Driving discretionary effort in frontline workers

Driving discretionary effort in frontline workers

My take on driving discretionary effort was inspired by Simon Sinek. In his classic TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action, Sinek explained the way we all think, act, and communicate using the “Golden Circle,” where “what” is on the outside, then “how,” and in the center is “why.” 

Discretionary effort Simon Sinek golden circle“Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do,” explains Sinek.

“As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations – regardless of their size, regardless of their industry – all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

In other words, they start with why.  

That resonated with me. Baking the “why” into employee communications is such a critical part of what we’re doing at Nudge. We’re constantly working with customers to help them go beyond the standard internal memo to drive better knowledge retention and engagement among their frontline staff. 

And that engagement portion is key. Our The Deskless Report research found that having a sense of purpose or meaning at work makes 55% of frontline employees feel engaged and motivated at work. And particularly as frontline organizations adapt to the labor market right now, they’re trying to find the right brand presence to attract talent – and also build the right brand promise and work experience to retain them.   

But on top of that, frontline organizations, particularly in retail, hospitality, and foodservice, are in rebuild mode. They’re up against a perfect storm, with supply chain delays and shortages, changing consumer behavior, and many other challenges. And while finding and retaining staff is part of the solution, a much bigger effort should be placed on empowering existing staff to go the extra mile. Because if you have your staff on board, collectively working to drive your core mission, increase revenue, and constantly deliver next-level customer and guest experience… you’re going to jump leaps and bounds in front of the competition. And that’s the magic of discretionary effort. 

I first came across the phrase discretionary effort last year in a CX webinar with the amazing Rachel Huckle, Chief Retail Officer at Staples Canada. She talked about leveraging discretionary effort to pivot Staples Canada during the pandemic: 

“My objective is not to drive discretionary effort. My interest is creating a culture and an environment where people want to give you discretionary effort and for me, that comes to life in communication and transparency. And that means, you know, one of the things I think throughout this pandemic that has been really, really powerful.”

So I have Simon Sinek and Rachel Huckle to thank for getting me to this idea of how to drive discretionary effort. Like the golden circle, it’s got three key stages: 

  1. Culturally inspire
  2. Strategically align
  3. Tactically enable

And also like with Sinek’s golden circle, a lot of organizations don’t approach them in the right sequence. Here’s what I think is the winning approach:

Discretionary effort stage 1: Culturally inspire

You have to first start by culturally inspiring frontline employees. This is the “why” – why your staff should care about their job, why they should want it to succeed. This is about capturing the hearts and minds of your workforce. 

This can be tricky. Some frontline organizations we work with employ hundreds of thousands of workers. How do you inspire them to fall in love with the brand that they choose to work for, so that they care about their job, the brand, and the customer experience? How, in other words, do you transform an entire workforce into brand advocates? 

Culturally inspiring your workforce is about setting them up to thrive with the employee experience they want. For example, according to The Deskless Report, one of the most critical things your staff wants is a sense of purpose. You need to find ways to communicate your mission and values across your organization. Bake that messaging into everything – your internal communications, your pre-shift team huddles, everything. It shouldn’t be something you review once a year – it should be embedded into everything you do, so that if you approached any worker at any time and asked them what their company’s core mission is, they should be able to tell you. 

Discretionary effort stage 2: Strategically align

The second stage is strategically align. You’ve already given your staff a sense of purpose around the brand they work for – now we’re going deeper into the specific role that they play in the grander picture. 

So let’s say you’re a store cashier. And then at the very top of the retailer’s hierarchy, you have the CFO caring about growth, margins, costs, and strategy. That store cashier has a critical role to play in executing on that vision and growth story, and driving all those key deliverables the CFO is thinking about.  

So strategically align is all about finding the right way for any individual in the business to recognize the impact of their role on the broader organizational strategy. Like, if you just ask someone to smile when they collect money at the cash register, they’re just going to collect money. But if you explain to them why it’s important to deliver a memorable and positive customer experience, and the impact that has on the broader goals of the organization, that cashier is far more likely to go above and beyond. 

Discretionary effort stage 3: Tactically enable

In stage 1, we’ve inspired a frontline worker to care about what happens to their organization. In stage 2, we’ve shown them exactly what role they can play to help their organization succeed. Tactically enable is about then showing them exactly what’s expected of them to deliver the impact we’ve shown them is possible.  

In the past, this would mean managers asking staff to get work done, and hoping they do it properly at the right time. Of course, that’s not an effective way to drive performance and operational consistency at scale – and it puts a huge load on the managers’ shoulders. That’s where frontline enablement tools come into play. Using a tool like Nudge for task management, organizations can assign tasks at a global, regional, location, or individual level – and monitor task completion at scale. 

When you start to scale up the process to be standardized across every single location, you start to unlock operational consistency. And when you make it easy for workers to complete those standardized tasks, you unlock discretionary effort.

It’s about making it easy for people to get the right work done the right way, the first time. If someone has to put less effort into completing a task, but still delivers a consistently strong outcome, they’re more likely to do that. 

These are unprecedented times. Labor shortages, supply shortages, food prices… there is so much out of our control. But the one thing that frontline organizations can control is their people. And tapping into the magic of discretionary effort is going to make or break organizations in the years to come. 

