teams, Radical Candor offers a consistent approach to building a winning workplace culture. Not convinced? Scott has gone on to found a successful corporate training company that has worked with leaders around the world. 

Key Quote: “At Apple, as at Google, a boss’s ability to achieve results had a lot more to do with listening and seeking to understand than it did with telling people what to do; more to do with debating than directing; more to do with pushing people to decide than with being the decider; more to do with persuading than with giving orders; more to do with learning than with knowing.”


Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Leaders eat last | NudgeAuthor: Simon Sinek

Length: 368 pages / 9 hours 23 mins audiobook

In brief: Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer, business expert, podcast host and author. His Ted Talk was on our list of must-listens for leaders so it’s no surprise that we’re fans of his book. The book is based on an idea that Sinek heard from a Marine Corps general: “Officers Eat Last.” More than just a symbolic gesture, Sinek shows how this demonstrates a commitment at the top to those serving beneath you. 

Why it’s worth your time: Sinek’s book will challenge you to think about your role as a leader: how far are you willing to go to build trust and ensure the safety and security of your team? Sinek uses case studies from successful organizations to demonstrate how organizations where leaders create a “circle of safety” are able to build teams that will go the extra mile. 

Key Quote: “When a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.”   


3 books every retail leader should read:


The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence: Creating a Values-Driven Service Culture 

Authors: Robert Spektor and breAnne O. ReevesThe Nordstrom Way | Nudge

Length: 225 pages / 6 hours 14 mins audiobook

In Brief: Now in its third edition, The Nordstrom Way has been a business must-read since it was first released in the ‘90s. Robert Spektor has written and studied Nordstrom for more than thirty years, and alongside his business partner and co-author, breAnne O. Reeves, has updated this classic for the digital age. But don’t worry, you’ll still learn the secrets to how Nordstrong has built its legendary reputation for customer service (hint: it’s all about the employee experience).

Why it’s worth your time: The most recent edition of the book includes insight from Nordstrom’s leaders on how to adapt to a world in which customers are used to the seamless ease of digital shopping and have come to expect convenience, speed, and the personal touch in all their retail experiences. We love the focus on empowering frontline staff with the digital tools they need to offer excellent service. 

Key Quote: “Recognition is powerful, as long as it’s authentic and specific. Whatever their level on the inverted pyramid, employees want to feel needed and valued.”   


Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World

Resurrecting retail | NudgeAuthor: Doug Stephens

Length: 258 pages / 7 hours 58 mins audiobook

In Brief: Doug Stephens is a leading retail futurist whose long career in retail leadership roles have informed his three best-selling books on retail. His latest, Resurrecting Retail, explores the impact the pandemic has had on the retail industry while also looking to the future. 

Why it’s worth your time: It’s no secret that the pandemic has upended much of the retail business. Stephens examines how consumer behavior has been reshaped over the past two years and offers retail leaders a roadmap for adapting and thriving in a radically changed retail environment. 

Key Quote: “So how should business leaders prepare for an uncertain and largely unprecedented future? Some maintain we can’t predict the future at all. I wholeheartedly agree, nor should we try to predict the future. But that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for it.” 


Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

Let my people go surfing | NudgeAuthor: Yvon Chouinard

Length: 272 pages / 7 hours 59 minutes audiobook

In Brief: Yvon Chouinard is a rock-climber, environmentalist, and founder of global outdoor brand, Patagonia. In his memoir/business book, Chouniard shares the philosophy that has made Patagonia a global phenomenon. This includes dedication to creating a people-focused workplace, with policies that fly in the face of conventional wisdom (including plenty of flexibility to go surfing!).

Why it’s worth your time: Chouinard calls himself a reluctant businessman and his company an “un-business.” Needless to say, his ideas won’t be for everyone. But his book is a rallying cry for finding your company’s purpose and values and then embedding them into every part of your business. And if nothing else, you can marvel at the extraordinary life Chouinard has led!

Key Quote: “Patagonia’s image is a human voice. It expresses the joy of people who love the world, who are passionate about their beliefs, and who want to influence the future. It is not processed; it won’t compromise its humanity. This means that it will offend, and it will inspire.”


