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8 examples of amazing internal communications for the frontline

8 examples of amazing internal communications for the frontline

Sharing employee communications with thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of frontline workers isn’t easy. But it’s definitely worth it. Communicating with your workforce boosts engagement, reduces turnover, and improves workplace safety. Internal communications can culturally inspire your workforce; they can increase sales, improve customer and guest experience, and create a two-way line of feedback that ensures great ideas find their way back up to the top. 

You get it – internal communications are great for your business. But what do great frontline communications look like? We’ve rounded up 8 internal communication examples, each with an actionable takeaway you can use to take your own internal communications to the next level.

Here are eight amazing internal communication examples to inspire your frontline communications:  

1. Golf Town sends real-time sports updates to their frontline workers

When you’re a golf retailer, you can expect your customers to show a certain level of passion about, well, golf. So it goes without saying that your associates should be matching that passion. 

Case in point: Canadian golf retailer Golf Town. During the PGA tour and other tournaments, Golf Town sends real-time updates on the events to their employees, and even uses surveys to have their team guess who is going to take the trophy. This is a perfect internal communication example for culturally inspiring a workforce. By ensuring their staff is up-to-date on relevant events, Golf Town is empowering staff to have quality conversations with the seasoned golf experts coming into the store. 

Example takeaway: Not all internal communications need to be training and protocol sharing. Once you have a direct connection to your frontline workers, you can use it to culturally inspire – and improve the customer experience as a result. 

2. Zara replaces trend forecasts with employee insights 

It’s never been more important for organizations to be agile and nimble, as the pandemic has thrown traditional shopping seasons and cycles out the window. For years, Spanish apparel retailer Zara has been hailed for its ability to adapt to rapidly-changing trends through shorter lead times and a super-efficient supply chain. But a core component of that process is empowering its retail associates to stay closely tuned in to customers’ needs. 

“Zara empowers its sales associates and store managers to be at the forefront of customer research – they intently listen and note down customer comments, ideas for cuts, fabrics or a new line, and keenly observe new styles that its customers are wearing that have the potential to be converted into unique Zara styles,” explains brand strategist Martin Roll. “Traditional daily sales reports can hardly provide such a dynamic updated picture of the market.”

Example takeaway: While this isn’t exactly an example of frontline communication in the traditional sense, it showcases the importance of a multi-directional internal communication strategy. It’s important for organizations to connect with its frontline workers – but it’s equally important for that channel to work in reverse, giving employees an opportunity to share ideas, insights and feedback, right from the frontline. 

3. Coca-Cola gives frontline employees extra insight through podcasting

“We are pulling back the curtain and turning internal communications inside out,” explains the description for Total Refresh, Coca-Cola‘s podcast “for employees, by employees and available to everyone.”

In the episodes, the two hosts (Coca-Cola employees, of course) interview leaders from across the company, offering a more humanized approach to senior leadership and giving their employees (their 700,000+ workforce includes warehouse staff and other supply chain teams around the world) a more unfiltered view of the company’s vision and evolution.

“Together, they engage in refreshingly honest conversations about navigating big changes – cultural, personal and professional – and how all Coca-Cola North America employees can apply this same growth mindset on our journey to becoming a Total Beverage Company,” explains the podcast. 

Example takeaway: To really connect with your employees, bring the conversation to communication platforms they’re already using – like podcasts (or mobile apps!). 

4. Mastermind Toys stays agile in crisis with employee ideas 

Not long after Mastermind Toys CEO Sarah Jordan joined the speciality toy retailer, the pandemic caused waves of lockdown, shopping restrictions, and uncertainty. That’s when Jordan turned to her frontline for ideas. The ideas included feedback on what became an industry-leading curbside pickup service – part of a massive “digital reinvention” – but they also included thoughts on how to iterate the brand’s offerings, like pandemic birthday party trends and turning the windows of closed retail locations into impulse aisles.

Mastermind Toys used Nudge (🎉) to open the lines of communication in both directions, ensuring staff were constantly in-the-loop on changing protocols and restrictions, but also giving associates a direct line back up to head office. “We want everyone to co-create with us,” says Jordan. “It has been so important to me to give employees a direct channel to ask questions, share concerns, and offer feedback.”

