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How to implement a frontline employee referral program

How to implement a frontline employee referral program

With everyone experiencing serious staffing issues as a result of The Great Resignation, frontline organizations are desperately looking for ways to replace workers as quickly as possible – without wasting time and money on a revolving door of bad hires. 

Employee referrals can be an effective solution to this thorny issue. With the right program and tools in place, you can easily scale referrals up to be a core part of your organization’s frontline recruitment strategy. 

What are employee referrals?

An employee referral program is when an organization encourages its staff to recommend qualified job candidates to open roles at the company. Often paired with a reward program, it’s a way for organizations to source vetted job seekers and fast-track them through the hiring process. 

Referral candidates are often treated differently from regular candidates. The referred candidate’s resume may be flagged or fast-tracked through an applicant tracking system, for example, or their resume may bypass any formal application system and go straight to the hiring manager. 

But why would referrals get so much special treatment? Are they really so valuable a catch?

In a word, yes.

Why employee referrals are important

Building out an employee referral program is a great way for frontline organizations to fast-track hiring. Here are three reasons why:

1. Referred candidates get hired faster

Because of the ongoing wave of resignations, it’s critical for frontline organizations to hire fast in order to keep locations adequately staffed. Employee referrals are a great way to speed that process up. According to Jobvite, the average application-to-hire time for career sites and job boards is 45 days and 39 days, respectively. By comparison, referred candidates move through the process up to 55% faster, taking only 29 days from application to hire.

2. Referred employees stay longer

In a frontline environment, every role is vital to the location’s operations. You need team members who will stick around for the long haul. Employee referrals can fill that need. Jobvite found that 46% of referred hires stay with an employer for three years or more, compared to only 14% of hires sourced from job boards.

3. Employee referral programs are a morale booster

One hidden benefit of an employee referral program is that it positively affects existing frontline staff. Any kind of reward is going to positively impact employee engagement, which is something to consider when building out your program. But beyond that, employee referrals help existing employees to feel like their voice is heard, and they’ve made a positive contribution to the hiring process. 

Referrals also boost morale in a more indirect way. For an employee referral program to work effectively, you need to turn your existing staff into brand advocates. They need to be well-versed in your brand purpose, vision, employee perks…the list goes on. And boosting knowledge retention of this vital information has the added bonus of boosting employee morale and engagement. After all, The Deskless Report found that 55% of deskless workers feel that a sense of purpose at work makes them feel engaged and motivated. It’s win-win!

How to build a frontline employee referral program

Simply asking employees to find referrals isn’t going to get you very many results, especially if you have a large frontline force to fill out. You’re going to need to put together a formal referral program. 

Creating a frontline employee referral program is a bit different than a deskbound program, mostly because of the scale of workforce and speed of hires. Here are three things to keep in mind when starting to build out your program. 

1. Start with determining goals and outcomes

Before you dive too far into employee referrals, you first have to establish why one is needed in the first place. What long-term and short-term goals will the referral program fulfill? Are you hoping to hire faster? Improve the quality of hires? Fine-tuning these goals will help drive your program in the right direction. 

2. Choose how you’ll use to entice employees to refer

Incentives are a critical component of an employee referral program. These could be anything from a financial bonus to vacation days, gift certificates, or swag. If these aren’t possible, employee recognition is another incentive to consider. Acknowledging staff that go out of their way to bring in new talent might be enough to entice others to engage in your referral program. 

3. Map out your tools and policies

Now that you’ve established what you want to achieve with your program, it’s time to figure out the process driving it. In other words, what tools and policies will you need to run this program at scale? Consider the following questions:

  • How will employees submit referrals? 
  • What tool will HR use to track employee referrals?
  • How much information on the candidate should be submitted?
  • At what point will incentives be awarded to the referring employee?

Speaking of tools, did you know that Nudge has an employee referral tool baked right into the communication platform? The customizable “Refer a Friend” page lets employers share details on open roles and include a link to their careers page or ATS, so employees can share career opportunities through text, email, or link right from the app. 

Tips for running an effective frontline employee referral program

All employee referral programs are not created equal. Here are a few best practices to consider when building out your program to ensure it’s as effective as possible. 

Turn your employees into brand advocates

Your employees will have more success enticing candidates to apply if they know more about the company they’re recruiting for. Share information about your employer brand to your frontliners, and make sure they know all about things like your perks and your brand mission. 