3 books every foodservice and hospitality leader should read:


The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets 

The heart of hospitality | NudgeAuthor: Micah Solomon

Length: 238 pages / audio unavailable

In Brief: Who would you most like to sit down with to hear how they built a winning hospitality business? Isadore Sharp of the Four Seasons? Double five star chef and hotelier Patrick O’Connell? Or maybe Ritz Carlton’s President and COO Herve Humler? Luckily, customer service expert Micah Solomon has talked to these hospitality titans and more and distilled their wisdom into an entertaining and insightful book on how the biggest names in the business have created their success. 

Why it’s worth your time: This book is a comprehensive look at what it takes to succeed in the hospitality industry. From company culture, to hiring and onboarding, to creating a winning customer experience, this book is full of practical examples and up-to-the-minute insights. 

Key Quote: “Here’s how I’d summarize the attitude of great hoteliers, restaurateurs, and other hospitality professionals… If we did it for our first guest we’ll find a way to keep doing it for our millionth, without rushing or cutting corners, without doing anything to make that guest feel any less than fully valued in our eyes.”


Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food 

Delivering the digital restaurant | NudgeAuthors: Carl Orsbourn and Meredith Sandland

Length: 264 pages / 7 hours 21 mins audiobook

In brief: Carl Orsbourn and Meredith Sandland are both veterans of the industry who have turned their attention to the digital future of the food industry. Like Resurrecting Retail, this book explores the current challenges and opportunities faced by the restaurant industry and is rich with insider knowledge and thought-provoking ideas.

Why it’s worth your time: This book is meticulously researched, drawing on data and sociological knowledge, as well as the expertise of the authors. Leaders in the food industry know that digital disruption (and the impacts of the pandemic) mean that it’s time to adapt or die. This book offers a practical roadmap on how leaders can innovate and adapt. What’s more Orsbourn and Sandland share ideas for business both large and small, making this a valuable read for anyone in the restaurant world.  

Key Quote: “People take pride in sharing their food philosophy and personalizing their order. Ordering online expands our restaurant options and personalizes our choices with a few clicks. More than ever before, restaurants need to understand diverse lifestyles and viewpoints to be involved in the dialogue of what matters most to their consumer base.” 


Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business  

Setting the table | NudgeAuthors: Danny Meyer

Length: 336 pages/ 5 hours 33 mins audiobook

In Brief: A giant of the New York food scene, Meyer shares how he built his business empire. From opening his first restaurant at 27, to running the Union Square Hospitality Group, to founding the fast food phenomenon Shake Shack, Meyer has proven again and again that he knows what it takes to succeed in a notoriously cutthroat business. This is both a memoir of a remarkable career and a valuable business book that leaders in hospitality and beyond can learn from. 

Why it’s worth your time: If you want to understand how a successful restaurant gets built, the classic book is a must-read. In it, he shares his philosophy of Enlightened Hospitality, which he credits to his success. The core principles are: creating a meaningful employee experience, building strong relationships with suppliers, connecting with local community, and delivering an outstanding experience for guests. 

Key Quote: “In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

5 business podcasts every deskless leader needs to hear

5 business podcasts every deskless leader needs to hear

As a leader, you want to be constantly learning and keeping up-to-date with the latest business trends. But finding the time to do all that learning can be hard to come by. 

It’s one of the reasons we love business podcasts. Episodes come in bite-sized chunks, and can be listened to while you’re commuting, cooking, working out… You name it. 

Best of all? There are now hundreds of great business podcasts out there to help keep you learning and growing. 

However, if you’re new to podcasts, sifting through the wealth of content can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this list of our top five podcast episodes every deskless leader needs to hear. From covering current trends to sharing voices from the frontlines, these episodes will get you thinking, guaranteed. 

Here are five business podcasts every deskless leader needs to hear:

1. HBR IdeaCast’s “One way to fight the great resignation? Re-recruit your current employees.” 

Time investment: ~25 minutes

What this is: HBR IdeaCast is the Harvard Business Review’s flagship podcast. In this episode, host Curt Nickisch sits down with Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer of Humanity Works, a leadership coaching business. 

