14 companies taking employee engagement to the next level

14 companies taking employee engagement to the next level

With consumer and guest expectations constantly evolving, it can be difficult to keep up. While there are many resources and technologies you can invest in that may provide a competitive edge, there is one resource that is infinitely valuable and often overlooked: your employees.

Your employees are the first point of contact for customers and guests, and leave a big impression throughout the buyer’s journey. A poor employee interaction could cost you a customer for life. That’s why it is vital to invest in employee engagement. Ensuring that your staff are knowledgeable, empowered, and motivated to act as an advocate on behalf of your brand makes for happy customers which, in turn, creates a happy bottom line.

Have we convinced you to take a look at your frontline employee engagement tactics? Let’s start with a little inspiration: here are 14 great examples of deskless and frontline companies with high employee engagement – who are reaping the benefits of engagement, team performance, and customer satisfaction.

1. Arby’s

Arby’s is a company known for having great employee engagement and satisfaction. Even in tough situations, Arby’s looks to its employees for help. During a troubling time for Arby’s, CEO, Paul Brown, turned to his teams working in restaurants to find out what they would do to save the company.

By doing so, Arby’s gained a better understanding and perspective on the frontline experience and empowered their employees in the process. As a result, Brown made changes to improve the customer experience.

Arby’s continues to empower their teams and focus on the employee experience through various initiatives. Most recently, they introduced the Arby’s Brand Champ program, which aims to teach their teams how to engage more effectively with customers and to “better value and support Arby’s employees.” Since launching the program, they have communicated to over 70,000 employees that if they “take the time to understand Arby’s goals, Arby’s will try to understand theirs as well”. Arby’s is going above and beyond when it comes to the employee experience, ensuring that their employees are not only successful at work but also have the resources and guidance to achieve their dreams – whether they are related to further education or career development.

2. Best Buy

Best Buy has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the in-store experience and employee engagement. On Nudge’s podcast, Field Trip, Ron Tite of The Tite Group talked about how Best Buy “empowers their frontline staff to act in a way that reaffirms the values of the organization.”

He explains that Best Buy enables this empowerment by communicating to employees that “[…] the only thing you need to know is to be amazing. Whatever you think that requires for our customers – we trust you”. Empowering the workforce as Best Buy does creates better employee morale and, as a result, a better customer experience.

Best Buy is also very effective at engaging their employees in idea sourcing. They recently opened their “Experience Store” in Montreal to create a more interactive shopper experience, where people can test out the latest technology, from VR to drones or new video game systems. The concept for the new store came from sourcing employee and customer insights and ideas. For Best Buy, listening to their employees and customers ultimately allows them to move with retail market trends more effectively.


Health food outlet B.GOOD Restaurants is a great example of a brand that is effectively engaging their employees to improve customer loyalty. In an interview with Loyalty360, B.GOOD CMO, Kim Cerato, states that “a subpar in-store experience will cancel out even the most expensive of customer acquisition campaigns”. B.GOOD put their words into action when they involved their staff in their rebranding efforts and focused on training their teams to engage in customer interactions more effectively.

Cerato also spoke on how cultivating a strong culture has been crucial to B.GOOD’s success. In 2015, B.GOOD created an ordering app for customers to use in store. When co-founder Jon Olinto told employees that their pictures would be on the landing pages of the app, employees reportedly “reacted to the news with huge smiles and infectious chatter”. Showing employees that they are valued makes your employees feel like they’re a part of the bigger picture, which pays dividends in loyalty and hard work.

4. The Cheesecake Factory

As the only restaurant on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2018, the Cheesecake Factory knows what it’s doing. In fact, they’ve been on this list every year since 2014. A big reason is that, with menus over 250 items long and a penchant for consistency across its over 220 locations, the Cheesecake Factory is known for its high quality and continually updated training programs.

The focus on employee engagement goes all the way to the top; CEO David Overton cites training and recognition as top priorities within the organization, a key reason why he has a 93% approval rating among employees. The Cheesecake Factory recognizes its frontline associates’ great performance through its Wow Stories initiative, which circulates stories of great service across the entire company, boosting morale and spreading best practices.

5. Golf Town

Recognized as one of Canada’s 50 most engaged workplaces, Golf Town works hard to improve employee engagement and the associate experience across their stores. In the past year, they’ve collaborated with their store managers and associates to rebuild their core values: team, winning, adaptation, and authenticity. One of their most recent efforts to improve staff engagement was implementing Nudge into Golf Town locations across the country.

Using Nudge’s digital communication platform, Golf Town improved communication between upper management and frontline workers and increased engagement on in-store initiatives, such as events, promotions, and new offers. Within five days of launch, Golf Town achieved 78% adoption across their entire frontline workforce and have been able to achieve a 75% response rate using the Nudge app.

“Nudge is a game changer for the retail landscape, and has done amazing wonders for our teams who are highly engaged and have a place to share their voice, enabling us to better communicate with our frontline like never before,” says Golf Town president, Chad McKinnon. “It’s played a big role in helping us shift the culture and elevating the associate’s connection to their team, company and our brand.”