4 ways Nudge can boost your customer loyalty program

4 ways Nudge can boost your customer loyalty program

I love customer loyalty programs. They’re in my blood. Before I co-founded Nudge, I worked with Loyalty One to develop a new line of business for Air Miles; years before that I was a frontline associate myself, responsible for creating that meaningful customer experience and building customer loyalty. 

And so I saw first-hand how effective incentive and loyalty programs can be. After all, customer loyalty programs are a no-brainer for many retail, hospitality, and foodservice organizations looking to tap into the benefits of customer and guest loyalty. Whether you’re offering up rewards, special deals, or a sense of status, loyalty programs are a fantastic way to increase revenue and return customers. In fact, one recent study on loyalty programs found that 70% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand with a good loyalty program, and 77% say that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with brands. 

There’s an additional benefit to organizations that implement a customer loyalty program: data. Using a program to monitor guest or consumer habits means organizations can make personalized offerings and fine-tune the customer experience like never before. And customers are on board; the same study found that 87% of loyalty program members want their behavior monitored in order to receive personalized engagement.

But here’s the thing: as effective as customer loyalty programs can be, I know from experience how inconsistent the in-store execution of these programs can be. Without a way to engage with your entire workforce, there’s no way to fine-tune how everyone is talking about the program – and identify what tactics work the best for boosting the program company-wide. 

That’s why it’s so exciting to me when I can show organizations how Nudge can take their customer and guest loyalty programs to exciting new places. When you have a direct line of communication with your workforce, you can drive activation and adoption to the next level. 

Here are four ways Nudge can boost your loyalty program:

1. Nudge gives your team the loyalty program info they need

Boosting customer loyalty programs with NudgeWhen it comes to getting customers and guests to join and interact with a loyalty program, it’s so much more than a sign at checkout.

Your employees need to live and breathe your loyalty program; they need to know it inside and out. If your team doesn’t know how to talk about the program, if they don’t know how to sign people up, if they don’t know what offers are most enticing to what customers, you’ve lost out on an incredibly valuable opportunity to improve conversion and gain a loyal customer.

But it can be a challenge to share information across an organization – how do you ensure all your frontline employees are all getting the same information that will empower them to really sell your program? How do you find that tactical consistency that’s going to scale up sign-ups and activation?

The answer, of course, is Nudge. With our digital communication platform, it’s easy to disseminate information to your entire workforce by leveraging their favourite device: their phones.

With Nudge, core information about your loyalty program can be kept in a central communication hub, and bite-sized targeted communications will keep your team in-the-know about program details, updates, and more. You can even use knowledge quizzes and surveys to make sure everyone has the info they need to sell your program. 

2. Nudge keeps loyalty program initiatives top-of-mind

Whether you’re enticing sign-ups or boosting participation, incentives and initiatives are a crucial component of any loyalty program. But for these initiatives to really take off, you need full buy-in from your employees.

It’s never been more important for your employees to be well-informed. Today, many loyalty programs are often paired with a rewards app to seamlessly bridge the gap between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. Armed with this new technology, your guests and customers are coming into your business extremely well-informed about the program’s initiatives and incentives. And your employees need to be more informed. 

Imagine you’re a guest at a hotel. Your app has educated you about some extra rewards the loyalty program is offering to elite members this month. You walk into the hotel, and the first associate you encounter not only doesn’t recognize you as an elite member – they don’t even know what rewards you’re talking about. Suddenly, the experience is broken. This interaction damages the guest’s impression of the brand experience, and might impact their choice to return – even as a current loyalty program member. 

With Nudge, this disconnect doesn’t happen. You’re sharing crucial intel to your workforce in real time – but you’re also monitoring knowledge retention and engagement through our analytics to ensure that every employee at every location is armed with up-to-date knowledge about the program’s happenings. 

3. Nudge celebrates your program champions

Boosting customer loyalty programs through points with NudgeWhat’s the best part of any loyalty program? The points! That gamification of loyalty is what truly drives customers to desired behaviors. 

Guess what: the same is true of employee performance. Nudge leverages a gamified, points-based approach to communication that keeps employees engaged and using our app, every single day. Additional recognition points and pins provide motivation for your workforce, highlighting specific contributions, lifetime achievements, and other milestones. In other words: use our points program to get your employees to sell your points program.

There’s an additional benefit beyond that intrinsic motivation: Nudge’s gamified system helps organizations to identify the top-performing locations and individual employees that are really promoting your loyalty program. You can reward teams that deserve recognition – and also tap into those best practices that are bringing your program to life. More on that below…

4. Nudge identifies great ideas for boosting your loyalty program – and scales them

Ah, that incredible team that just seems to have a knack for signing customers up. That employee that always knows how to make elite guests feel special. Once you’ve identified those star performers, how do you tap into that magic, and scale it at an organizational level? What are they saying to guests? What three words seem to resonate with customers? When in the transaction are they bringing up the program? What rewards have guests really excited this month? What, in short, is working? 

With Nudge’s communication platform, great ideas don’t get lost. Top performers are identified and recognized – but you can also go that step further to tap into what it is they’re doing right. Topic-based forums and upward feedback channels let you crowdsource ideas and best practices from top-performing locations, and share them across the organization organically. 

Customer loyalty programs have a magical ability to make your customers feel like they have a unique and personal relationship with your brand. The lifetime value of that loyalty member is infinitely valuable. But to really tap into the power of your loyalty program, you have to first empower your employees with the knowledge and support they need to really shine. Nudge makes that happen.