Use simple and clear messaging

The more complex and burdensome an employee referral program is (or sounds like), the less likely employees will submit referrals. Keep the policies simple, and communicate them clearly to your frontline staff. Ensure that employees understand the process for submitting referrals, whether it’s an online form or submitting a resume directly to site management or HR. Clearly state what constitutes a “successful” referral hire, and what the associated incentives are. 

Make the program easy to use at scale

You’re going to be filling roles for dozens, maybe even hundreds of locations depending on the size of your company. So your referral program has to be easy to use at scale. This means clear and simple program mechanics, a communications infrastructure that can easily reach multiple locations and teams, and rewards that are enticing but not excessive. You should also have the procedures and manpower in place to be able to handle a large number of open jobs and job applications. Processing candidates as fast as possible (whether they are referrals or not) is key to getting frontline locations the help they need in a timely manner. 

Update your employees on a regular basis

Frontline organizations are always hiring, so it’s a good idea to remind employees of the employee referral program and that you have open positions available. Employees may be shy about referring their friends because they don’t think anything will come of it. So don’t forget to notify employees that a referral has been successfully hired, too! 

Referred employees can be the fastest to hire, last the longest, and bring the most value to your business. Referral programs and incentives do a terrific job of encouraging frontline employees to participate, but the truly effective method is making your workplace a positive environment; one that employees would be excited to share with their friends. Once you’ve got a solid employee experience in place, you can start building out an effective employee referral program to spread the word. 

Employer brand 101: how to use it to hire and retain frontline staff

Employer brand 101: how to use it to hire and retain frontline staff

The labor crisis rages on – and it’s hitting frontline organizations hard. 

Especially in foodservice and retail organizations, everyone’s looking for the answer. And while there’s no magic bullet that is guaranteed to help you hire and retain staff, there is one strategy that could be a big help: improving your employer brand. 

Employer brand gets discussed a lot in deskbound organizations (especially startups) but less so in frontline organizations. But make no mistake: it can play a huge role in sourcing, hiring, and retaining staff. 

What is an employer brand?

An employer brand is the public perception of how you hire, manage, and care for the people who work for you. It’s what a potential job candidate learns about you before applying. As employer brand author and speaker James Ellis puts it, “If you can name what you care about, line it up with what you reward, and then project that out to the world, you got yourself an employer brand.”

An employer brand is closely linked to your EVP, your employee value proposition, which essentially explains what workers could get by working with your organization. And it’s not just candidates and employees who see your employer brand; consumers see it, too. As do contractors, vendors, and even your competitors. That’s why it’s so critical to ensure you have a positive employer brand, which brings us to…

Why is employer branding important?

There are a number of reasons why a strong employer brand is important for frontline organizations – and it goes far beyond the labor crisis. Here are a few of the benefits of investing in your employer brand: 

It influences the quality of your candidates

As a frontline employer, you want to attract the best and brightest candidates to join your staff. As it happens, the feeling is mutual. Candidates also want to work for the best companies, and use your employer brand as a criteria. In fact, one study found that 92% of workers would consider changing jobs if offered a role with a company with a good reputation.

The reverse is also true. If you have a poor employer brand, you are literally driving away potential candidates. 50% of candidates say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation, even for a pay increase.

It’s linked to employee loyalty

Your employer brand doesn’t just affect candidates or new hires; it also affects the employees you already have on staff. 

And why wouldn’t it? You want to be proud of where you work, and if your organization is perceived as being a bad one, then people will start walking out the door – especially during The Great Resignation. However, employees have a positive view of their employer, it will encourage them to stick around longer (and refer others to apply!).  

Companies actively investing in employer branding can reduce turnover by as much as 28%, which drastically reduces the need to go looking for new candidates. 

It impacts customer/brand perception

You need to take a good hard look at what employer brand you’re transmitting out to the world – intentional or not. You might think that your employer brand and your product brand are entirely separate things, but your customers do not. We’re seeing consumers take more of an interest in how organizations treat their staff

According to CareerArc, 64% of consumers have stopped purchasing a brand after hearing news of that company’s poor employee treatment. So mistreating employees is bad for business, both in a figurative and literal sense. 

What affects employer brand?

Your employer brand can be manipulated, altered, and affected by a multitude of factors. Some will be under your control, others not so much. 