Example takeaway: The most impactful frontline communications go two-way. Make sure your staff has a way to share ideas and concerns directly with head office to ensure nothing gets lost or reinterpreted along the way. 

5. Zingerman’s bakes trust and empowerment into their employee training 

Deli-turned-speciality food empire Zingerman’s has spent decades building a stellar reputation for next-level customer service. How? By taking an approach to employee training that focuses on trust. “Most people want to do a good job. They want to make a contribution,” says Maggie Bayless, founding partner of ZingTrain, the training consultancy wing of Zingerman’s.

The training also focuses on concise “recipes”: simple guidelines for employee behavior or task execution. Think “3 Steps for Great Service” and “A Guide To Good Wastebusting” – easy-to-follow lists that make it easy for staff to know how to do their job well. “We try to always think about what it takes to help people be successful,” says Bayless.

Example takeaway: You can’t overshare. Giving your staff the support and information they need can have a huge impact on productivity, execution, and CX. 

6. Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics gets playful with their internal communications

When COVID hit, Texas dental clinic chain Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics had to furlough 90% of its workforce. And when it reopened, it was with a surge of new protocols and safety procedures that the staff across 70-plus locations needed to know inside and out. At the same time, a cultural shift was happening within the company: new members of its executive team, a name change, and a renewed focus on the patient experience. 

All of this led to a need to use frontline communications in a way that would be memorable and engaging. Using Nudge, Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics gets playful with short micro-communications, fun videos and imagery, and other multimedia communications. They do trivia events, weekly team highlights – even scavenger hunts. All of this is paired with an open feedback channel to continually check in with frontline workers to share stories and photos. This keeps engagement high, and in turn encourages knowledge retention of key procedural and protocol changes. 

Example takeaway: Crucial communications don’t need to be dry. Making them fun and engaging can actually boost retention. 

7. DHL goes multimedia to get a deeper connection

Multimedia internal communications might seem like a no-brainer for organizations looking to connect with desked employees. But it’s more challenging for deskless and frontline workers, where the usual intel comes from bulletin board posters or emails read out by managers.

Over the past year, global logistics brand DHL has focused on keeping a deep emotional connection with its hundreds of thousands of employees by sending video messages addressing key concerns and business updates. “It adds to a sense of inclusion and camaraderie, and keeps everyone on the same page,” explains Mike Parra, CEO of DHL Express Americas. 

“Part of our message to employees revolves around what we call the three C’s, asking everyone during the current challenges to remain calm, confident and courageous.”

Example takeaway: Foster a more emotional, human connection with your frontline workers by using a variety of communication types and formats. 

8. Dippin Dots creates an “organic communication trail” between franchise locations

A common issue facing franchised companies is the fragmented way communication is disseminated across the organization; often, franchise owners or general managers are already wearing many hats, and can easily become overwhelmed by the communication from head office that needs to be shared with their teams. 

This was especially true in the past year, as COVID closings and subsequent reopenings made employee communication across franchise locations all the more crucial. Dippin’ Dots felt that pain. The ice cream brand implemented Nudge to relieve some of the pressure on its franchise owners, and one of the most impactful elements of their internal communication strategy was the ability for workers to communicate across locations. 

“The power in the communication really comes not just from what myself or my team sends out – it’s actually when they start interacting with each other, region to region, store to store, different teams. And they say ‘Hey, I’m having an issue with this, how are you handling that?’ or ‘You know, I love this new flavor but nobody wants it – what could I do better?’ When you get them to share with each other, you get an organic communication trail that just seems to work even better,” explains Steve Rothenstein, Senior Director of Franchising for Dippin’ Dots and Doc Popcorn. 

“It can’t be a bunch of papers that you send out and say, ‘OK, here’s your program.’ I think you need to do more than that.”

Example takeaway: Know that your frontline workers want to communicate and collaborate: your job is to implement internal communication tools that facilitate that to happen organically. 

Finding ways to connect with your workforce is a challenge – but the benefits impact your business in myriad ways. These internal communication examples should give you some ideas of how to take your own frontline communication efforts to the next level. 