Why you should listen: Now more than ever, keeping your employees engaged is the key to any deskless organizations’ success. While resignations and labor shortages can put you in firefighting mode, this episode is a reminder to focus on the employees you still have. Cohen and Roeske-Zummer share insights from their own careers and their work with clients that highlight how leaders and managers can support their teams through difficult transitions. 

Our favorite quote:  “People want to be seen for who they are and what they contribute and where they’re adding value. Those are all free things that managers and leaders can do to their people and it’s needed now more than ever.” – Debbie Cohen

2. Beyond Leadership: A Cleveland Clinic Podcast’s “Thank you for speaking up with Main Campus CNO Shannon Pengel

Time investment: ~ 30 minutes

What this is: In Beyond Leadership, host Dr. Brian Bolwell sits down with leaders from the Cleveland Clinic to share insights on leadership in healthcare. In this episode, Chief Nursing Officer Shannon Pengel reflects on the importance of feedback and psychological safety in driving quality. 

Why you should listen: We’re big fans of upward feedback here at Nudge. So, we love how this episode dives into how leaders can create a safe environment for feedback. Pengel talks about the importance of building a culture of mutual respect, and why emotional intelligence is critical for leaders. She also shares tips for how leaders can be more self-reflective in moments of potential conflict. 

Our favorite quote: “I think that’s what we want: everyone to feel comfortable speaking up and then being able to come and work right next to each other the next day, and saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for letting me know. I just didn’t think of that. I can’t believe I overlooked that.’ Those are the conversations we’d like to hear.” – Shannon Pengel

3. #WorkTrends’s “Work Culture Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle Columbia

Time investment: ~20 mins

What this is: #WorkTrends is the bi-weekly podcast and twitter chat from talentculture. Hosted by Meghan Biro, it brings in leaders from across the business world to look at emerging trends. In this episode, she talks to Dr Phillip Meade, COO of management consulting firm, Gallaher Edge, about lessons from the Columbia space shuttle disaster

Why you should listen: While you may not be making decisions on the scale of a space flight, as a leader, you are responsible for guiding your team through crises (like, maybe a global pandemic?). And in this episode, Meade shares his findings about how work culture contributed to the Columbia disaster, and the cultural and organizational changes needed to prevent future tragedies. Meade gives key insights into the difference between a good workplace culture and an effective workplace culture, and how your culture must be aligned with your strategic goals. It’s a fascinating conversation that gives a new take on the role of leaders in culture-building. 

Our favorite quote: “The biggest problem that I faced, believe it or not, was that the organizational culture at KSC was by all accounts a great organizational culture. We had just literally been named the best place in the federal government to work right before the accident… And so when I was asked to lead the culture change, one of the things I struggled with was: how do you change a culture that by all accounts looks like it’s a great place to work?” – Phillip Meade

4. Essential Voices with Wilmer Valderrama’s “Coming Together at the Grocery Store

Time investment: ~45 mins

What this is: Essential Voices is a podcast that shares the voices of workers on the frontline, followed by a roundtable with activists and leaders to discuss the issues raised. In this episode, host Wilmer Valderrama talks to grocery worker Ben Hess about his experience on the frontline, and then has a roundtable with actress and activist Sophia Bush and Jim Araby of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 Union.

Why you should listen: As leaders, it’s important to understand and know as much as possible about our frontline workforces. In this episode, Hess’ story is powerful, as he shares his experiences during the pandemic, including getting sick with COVID-19 and struggling with his mental health. In the subsequent roundtable discussion, the guests draw broader insights from Hess’ story, and reflect on how the pandemic should change how society treats frontline workers. 

Our favorite quote: “It’s still hard to go and work in retail because there’s just so much coming at you. You’re given these rules from the government, you’re getting rules from your employer, you’re getting opinions that you’re forming yourself based on the news and you’re trying to figure out how to meld them together. And at the same time, you’re getting people who are competitive about it and you’re trying to just function.” – Ben Hess

5. HRChat’s “Giving the Deskless Workforce Tools to Thrive w/ Jordan Ekers, Nudge.” 

Time investment: ~25 minutes

What this is: We couldn’t let you go without sharing one of the business podcasts our own COO Jordan Ekers has been featured on! HRChat is the leadership podcast from the HR Gazette. In this episode, host Bill Banham and Ekers dive deep into how technology can better serve deskless workers, boost productivity, and increase employee engagement.  