Company branding 

Your company brand is a critical component of your employer brand – and you need to make sure they’re aligned. How does your company present itself as an employer? What’s your mission and brand purpose, and how are they communicated to the outside world? What is your philosophy around customer or guest experience? All these and more are part of your company brand.

Employee experience

Your employer brand exists whether you want it to or not – the recommendations we’re making are meant to ensure you’re fostering a positive brand. And a big part of a positive employer brand is offering your staff the employee experience that you’re proud to share. What is your onboarding program like? What support and training do you provide? What tools and tech does your staff have access to? What programs and initiatives can your staff access? All of this contributes to your employee experience – and, in turn, your employer brand.

Employee testimony

What your current and former employees say about your company is extremely important. Employees have developed a strong skepticism toward management, and will consider fellow employees’ words more credible than any message the brand puts out. This employee testimony can exist anywhere: on Glassdoor, Reddit, social media, and even word-of-mouth. 

Consider this: according to Glassdoor, 86% of job seekers will look at company reviews and ratings to decide on where to apply for a job. What your existing employees have to say plays a huge role in your ability to keep your locations staffed. 

Customer stories

Believe it or not, customers actually notice how you treat your employees. They can tell if an employee loves their job and takes pride in their workplace, because it shows in the quality of the service and the attitude of the employee. By the same token, it’s really easy to tell when an employee is unmotivated. 

So why should this matter? Because customers gossip.  One study found that 54% of respondents who had shared a bad experience said they shared it more than 5 times. Word will get around, it will affect how people perceive you.

Awards and certifications

An award from a respected organization can give your employer brand a major boost. It’s formal recognition that your business treats its employees well and makes you look better to potential candidates. 

Many award-giving bodies, like Great Place To Work, do so independently, meaning they take the proactive step of researching the companies on their list (including yours). They usually request interviews or survey entries from current employees, as well as investigate other things like your HR policies, facilities, and benefits. 

For example, when IKEA prioritized employee experience by promoting a flat hierarchy, a strong employee development program, and living wages, it received a Randstad Award and was honoured as the most sought-after workplace in Sweden. 

Being included on these is a pleasant surprise, but you don’t have to sit and wait for recognition. Some awards bodies accept applications and nominations. And be sure to put those award badges on your careers page!

How to improve your employer brand

Now that you know how important the employer brand is for remedying labor shortages for frontline organizations, let’s review how to actually build it up

Look at your core purpose

According to Hospitality Insights, the first step for frontline organizations looking start improving their employer brand is to look at their existing core mission:

“Small, purpose-led initiatives can help strengthen your brand. When relatively new to the concept of employer branding, a good place to start is by being inquisitive and reflective. The first step is to refocus on your company’s purpose and identity, and understand whether there is a shared purpose within your organization. Ask your current employees why they chose your company, what gets them out of bed every morning, what is the company’s purpose in their eyes?”

Making sure you have your purpose aligned is a great first step in communicating that purpose through your employer brand.  

Review your management culture

Onsite leadership is one of the biggest drivers of employee satisfaction. A great leader will inspire loyalty and boost store performance, while a bad one will create a toxic environment that pushes employees away. In fact, according to The Deskless Report, feedback about a manager is one of the top types of feedback frontline workers want to share with their organization. 

Upgrade your employee experience

Fact: frontline workers are coming to work for more than a paycheck. In fact, according to The Deskless Report, 49% of frontline workers said employee benefits and programs make them feel engaged and motivated at work – 38% feel the same about a sense of community at work, and 37% feel that way about recognition programs. 

In other words: workers appreciate employers that offer more than just a paycheck. Take fast casual restaurant chain Chipotle: they’ve managed to hire through the labor crisis by offering educational opportunities, mental healthcare programs, and performance-based employee bonuses. 

Use social media to engage candidates

Your company’s public persona shouldn’t just promote your products and services. It should also serve your employer brand. Use your social media platform to call attention to the positive things you do for your employees. Highlight frontliners who deliver exceptional performance. Use hashtags to participate in important societal and cultural discussions that concern your workers. 

For example, Starbucks has an Instagram account dedicated to their employer brand, which it uses to interact with potential candidates. They also leverage hashtags like #extrashotofgood and #tobeapartner https://clearhrconsulting.com/blog/hiring/starbucks-canada/ in conversations and answer candidate questions.