[Infographic] Employee recognition in retail

[Infographic] Employee recognition in retail

As The Great Resignation and the labor crisis continue to rage, retailers are looking for more and more ways to keep their existing staff engaged, productive – and loyal. Employee recognition might be that secret weapon retailers are searching for. Check out our infographic below to learn more about employee recognition in retail!

Ready to learn more about what retail workers want? Check out The Deskless Report: Retail Edition for more insight into what they desperately need to deliver next-level CX, execution, and operational efficiency. Plus: what’s keeping retailers up at night, and behind-the-scenes spotlights on retail brands that are successfully driving business outcomes by investing in the associate experience.


Employee recognition in retail infographic | Nudge
How (and why!) Zingerman’s drives next-level employee experience

How (and why!) Zingerman’s drives next-level employee experience

Zingerman’s Deli might be known for its reuben, but its true legacy lies in its approach to employee experience. In fact, the Michigan-based food business group is so passionate about employee experience that it launched a spinoff. ZingTrain is a training consultancy that drives Zingerman’s employee training program while also sharing its expertise with other brands looking to optimize their EX. 

So when we wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look at Zingerman’s legendary employee training and development programs, we knew exactly where to go. 

“Training has always been important to Zingerman’s,” says Maggie Bayless, founding partner of ZingTrain. “We try to always think about what it takes to help people be successful.”

First: a bit of background on Zingerman’s and ZingTrain. 

Zingerman’s and ZingTrain: the backstory

The OG Zingerman’s Deli was founded in 1982 by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig. Then, rather than take a franchise model to growth, Saginaw and Weinzweig opted to partner with passionate entrepreneurs to develop independent businesses in the Ann Arbor area: bakeries, a Korean restaurant, a cheese shop, a candy store…even an event venue and travel food tour service. Now, the “Zingerman’s Community of Businesses” includes 10 businesses in the Ann Arbor area. But one founding principle that’s been with the community since the very beginning is a commitment to stellar employee experience.

Zingerman's founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig | Nudge“From the very beginning they wanted to create an organization where not only people wanted to come to shop, but people wanted to come to work,” says Bayless. “The employee experience has just always been a big piece of Ari and Paul’s vision.” 

So, naturally, a core component of Zingerman’s was employee training. “They wanted to help people be successful,” explains Bayless. 

But, employee training needs structure. Especially as Zingerman’s started to open additional businesses, they knew they needed a way to standardize their process to ensure consistent baseline of execution and customer experience across current and future businesses. And that’s where ZingTrain came in. But ZingTrain couldn’t just be the employee training department. If it was going to be in Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, it needed to generate its own revenue. So, Bayless suggested that ZingTrain could show other brands how to elevate their CX. 

“At that point, Ari and Paul were getting requests to teach Zingerman’s approach to customer service to other organizations, so it felt like there might be a business case there,” says Bayless.

Zingerman’s approach to customer service

When your businesses range from event spaces to candy shops, how do you create a baseline of CX? How can Zingerman’s approach to customer service apply to their whole community?

To start with, there’s a common denominator: people. “What we find, keeping it from a consistency standpoint, is that it’s all working with people,” explains ZingTrain managing partner Katie Frank. “Even IT service providers that are working with technology, there are still humans interfacing with that. So we find that keeping one approach is critical from a consistency standpoint.” 

Zingerman's employee handbook | NudgeAs anyone who has read Zingerman’s employee handbook knows, they’re a fan of organizational “recipes”: simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for employee behavior or task execution (which is music to our ears – we love a bite-sized comm). And early on, co-founder Ari Weinzweig came up with the “3 Steps for Great Service”:

  1. Figure out what the customer wants.
  2. Get it for them: accurately, politely and enthusiastically.
  3. Go the extra mile. 

The three-step system is simple, and can be modified to different roles or businesses, but provides a baseline to unite all of Zingerman’s businesses under one approach to CX. Zingerman’s has similar “recipes” for handling complaints, order accuracy, employee conflict resolution – you name it.  

“I know to follow these steps, and at the end I can know if I’m successful or not,” says Frank. 

But there’s something else that aligns every Zingerman’s employee in their pursuit of next-level CX: their employee experience. 

The role of employee engagement

Employee engagement is so at the core of Zingerman’s entire approach to employee experience, it’s hard to imagine the company without it. Case in point: when asked about the business case of employee engagement, Bayless didn’t even know how to answer the question. 