Why you should listen: In this episode, Ekers shares some of the key insights and research that have gone into the development of Nudge, and gives clear examples of how Nudge can impact your business. This episode is a great introduction to the ideas behind Nudge and how the product works – all in one engaging podcast episode!

Our favorite quote: “One of the first things that we did was to try to understand what motivates a deskless worker. We’ve now conducted significant proprietary research, as well as dove into all the employee engagement data that all our customers have… And the three things that drive satisfaction of a frontline worker is how well a brand communicates with that worker; how well a brand or a manager recognizes that worker; as well as, how well a manager accepts feedback and closes the loop to drive better change.” – Jordan Ekers

Business podcasts are a great way to squeeze some self-learning into a busy work life. Looking for more ideas to brush up your knowledge? Check out our list of top TED talks for deskless leaders


How the ADKAR model can prepare your frontline staff for your next launch

How the ADKAR model can prepare your frontline staff for your next launch

Question: what factor is most important when it comes to planning a new product launch or major promotion? 

There are lots of ways to answer this question: a compelling offer. Great branding. Market research. All great answers – but one answer you may have missed is making sure your staff is prepared. Focusing on workforce readiness is crucial when it comes to launching a new product, initiative, or promotion. Planning, marketing, a great product: all of it can crumble without frontline staff who are prepared and consistent across locations.

But how do you actually ensure workforce readiness? In this article we’re going to offer a framework for ensuring workforce readiness by borrowing a model from organizational change management: the ADKAR model. 

What is the ADKAR model?

The ADKAR model is a change management methodology developed by the self-described “global team of change fanatics” at Prosci. We all know that change is hard, whether it’s adopting a new habit in our personal lives or shifting the way an organization works. The ADKAR model (alongside Prosci’s other methodologies and frameworks) presents a way of approaching change to ensure success. 

ADKAR stands for the five stages of change management in the model: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Let’s explore each one: 


In the ADKAR model, awareness means more than simply being aware that a change is happening. It’s awareness of why change is needed

There are many factors that make it easy for an employee to not change (inertia, lack of buy in, doubt of the validity). But, according to this model, without awareness of the need to change, employees are more likely to “check out” of training sessions, avoid reading company messaging, or ignore new ways of working. 


The second step of the ADKAR model is desire. You can spend countless hours raising awareness around all the reasons you’re implementing a change, but this model suggests that you won’t necessarily get people invested in actually changing their own actions without desire.

This is the moment at which employees ask that classic question, what’s in it for me? Prosci suggests that motivators for change may include: 

  • Incentives (a bonus program, or other type of recognition)
  • Penalties 
  • Desire to be a part of something/to belong
  • Willingness to follow a trusted leader
  • Feeling that the alternative is worse


Once awareness and desire have been addressed, you can move onto knowledge. This is where staff receives information about the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will be necessary to achieve the desired end outcome. 

Psst… Here’s where your communication channels become crucial. Using a digital communication platform (like Nudge!) allows you to share information about an upcoming product launch or organizational change in bite-sized pieces, sent right to their phone. This improves engagement and retention, setting you up for success in the next stage.


Of course, knowledge alone isn’t enough. Think about riding a bike. You could study bike mechanics, or human physiology. These might be useful topics to have under your belt, but they probably won’t result in a successful first ride. Instead, a new bike rider needs time, practice, coaching, and the right tools in order to learn this new skill.  

The same is true for employees putting knowledge into action. To ensure your staff has the ability to use their knowledge in the real world, they must be given time and space to strengthen their confidence and skill.


Anyone who has ever started a new exercise regime on January 1 knows how easy it is to slip back into old habits by February. That’s why reinforcement is so important when it comes to lasting change. Feedback, accountability, recognition, and rewards are all ways in which managers, leaders and teams can encourage reinforcement. 