To attract the best candidates possible, you have to develop an employer brand that appeals to the kinds of workers you want on your team. 

But just as important is making sure that the employee experience actually matches the employer brand you present. Do it right, however, and your frontline workers will be so happy to work for you that they’ll be among the first to help source more candidates. More on that soon…. 


How to run an internal communications audit (+free worksheet!)

How to run an internal communications audit (+free worksheet!)

This is an excerpt from our Ultimate Guide to Deskless Employee Communication.  

You put so much time and effort into the information you share with your frontline – but is it truly effective? According to research in The Deskless Report, 59% of workers say the communications they receive are somewhat to not at all useful. Meanwhile, 86% of frontline leaders believe their organization is sending out meaningful, quality communications. That disconnect can be seriously damaging. 

That’s where a communication audit can help to uncover exactly how your communications are performing, how accessible your channels are, and more. 

In this article, you’ll learn what an internal communication audit is, the basics of running an audit, communication audit questions to ask, and much more. 

What is a communication audit? 

An internal communications audit is a review of how well your organization and its leaders distribute and collect information to and from your workforce and how well the current setup aligns with your overall strategy. 

This audit is especially crucial for organizations with deskless and frontline employees, who spend very little face-to-face time with management and don’t have regular access to computers, so a specialized strategy is crucial. A communications audit will ensure you identify the right way to share information. 

The benefits of running an internal communication audit

It may sound unnecessarily bureaucratic at first, but an audit is actually one of the best things you can do for your organization. Even organizations without a formal strategy can benefit from an audit. In fact, we would argue that they need it even more. 

Well-executed internal communications can engage and motivate your frontline staff. Just ask Clear Company, who found that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover. And ThinkTalent, who discovered that organizations with effective communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. 

The reverse is also true. Poorly-run communications can lead to disengagement, and disengaged employees are a flight risk. According to Gallup, 56% of not engaged and 73% of actively disengaged employees are either looking for jobs or watching for other opportunities. 

Auditing can uncover serious issues with your internal communications strategy and reduce the risk of disengagement. It can also provide easy wins that open lines of communication and get employees back on board. 

So let’s get started. Here are the first steps to take when starting a communication audit: 

How do you plan and run an internal communication audit?

1. Create an audit team

Conducting a proper audit will involve time, effort, and dedicated manpower. While it’s tempting to hire an external company to conduct the audit, an internal team can be just as effective, provided they approach it in an organized fashion, and they have the independence and authority necessary to gather data and act on their findings.

If you don’t have a dedicated internal communications team to run the audit, put together an ad-hoc team composed of delegates from operations, HR, and marketing. You may also want to include someone to represent the frontline employees to provide additional perspective. 

2. Set goals

Question: what part of your internal communications do you want the audit to improve? You may be tempted to conduct an audit with a broad scope (“are my communications working?”), but you might see better results if you fine-tune your audit.

Audits work best when they focus on improving specific aspects of your internal communications. The narrower and more measurable the goals are, the greater the chance your audit will succeed.

3. Collect info and insights

Collecting the intel for your communication audit is a multi-stage process. If you have a digital communications platform in place, collecting these insights will be much easier – but taking a more analog approach is definitely possible as well. Let’s take each stage one at a time. 

Metrics review

We’ll talk about numbers more later, but workforce insights are a critical step in any communication strategy – and are extremely informative in your internal communication audit. Raw numbers can be used to either support or challenge the anecdotal feedback you’ll be collecting later. They may also signal warning signs for internal communication problems.

Look for the metrics that relate closely to the goals you set, but make sure to consider multiple data points to get as wide a picture as possible. Again, a digital communication platform will make collecting these metrics easier, but there are still workforce insights you can tap into and learn from, even if you’re not using communication technology. 

Communication tools review

An internal communications tool is a method, product, or software that you use to send and receive messages to and from your team. Many companies use email, but we’ve seen everything from low-tech solutions like bulletin boards and posters to high-end digital communications platforms. The tools you use should make your communication strategy more effective and streamlined. And the only way to truly gauge its effectiveness is by questioning your assumptions. 

For a worksheet to help you assess your communication tools (and track your full audit start to finish!) get our free Internal Communications Audit Worksheet!  

Anecdotal information

Numbers can tell you a lot, but the human side can tell you just as much, if not more. Asking the right communication audit questions can uncover valuable insights and red flags about your channels. It’s important to interview both sides of the conversation: executive management and the workers. When talking to management, get their perspective on what they prioritize, how they think the company should be communicating, and what they think the gaps are. 