“I don’t even understand the question. How can you have an organization without the employees? How could they not be important?” she said. “I just can’t see needing to make a business case for employee engagement.” 

For Bayless, and the entire Zingerman’s leadership team, employee engagement isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. It’s what gets the organization where it needs to go. “The more engaged employees are and the more they understand where you’re trying to go as an organization, and the more bought-in they are to where you’re going, the more they understand how they can have an impact,” she explains. 

Tools for employee experience 

So what does the Zingerman’s employee experience look like? What does employee engagement look like, for that matter? At Zingerman’s, it’s a complex ecosystem. “You can have a really great heirloom seed, but if the soil is poor, it’s not going to result in a great tomato,” says Frank. “When we talk about the tools that help with employee experience and culture, there’s a lot that goes into it. It’s hard to just isolate one part of the garden and say, that’s why it was successful last year.”

With that in mind, here are a few of the major components of Zingerman’s employee experience: 

A written vision created by the organization – and shared with the organization 

“This is about being transparent about where we’re going,” says Bayless. Zingerman’s co-founders have repeatedly developed and shared long-term visions for the organization. The first one, written in 1994, shared their vision for where they wanted to be by 2009. In 2007, they launched their 2020 vision, and last year they published their vision for 2032. These visions give staff a clear sense of where the company is headed, and what their role will be in moving the organization forward. 

But it’s not just about sharing the vision – it’s about creating it together. “Only the 2009 vision was written by Paul and Ari alone,” explains Bayless. “Every subsequent vision has involved everyone in the organization who chose to get involved. The first drafts were developed by the partners group and then town hall-style meetings were held to share the drafts and solicit feedback. That feedback was then reviewed, and a small writing team of both partners and other staff developed the next draft. Each vision went through several drafts before being finalized and then adopted by consensus.”

Transparency in how decisions are made

Equally critical to Zingerman’s approach to employee experience is transparency around where decisions are made within the organization, and how they’re made. And part of that is having systems that allow staff to have input on those decisions. 

“People need to know how to make suggestions,” says Bayless. “They need over time to feel that their ideas and input are valued. Because who wants to be somewhere long-term where you’re not heard?”

They call this system the “Bottom-Line Change” process, and it outlines exactly what a staff member needs to do if they want to suggest a change at the organization (again: clear, concise information for the win!). Staff can even attend classes on “Bottom Line Change” to learn how best to bring forward a change that they’d like to see made

That doesn’t mean every single idea is implemented – but that’s not the point. Staff need to feel heard, no matter what the feedback they’re sharing. 

“That’s actually one of the most interesting things we’ve seen working with other organizations through ZingTrain,” says Bayless. “That people say they want employee input, but then they’re disappointed with the input that they’re getting. But wait – just look at that. Is it because it’s not aligned with where the organization’s going? Do people need to have better information? Are they just not good enough because they’re not your ideas?” 

A “training compact”

The very first page of the Zingerman’s staff guide is a Training Compact, which outlines what the trainer agrees to do, and what the trainee agrees to do. Essentially, the trainer agrees to document clear expectations, provide the training to meet those expectations, and recognize and reward performance. The trainee, meanwhile, agrees to take responsibility for the effectiveness of their training. 

“We believe that the responsibility is 100% on both sides,” says Frank. “We hire great folks and then the compact says, we’re going to treat you like an adult. I don’t know how you learn, so if you need more training on something I expect you’re going to ask me. It takes people out of the passive.”

From there, staff have “training passports” that outline these expectations in detail, explains the training process, and generally gives new hires a sense of what to expect in seven days, 30 days, 60 days, and onward.   

It seems simple: tell people what you want them to do, give them the tools and training to do it, and reward them when they do it. So why do so many frontline organizations still struggle with employee communication and supporting their staff? 

learn how best to bring forward a change that they’d like to see made,” says Bayless. “I just think they don’t realize that it’s not clear.” I think a lot of people in leadership got to where they are because they were pretty good at reading their bosses’ minds. And so then they think people should be able to read theirs. And I just think that’s such a waste of time.”