Preparing frontline staff with the ADKAR model

During the course of the pandemic, frontline staff have already adapted to many changes. The risk of “change fatigue” is real. But as things stabilize, the natural ebb and flow of business is returning. Product launches, sales promotions, holiday seasons, events: all require planning and workforce readiness for your business to meet its goals. 

How can understanding the ADKAR model help you to ensure your frontline team is ready to deliver?

1. Focus on buy-in

It’s easy to assume that when a directive comes from up the chain, your deskless workers will fall into line. But this kind of “command and control” management style is not only outdated, it often fails to garner the results you’re looking for. 

Imagine you’re launching a new promotion in a retail store. You could send out a memo to all store managers detailing how the promotion will launch, along with step-by-step instructions, which they can reiterate to their staff. 

How effective is this method? 🤷‍♀️

You’ll have some employees following instructions to the letter. Most will participate but may be patchy in delivery and consistency. And some will opt out all together (unless under direct supervision). 

Now imagine a different scenario, where instead of sending down a directive from on high, you instead bring frontline employees into the process. You communicate how the promotion will grow the business and help new customers find your business. You involve teams in the planning process, inviting upward feedback from frontline employees on their ideas for sharing the promotion with customers. 

This approach is likely to be much more effective because employees will have bought in. You’ve demonstrated that their role in the business is important, their work has meaning, and they are valued for their opinions. 

2. Build incentives into your plan

The ADKAR model suggests that both incentives and penalties can be used as methods to build desire among your employees. However, research suggests that incentives are much more effective at motivating action (e.g. bonuses for reaching a sales target of a new product) whereas penalties work better to deter action (e.g. docking pay for chewing gum while working). 

When you’re launching a new product or promotion, you want your frontline staff to be active in selling and promoting in order to make your launch a success. So whether it’s leaderboards and shoutouts, or more tangible incentives such as bonuses or a team celebration, finding the right incentives can do wonders to encourage buy-in and program engagement.

And while incentives work to build desire, remember that the ADKAR model also notes that feedback, accountability, recognition, and rewards are all part of how you can reinforce a new way of working too. 

3. Make time (and space!) to learn

Giving employees enough time to learn about a new product or promotion is critical to the success of your launch. This means employees need to: 

  • Know and understand the product or promotion
  • Know where to find more information
  • Be confident in answering questions
  • Use consistent language and messaging
  • Be comfortable talking with customers about the product or promotion

Of course, assessing workforce readiness can be a challenge, especially for businesses with multiple locations and high numbers of staff to train. Tools that can help you identify knowledge gaps and warning signs (we know a great one!) make it possible to see where staff are underprepared, and allocate additional support to increase their knowledge and/or ability. 

When you’re planning a launch, promotion, or event, it can be easy to get stuck at the 50,000 feet view, and lose sight of how each individual frontline member of staff will be involved in making your plans a reality. By using the principles from the ADKAR model, you can drive workforce readiness by adopting the key strategies to keep your staff involved, engaged, and eager to deliver. 

6 TED Talks every deskless leader needs to see

6 TED Talks every deskless leader needs to see

Great leaders are always learning, which is why we love TED talks! Browsing the vast library of talks given by world-renowned experts, you can custom-create your own leadership training program filled with inspiring talks to ensure you’re being the best deskless leader you can be. 

But your time is valuable, so you need to pick your talks wisely. Not sure where to start? Here are six TED Talks that are well worth your time. 

1. This is what makes employees happy at work by Michael C Bush

Time investment: 4 minutes

What it covers: Great Place to Work CEO Michael C. Bush shares the key to employee happiness: making people feel well-treated by their leaders and their coworkers. Bush shares key three strategies that can boost employee happiness: trust and respect; fairness; and listening. 

Why you should watch it: As a deskless leader you already know the challenges of connecting with and retaining your deskless employees. Bush gives you practical advice on how to make changes in your organization that can keep your employees happy (and loyal!) and driving your business performance. 

Our favourite quote: “The miracle thing is, you don’t have to spend more money to make this happen. . . It’s not about the perks. It’s all about how [employees] are treated by their leaders and the people they work with.” 