Here are some examples of communication audit questions to ask management:

  • How would you describe the communications your frontline receives? 
  • How effective do you feel the communication channels are? 
  • Are you comfortable leveraging these tools to share information and collect feedback?
  • What channels or tools do you use to share information? 

When you do get to talk with frontline workers, don’t ask leading questions. Balance quantitative and qualitative responses  and give respondents an opportunity to free-write their answers. 

Here are some examples of communication audit questions to ask your frontline:

  • How would you describe the communications you receive?
  • How do you use our communication channels? 
  • When do you access them? How often do you access them? 
  • Where do you go during your shift when you need information? 
  • Do you know who to ask if you don’t have access to the information you need?

4. Analyze the intel

Once you’ve harvested your information, you can analyze the data to uncover weaknesses in your internal communications strategy and look for signs your communication is broken (check out our sidebar for warning signs). Compile your findings into key insights, then go back to your audit goals to see what conclusions you can derive. From there, you’ll develop a list of recommendations to share with stakeholders and start to prepare a plan of action. Here are a few examples of recommendations you might bring back to the organization based on your audit findings: 

  • Choose a new communication tool or platform to make communication simple and easy.
  • Create a monthly or quarterly communication calendar to ensure your communications are targeted around a core goal or objective. 
  • Identify the metrics you want to track and how you’ll track them. 
  • If you don’t have one, create a dedicated communications lead who will work with various stakeholders to create and share information. 

Remember, you don’t have to overhaul your entire internal communications system all at once. You can improve one component at a time, focusing on the area that will deliver the most value to the organization and its employees. 

Ready to try your first audit? Use our free Internal Communications Audit Worksheet to track your full audit start to finish 👇

Internal Communications Audit Worksheet | Nudge
How to run Ask Me Anythings at your frontline organization

How to run Ask Me Anythings at your frontline organization

Ask Me Anythings (AMAs) are a must at every organization – even frontline ones. After all, nobody likes being kept in the dark, least of all frontline employees. In fact, according to The Deskless Report, 40% of workers are hungry for more company updates. Your staff values transparency from management in nearly everything – including company successes, failures, and future plans.

This kind of transparency matters. In a recent study, Paychex found that 84.2% of employees were satisfied with their jobs when their employers were transparent, while only 54.4% claimed to be satisfied when employers were not transparent. 

This thirst for information is partially why Ask Me Anythings are becoming so popular among companies. Formerly the province of Reddit, Ask Me Anythings are being adopted by executive leadership as a means of having live, authentic conversations with their employees. Essentially, AMAs provide an opportunity for employees to submit questions to leadership in advance, and leadership provides candid, honest responses. 

The online nature of Ask Me Anythings makes it an excellent communication channel for frontline organizations whose workforce is scattered across different locations. It completely sidesteps the need to assemble employees in a single physical venue, and even offers opportunities to collect and even answer questions asynchronously, which works well for navigating various employee schedules and time zones. 

If you would like to explore the idea of running an Ask Me Anything, but haven’t ever run one before, don’t fret: we’ve tapped Brennan McEachran, CEO and co-founder of management support software platform Hypercontext (and avid AMA advocate) for a few insider tips!   

On to the tips!

1. Use a practical Ask Me Anything format

Consider your staff’s needs when deciding how the AMA will be conducted. Frontline employees are often shift workers, which means you need to be mindful of timing when collecting questions, and sharing the answers. 

Rather than collecting questions verbally, over email, or in a dedicated meeting, the more practical option might be to use a forum for staff to share their questions (psst… you can do that in Nudge!). 

When it comes to answering the questions, live-streaming the AMA may be convenient for office workers who have ready access to a laptop, but it will be much more difficult for frontline workers to participate. A recording might make more sense, or even having senior leadership answer the questions right in the forum, which makes it easy for staff to comment further or even refer back to the answers over time. 

2. Crowdsource top questions

McEachran advises, “If you have the right tools in place, you can collect questions and items to address during the Ask Me Anything prior to the actual meeting. Leading up to the AMA, your broader team can vote on what their most burning questions are for senior management.” 