In fact, if you look beyond the lists and compacts and staff guides, Zingerman’s entire approach to employee experience is surprisingly simple: trust your employees to do the right thing – by giving them the right tools, training, and support. 

“Most people want to do a good job. They want to make a contribution. Yes, there are people that just want to punch the clock and go home. But I don’t think that’s most people,” says Bayless. 

“People spend a big chunk of their life at work. They want to be engaged and feel like they’re building something, and that their brain is being used. I think that for a long time people just didn’t think that was possible at work, so they didn’t ask for it. But I think people always would have liked it.”

And now, increasingly, frontline employees are asking for it. And while some organizations are scrambling to figure that out, Zingerman’s is keeping on course. Until 2032, at least.

[INFOGRAPHIC] The state of deskless employee communication

[INFOGRAPHIC] The state of deskless employee communication

The insights around deskless employee communication that we surfaced in our recently-released Deskless Report have a clear through-line. Deskless workers want more. When we polled 865 deskless workers, 53% of workers said they’re receiving company updates, but 40% said they want more.  36% of workers said they’re receiving updates on products and services, but 32% want more. The same is true of company vision and mandate – while 82% of workers said they have a clear sense of their company’s vision, 63% still want to know more.

When it comes to deskless employee communication, you can’t overshare. Workers are starving for effective, real-time, accessible information. Emphasis on the word effective.

But here’s where we come to one of the many disconnects between deskless workers and leaders that The Deskless Report uncovered. While 86% of leaders feel they’re sending out meaningful, quality communications, workers disagree. In fact, 59% of workers said the communications they receive are somewhat to not-at all useful, which might explain why 40% of workers said they only read the communications sent to them sometimes – or not at all.

For more insights, check out our infographic below! 👇👇👇

And head to our recently-released Deskless Report for a full look at the state of the deskless workforce.


Deskless Employee Communication Infographic | Nudge


Remember: head to The Deskless Report for much more!


5 reasons the traditional communication cascade is costing your deskless organization

5 reasons the traditional communication cascade is costing your deskless organization

Quick: how are you sharing information with your frontline managers? How are you collecting insights from them back to head office? 

Here’s our guess on how things go: 

  • Head office sends an email with information on a new product launch to senior leadership. 
  • Senior leadership emails the intel to their middle managers. 
  • Middle management, in turn, emails the info to their floor managers. 
  • Your floor managers then explain it to their shift leads and staff at a pre-shift team huddle or (gasp!) by printing out the email and pinning it to the bulletin board. 
  • Your frontline shares their ideas and feedback to head office through annual surveys.

This is what’s known as the “traditional communication cascade” and – spoiler alert! – it doesn’t work. In fact, it’s probably costing your frontline organization money. 

And what’s the solution? Open two-way communication that runs between head office and your frontline. With a digital communication platform (like Nudge!) head office can send information right to their workers’ phones, and leverage robust analytics to see exactly what’s resonating – and what’s falling flat. 

Our recently-commissioned Total Economic Impact™ Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, uncovered some staggering insights on the traditional communication cascade – and how it might be costing you, big time. For the study, Forrester Consulting interviewed four Nudge customers in the retail and foodservice industries to understand the costs and benefits associated with the investment. The study created a “composite” company, and then explored the ways that shifting from a traditional communication cascade to a digital communication platform saved them time, money, and energy. 

Here are 5 reasons the traditional communication cascade is costing your deskless organization:

1. It turns floor managers into bottlenecks

In a deskbound organization, it might make sense for a team manager to be the one sharing key information with their team. However, in deskless organizations, where frontline workers aren’t all working at the same time, and often don’t use any kind of communication tool to unite the team, the responsibility of floor managers to disseminate information to their staff becomes far more challenging. 

For one thing, this leads to “Championing fatigue” where it’s constantly on floor managers to drive awareness and engagement around key initiatives and company announcements. 

But even more worrying, it’s a major time investment collecting, organizing, and relaying information from head office. Whether they’re relying on one-off conversations, pre-shift huddles, or sharing information through a binder or bulletin board, it takes time and energy.  

“Managers were overwhelmed with communication from HQ. Instead of spending time on the floor playing a leadership role, managers spent a significant amount of time fielding communications from HQ,” explains the Total Economic Impact™ Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Nudge.  