6. Home Depot

Recognized as one of Canada’s top employers for young people in three of the past four years, Home Depot has been committed to providing a great workplace for its associates. They care about making their associates feel part of the Home Depot family by trusting and supporting their frontline associates in many ways. Firstly, they give their staff the autonomy to give discounts up to $50 on any item in the store, for any reason they deem reasonable. Their staff are experts in the industry, and they treat them like such.

Secondly, Home Depot supports their staff to achieve their personal goals in many ways. Through Team Depot, their associate-led volunteer program, associates are able to work with local organizations to give back to their communities. Home Depot also offers support for associates in financial emergencies through the Home Fund, tuition reimbursement for associates pursuing higher education, and support for veteran and active-duty associates.

7. Hyatt

Hyatt’s choice to focus on empathy over perfection put them on an unconventional path towards success in the hospitality industry. Mark Hoplamazian, Hyatt’s CEO, was quoted in a Fortune interview saying that the key to Hyatt’s success is “making sure that we are connected to the emotional experience that our colleagues and guests are experiencing and then designing their experience so that it is fulfilling for them.”

Instead of using a script when speaking to guests, Hyatt staff are free to be themselves during guest interactions. This creates a more authentic customer experience and encourages employees to establish an emotional connection with guests.

Hyatt not only utilizes empathy to create a better customer experience but also to create a better employee experience. Implementing the Housekeeping Flextime Program is a perfect example, where housekeepers have the option of leaving if they get their work done early, or to clean additional rooms to make extra money. Another benefit includes the Family Assistance Leave, which offers a minimum of 8 weeks paid leave to primary caregivers.

8. Nordstrom

Nordstrom is so famous for its world-class customer service that there have literally been books written about it. Those great customer experiences that they provide can be traced directly back to their amazing employee experience – they’ve been ranked one of the Top 100 Places to Work for 21 years. Take their somewhat mythical employee handbook which allegedly reads, in its entirety, “Rule #1: Use the best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.”

While it’s been revealed that this isn’t Nordstrom’s only rule for employees, they do take it seriously. Trusting their associates and giving them the autonomy to handle situations how they see fit creates a strong and positive relationship between staff and the company. This leads to high levels of employee engagement and a real desire for frontline associates to succeed and perform well in their roles.

How does Nordstrom ensure that their associates have good judgment? They hire and train according to their culture, sticking to their core values of trust, respect, communication, loyalty, empathy, and humility. They look for associates that display these characteristics and train all employees (including managers) to uphold them, making for a great work environment.

9. Patagonia

From providing on-site child care, to their policy that employees must surf when the waves are good (yes, even during work hours) – Patagonia understands that accommodating your employees’ needs and passions is the best way to create a great employee experience. While employee accommodation helps foster productivity and improved morale, the best employee motivator is instilling trust.

Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard’s key to a happy and productive workforce is to “hire the people you trust, who are passionate about their job, passionate about what they’re doing. Just leave them alone, and they’ll get the job done.” Granting autonomy and independence to the right type of workers allows for a better work environment and, in turn, happier employees.

Patagonia’s deep care for the environment has also led them to provide support for any of their employees who want to learn about the environment. One way that they do this is by funding up to 2 months of internship programs for any environmental non-profit.

10. REI

This sporting goods co-op consistently ranked in the top 10 companies for employee engagement, with some of the most passionate and happy employees out there. An REI Employee Engagement Index reports that 92% of employees go beyond what is required to help REI succeed and that only 18% of employees were seriously considering leaving REI at that time.

One of REI’s biggest efforts to improve the employee experience is through their “company campfire”. This initiative was launched to improve two-way communication between upper management and store clerks. REI also supports its employees by offering various efforts and benefits. Employees get an additional two days off per year to “go outside and get inspired,” as well as the third day off when REI closes all of its stores on Black Friday for their employees.

11. Sephora

Sephora has mastered employee experience by focusing on three key aspects: training, technology, and development. All cast members (their internal name for frontline staff) start with training on the three main product categories (perfume, makeup, and skincare) starting on day one, and continually get retrained on new products, techniques, and trends. Sephora is so committed to training that they even developed Sephora University with three locations globally, offering training to the frontline and corporate employees alike.

In addition to making their cast members industry experts, Sephora provides them the most cutting edge technology to use in store. From ColorIQ (their digital shade finder) to handheld registers, cast members are using world-class tech as often as they use a makeup brush, which makes their jobs easier and more enjoyable. This is key, especially when you consider that 93% of Millennials consider up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of their workplace.

Finally, Sephora prides itself on providing mobility for its cast members; whether that’s between positions, stores, departments, or even countries! One cast member has even grown from a Beauty Advisor to becoming the General Manager of France through Sephora’s commitment to growing, training and developing their top talent.

12. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has received top ratings for customer experience out of 9 of the top airlines. Their secret? Putting their employees before customers and shareholders. In a company blog post about culture, Southwest Airlines stated that “we believe that if we treat our employees right, they will treat our customers right, and in turn that results in increased business and profits that make everyone happy.”