2. Why we need to treat our employees as thoughtfully as our customers by Diana Dosik

Time investment: 10 minutes

What it covers: Organizations are using sophisticated techniques to understand their customer journeys. Boston Consulting Group partner Diana Dosik argues that they need to use the same level of sophistication when it comes to understanding their workforce. Dosik makes a compelling case for how improving the employee experience can help your business run more smoothly.

Why you should watch it: When it comes to communication and execution, frontline leaders often blame employees for failing to respond, without investigating the underlying roadblocks. This TED Talk encourages leaders to explore the challenges organizations might be able to overcome, if they could identify the unseen factors that hinder change and progress. 

Our favourite quote: “Business leaders have a golden opportunity; they can understand and shape employee journeys the same way they do customer journeys. In fact, they can do it even better, because they have more touchpoints with employees than with customers.”


3. How to Lead in a Crisis by Amy C. Edmondson

Time investment: 4.5 minutes

What it covers: What does strong leadership in a crisis look like? Confident? Unwavering? Armed with all the facts? Sounds nice, but this model of leadership isn’t always realistic, especially when uncertainty is high. Instead, leadership expert Amy C. Edmondson suggests that leaders must rethink crisis leadership and focus on being transparent, acting with urgency, being led by their values, and giving power away.

Why you should watch it: Deskless leaders recently got a masterclass in leading through a crisis during the pandemic. But this won’t be the last upheaval leaders will face. Edmonson offers a way to “flip the leadership playbook” so that you can meet the next challenge (and the next, and the next) in ways that will bring your team along with you.

Our favourite quote: “We follow this new type of leader through upheaval, because we have confidence not in their map but in their compass. We believe that they have chosen the right direction given the current information, and that they will keep updating.”


4. Forget the pecking order at work by Margaret Heffernan

Time investment: 15.5 mins

What it covers: Writer and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan argues that we need to reconsider the “superchicken model,” where energy and attention is heaped on high performers at the expense of everyone else. Using research and real-world examples, she illustrates how top organizations instead focus on improving the bonds between employees, and creating a culture of “helpfulness.”   

Why you should watch it: Building a sense of community between employees in a deskless organization can be a challenge. Heffernan highlights how seemingly small changes can have outsized impacts on team cohesion, creativity, and even profits. Heffernan’s radical rethinking of how to lead is a vision of making every team member count (and accountable). 

Our favourite quote: “For decades, we’ve tried to motivate people with money, even though we’ve got a vast amount of research that shows that money erodes social connectedness. Now, we need to let people motivate each other.”


5. Why good leaders make you feel safe by Simon Sinek

Time investment: 12 mins

What it covers: Management theorist Simon Sinek goes back to the earliest days of human evolution to explain why trust and cooperation are so pivotal in organizations. Sinek highlights the difference between organizations where employees trust their leaders versus those without trust. 

Why you should watch it: We’ve talked about the importance of psychological safety for deskless employees before, and Sinek’s talk brings that need vividly to life. Sharing thought-provoking examples of leaders who put the wellbeing of their employees above their own interests, Sinek challenges us to think differently about what it takes to create a sense of safety, trust, and community in the workplace. 

Our favourite quote: “If the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When we feel safe inside the organisation, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize opportunities.”


6. How reverse mentorship can help create better leaders by Patrice Gordon

Time investment: 4.5 mins

What it covers: Executive coach Patrice Gordon uses her experience as a reverse mentor for Virgin Atlantic’s former CEO Craig Kreeger to show how reverse mentoring is a powerful tool for ensuring diverse views are heard at every level of the organization – but for it to work, it’s important to create a structure. 

Why you should watch it: We love upward feedback, and Gordon’s talk offers a blueprint for helping leaders to see beyond their own blinkers. If you’re interested in experimenting with opening up more two-way communication, Gordon’s five steps will help you establish a successful program. 

Our favourite quote: “Our organizations can fall right through that gap into stale thinking, blind spots, and having policies that could alienate underrepresented groups, not only in regards to age, race, or gender, but all different types of viewpoints.”

Deskless leaders work in a challenging and dynamic business environment and it can be hard to find time to focus on leadership skills. But with a bite-sized time investment, these TED Talks will help you gain some new ideas and perspectives – all over a quick cup of coffee.