And this turns managers into bottlenecks. Particularly now as we continue to navigate the post-pandemic new normal, managers are wearing many hats. They’re managing safety protocols, mentoring staff, driving CX or guest experience, focusing on operational efficiency and execution. That leaves little time for disseminating announcements from head office, especially in a consistent and measurable way. 

In the study, Forrester Consulting found that when its “composite” company was using the traditional communication cascade, each store manager spent 1.5 hours per day reviewing and organizing information and then communicating key concepts to frontline workers.

“After the investment in Nudge, the composite reduces the length of pre-shift meetings and manager information ingestion, decreasing the overall number of hours spent on communication by managers by 50%, 55%, and 60% in Years 1, 2, and 3, respectively,” explains the study. 

2. Communications get “filtered and reinterpreted”

Another major challenge of the traditional communication cascade (or the “manager waterfall” as the Total Economic Impact™ Study calls it) is the broken telephone effect. 

“Communication through a manager waterfall relied on the manager’s ability to ingest the content and relay it to the deskless workers. It was not uncommon for messages to get lost in translation. Messages that were successfully relayed to a deskless worker had been filtered and reinterpreted, diluting the meaning of the communication,” explains the study. 

Why is this an issue? It reduces operational consistency, which every deskless organization desperately needs right now. Operational consistency is the key to memorable CX, efficient execution, and successful campaigns. 

Let’s say you’re a retailer launching a new sportswear line. Head office develops key information about the promo, and shares it down the communication cascade. But as you get further down the cascade, that broken telephone kicks in. Details of the promotion get interpreted or summarized. Floor managers across the country each put their own spin on the information. Key points are shared verbally so key points get missed or changed. Maybe even a few factual errors creep in. So now it’s launch day, and customers are coming in-store, only to get an inconsistent, confusing, frustrating CX. And that has a major impact on the overall success of the promo. 

3. Pre-shift meetings run too long

We love pre-shift team huddles, but those quick check-ins aren’t for sharing all the information coming from head office. Floor managers should be using these huddles to reiterate daily task execution, share quick updates to menus or inventory, and go over general housekeeping. It’s not the right time to introduce a major organizational change, or announce the organization’s plan for Black Friday. 

According to the TEI study, organizations that shifted over to using Nudge were able to reduce the length of their pre-shift meetings by 50% or more – and decrease the frequency of them altogether. That’s more time on the floor for staff – and managers. 

4. It drives employee turnover

We all know that turnover costs you. According to Forrester Consulting, the average turnover cost per associate is upwards of $1,200. And while there are many things that drive voluntary turnover at a deskless organization, one of the big ones is workers not having enough access to the tools and information they need to do their job – and do it well. 

After all, workers are motivated by a sense of purpose at their work. They want to feel like they’re contributing to something important. And without proper communication – or any contact with head office – it’s very difficult for them to feel that sense of purpose. 

“The know-how to do a job well is a key factor to job satisfaction and success for frontline workers,” explains the Total Economic Impact™ Study. 

In fact, it found that deskless workers using Nudge have a 10% higher retention rate. That’s the power of effective communication. 

5. It impacts CX

Here’s where that two-way communication comes into play. In the traditional communication cascade, upward feedback is being gathered annually – if that. But if you’re only inviting feedback from your staff once a year, employee experience is taking a hit. 

“Employee satisfaction is a precursor to creating a great customer experience,” explains the study, which found that using Nudge to allow workers to share best practices, identify problems, and receive recognition on a daily basis had a huge impact on employee engagement – and, in turn, customer experience. 

And CX has a huge impact on revenue. “A related metric is Forrester’s own Customer Experience Index (CX IndexTM ) score, which highlights how improvements to CX have a measurable business impact,” explains the study. “For the retail composite organization, a single-point increase to the CX Index score is worth $4.69 incremental revenue per customer. If the composite organization is assumed to have 2 million customers, the additional revenue would be nearly $9.4 million.”

The traditional communication cascade is inefficient for deskless organizations – but the impacts go far deeper. It can increase turnover, hurt CX, cause burnout in your floor managers…the list goes on. Luckly, there’s another option. To learn more about how digital communication tools are the solution, check out our recent on-demand webinar on the ROI of digital frontline communication!