Using a forum like we mentioned above means you can encourage other employees to comment on or upvote their favourite questions. This is a great way to ensure you’re answering the most popular questions, rather than only favoring those who feel more comfortable speaking up.

3. Make a plan 

“When it comes to running AMAs,” McEachran says, “it’s important that you use an agenda and stick to it. It’s easy for these conversations to go off-kilter, so you want to ensure that you’re using your time productively. Be sure to use a meeting agenda that everyone has access to prior to the AMA.”

Sharing an agenda in advance also prepares your staff for which questions your leadership team will answer. Be clear about why you’ve chosen those questions – i.e. they were upvoted the most, they had the most comments on them, they’re closely related to the company’s roadmap, etc. 

4. Allow for anonymity

“Give your team the opportunity to ask questions anonymously,” McEachran suggests. “It can be incredibly scary for frontline workers to bring up problems to upper management because they might fear being punished for bringing up concerns (that’s a whole other problem in itself). Remove as many barriers for feedback as possible.”

If you’re not keen to build anonymity into your Ask Me Anything, focus on building psychological safety with your team to help build rapport with your staff and alleviate any worries around repercussions. 

5. Create an Ask Me Anything policy document 

Just because Ask Me Anythings include the word “Anything,” doesn’t mean employees can say or do whatever they like. 

A policy document can help guide employees in how to best format their questions, and help them understand any topics or language that are off-limits. The document also lets you lay out expected standards of behavior. This is especially important considering that frontline employees may be working under a great deal of stress, and could see the AMA as an opportunity to vent their frustrations. 

6. Prep your leadership team

Don’t just brief the executive who will be running the Ask Me Anything. Brief the rest of the leadership team, as well. Every department head should know that they could be called upon to answer difficult or topical questions.  

Those who have never seen or run an AMA before would benefit from one or two coaching sessions so they can get used to how questions are presented, how to answer in a timely fashion, and the tone they should adopt when talking to employees. 

7. Follow up

Ask Me Anythings usually have a finite end time, and there isn’t always time to address all of the questions. Be clear about how and when leftover questions will be answered, and any next steps that will be taken on the insights provided. 

After the event, post updates on issues and action items that were discussed during the AMA so that employees can see the company is making progress. If you don’t post these kinds of follow ups, the employees may think that any promises made during the AMA are mere lip service, which will lower morale and reduce trust in management.

Ask Me Anythings can be an effective way for company management to engage with a deskless workforce at scale. It establishes a clear line of communication that executives can use to keep employees up-to-date on important issues and gives you insight into what’s important to your people. Making AMAs work for your frontline organization just needs a bit extra planning – and the right tools. 

5 Reasons poor workforce readiness will cost your product launch

5 Reasons poor workforce readiness will cost your product launch

The days before a big launch, event, or holiday sale can be fraught with nerves and a flurry of urgent activity. Head office, store management, and frontline staff all want the launch to go well:

  • Head office wants the revenue boost and branding lift from a successful launch or promo
  • Store management wants a memorable customer experience and potential for return customers
  • Retail staff wants the information and tools to execute the event without a hitch – and take ownership over the organization’s success

All want the event to succeed…and yet many retail launches fall flat on their face. This happens for a multitude of reasons, but the most important – and the most impactful – reason is the simple fact that retail workers were left unprepared. 

As organizations continue to navigate the new normal, workforce readiness is playing a make-or-break role. This isn’t the sole responsibility of the store manager, or the retail staff. Head office and leadership have a major role to play in making sure each and every worker has access to the training, information, and tools they need to successfully execute on a key event with consistency. And in this, the industry is unfortunately lacking. 

This training gap affects day-to-day performance, of course. But it also greatly impacts launches and events–times when a sales associate is going to promote a new, little-known product. 

When people at the front line are unprepared, things can go wrong in a multitude of ways. Here are 5 reasons poor workforce readiness will cost you – big time: 

1. An inconsistent customer experience

Whereas online shopping experiences are more consistent, in-store shopping experiences can be hard to standardize. Two customers walking into the same store at the same time may have wildly different experiences depending on the product they’re looking for and the associate that they talk to. Things like signage, shelf stock, and POP marketing materials affect their experience, too. 

Another impact of online shopping is now much information customers are armed with when they want into a brick-and-mortar store. It’s gotten to the point where customers might even know more about the product than your own retail staff. 81% of retail shoppers do their research online before even stepping into the store. Unless you’re investing in workplace readiness, your customers might come into the store with more training than your associates! 

If your frontline staff is going to keep up, you need to help them prepare. They need in-depth information – not just the “what,” but the “why,” and “how.” They need knowledge testing, pulse surveys…they need the resources to showcase your product effectively and deliver a consistent (and memorable!) customer experience. 

2. Poor launch performance

You could liken a retail launch or promo event to a sports game. Everyone needs to pull together in both scenarios. Without all staff mobilized around a single goal, the odds of having a successful outcome are stacked against you. 

Sure, some retail locations might be star performers, or a single location might have a superstar retail worker, but that’s not going to carry your brand through a poorly-executed launch. It’s like when Lebron James scored 50 points in an NBA finals game but still lost because the rest of his team couldn’t deliver: it’s a bright spot, but it doesn’t scale widely enough. 

What will scale is adequate workforce readiness and training. By spreading the training resources across your retail workforce, and taking steps to improve knowledge retention and address gaps, your launch has a greater chance of enjoying operational consistency and widespread success. 

3. Inefficient use of labor

Think back to the last time you threw a birthday party or took a road trip. How prepared were you? How hectic were things a few hours before show time? We’re willing to bet you were running around doing things at the last second, and that those things could have been done much earlier. 

Take that stress and multiply it a hundred – or even a thousand! – and that’s what it’s like for your frontline staff. Without steps in place to ensure workforce readiness, the days and hours prior to a launch will be filled with floor managers fielding question after question; leadership making extra visits to various locations; countless phone calls to answer (and ask!) questions. In short, your staff will be pushed to their limit, before the launch has even started. That’s an inefficient use of labor. 

Retail workers are already in a very difficult position, with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the other work-related stresses involved. A recent study by The Retail Trust found that 84% of retail workers admitted to their mental health deteriorating during the pandemic. This resulted in symptoms such as increased anxiety, changes in eating and sleep habits, and prolonged sadness for more than a third of the staff. The report went on to say that younger retail workers in their 20s are among those workers with the lowest levels of wellbeing. 

Preparing your workforce well in advance of your event will help alleviate this stress, and boost their performance, morale, and ability to provide excellent service. 

4. Lost revenue

Making money is one of the primary goals of any product launch. And yet, by leaving staff untrained and unprepared, retail companies are unnecessarily reducing the revenue they could pull in. 

42% of Americans will stop shopping with a brand after only two bad brand experiences. So if your staff winds up disappointing a customer due to lack of preparation, then you’re halfway to losing a customer for good. And if you’ve disappointed that customer before, then you’ve just pushed them over the edge. 

Additionally, another study on consumer behavior found that 93% of customers are likely to make a purchase and (85% buy more!) when helped by a knowledgeable associate. The same report found that 80% of retailers saw sales increase by 25 to 50% when their customers were assisted by knowledgeable associates. 

So what makes an associate knowledgeable? The study found that associates who took at least one training module made an average of 46% more sales per hour compared to those who did not. At the simplest level, the data shows that the associates who are well-trained and armed with information are making your organization more money. You’re essentially leaving money on the table every time you run an event without looking at workforce readiness.  

Can you really afford that?

5. Chronic preparedness problems intensifying the above issues

The only thing worse than failing a launch is not knowing why it failed in the first place. It’s easy to put the blame on the most convenient or safest excuse, like “oh, people weren’t ready for the product,” or “Amazon ruins everything,” and ignore the real root cause – your lack of workforce preparedness. 

According to Salesforce, 53% of millennials don’t think store associates have the tools they need to provide great customer service. This includes mobile devices for looking up customer profiles and recommending products, access to online channels for tracking down the product in-store, and general knowledge of what products are on sale. 

Beyond technical needs, poorly timed launches also mean there’s not enough preparation time. This preparation could impact anything from shift schedules to store displays to product familiarization…if you give it the time it deserves. 

So, what should you do? The path forward is pretty clear. 

Your retail workers need all the help you can reasonably provide in order to make your launch or event a success. This includes effective training, sufficient preparation time, and administrative support. And while it definitely will require additional investment, the actual cost might not be that big of a burden as you might think – especially given the potential benefits.

Wondering where to start? Here are 5 questions to ask to to know if your staff is prepared for your next product launch. These questions will give you a sense of where you’re at in terms of workforce preparedness – and what you need to do, before you launch.