A great example of when they put their employees first was in 2016 when Southwest announced their new employee uniforms. They asked 48 crew members to help design the uniforms, ensuring that Southwest employees would be proud to wear it to work. Placing priority on a lighthearted and friendly culture, Southwest also encourages flight attendants to add humor to their announcements. See for yourself – Southwest employees aren’t afraid to have some fun on the job, and that certainly pays off in terms of the customer experience.

13. Starbucks

Starbucks is a great example of a brand that understands the value their employees bring to the business, whether it’s putting a smile on someone’s face, or building long-term customer loyalty. Starbucks’ focus on its employees has not gone unnoticed. In fact, 87% of customers’ affinity towards Starbucks is driven by how the company treats its employees.

Since day one, they’ve focused on putting employee-friendly policies in place. For example, they support their staff by paying tuition for university and online programs. Another perk, all Starbucks staff can earn company shares through their “Bean Stock” program.

Even their organizational structure is designed to drive employee engagement. Starbucks managers refer to their team members as “partners” instead of employees. This light touch from upper management shows how they want partners to know that they play an important role in the bigger picture, which in turn, motivates them to work better.

14. Wegmans

Wegmans is ahead of the curve when it comes to employee engagement, experience design, and culture. Kevin Stickles, Wegmans’ VP of HR, stated that “our employees are our number one asset, period. The first question you ask is: ‘Is this the best thing for the employee?’.” In fact, Wegmans spent $50 million on employee development last year, $5 million in scholarships, and has been recognized as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list for over 20 years.

They also go above and beyond in making sure their employees have the resources and know-how to be experts in their area of work. Deli workers are sent on trips to France, Italy, Germany, and Wisconsin to learn about cheese, while butchers are sent to Colorado and South America to learn about beef. Wegmans is a prime example of extending the employee experience beyond the store, by providing a life experience to workers.

While competitors are skeptical that companies can both increase profits and invest in the employee experience, Wegmans has grown to become a $6.2 billion-a-year company. Plus, 94% of their employees state that they’re proud to tell others they work at Wegmans. That sort of brand advocacy is priceless.

The takeaway?

If you want to improve the customer experience, focusing your efforts on the employee experience should be your first step. After all, investing in the employee and customer experience pays off – research by Forrester shows that, over a 5-year period, CX leaders achieved a 17% revenue growth compared to only 3% by CX laggards.

How Mastermind Toys uses Nudge to empower employees and foster innovation

How Mastermind Toys uses Nudge to empower employees and foster innovation

With 68 locations across Canada, Mastermind Toys offers a selection of specialty toys, books, puzzles, and games, and is a brand that deeply believes that “play is kids’ work.”  It’s also a brand that takes the in-store experience very seriously.

“I truly believe we have the best retail team in the industry,” says Sarah Jordan, CEO of Mastermind Toys. “Our play experts are incredibly knowledgeable about our selection and take the time to get to know our customers to guide them to new discoveries.”

With such a heightened focus on the customer experience, Mastermind Toys’ associates were an engaged and passionate network of teams – but without a way to connect on a larger scale. Without that connection, it was hard for the organization to rally employees behind common objectives, like loyalty program enrollment or checkout offers. Enter Jordan, who joined Mastermind Toys as CEO in January of 2020 – the first change in leadership since the company was co-founded in 1984. Jordan had big plans: she wanted to reshape the organization, lead a “digital reinvention,” and boost brand awareness.

“To be successful, I knew we needed to engage our stores and seek their input into the decisions – inspire them to be part of the way forward,” she says. “I deeply believe that employee experience drives customer experience.”

Mastermind Toys, meet Nudge

In Nudge, Jordan saw an opportunity to streamline communication, reduce information gaps, and get more timely with updates – all of which was more crucial as the pandemic reality led to changing protocols and closures differing from region to region.

But there was something else Jordan was looking for: a way to make herself more accessible to all team members, at all levels. “When I first joined the team, I started on a coast-to-coast tour to visit all our stores and meet with as many of our store associates as I could. But the tour was put on hold at the onset of the pandemic,” she explains. That meant finding an alternative way to create two-way communication between each associate and head office. 

Mastermind Toys introduced Nudge to its store associates in October 2020. Within two months, associates had shared almost 9,000 best practices, had sent over 780 employee recognition pins, and had shared 1,500 messages to each other. And that timing was key: while Mastermind Toys was bringing their employees together, they were also undergoing a huge digital transformation to become a leader in the market with their web and curbside pick-up offering during constant rounds of lockdowns and shopping restrictions.

“We were a retailer who did not have a contactless curbside option, and our web experience was severely lagging our competitors. In the middle of a pandemic, we launched a brand-new digital platform. We did it in five months, from scratch, including an entire ecosystem around it, including a customer service platform, review platform; you name it. Everything was overhauled,” Jordan explained at a recent DX3 roundtable.

Bridging the gap between digital and physical

A common challenge for retailers is figuring out how to navigate the relationship between their brick-and-mortar stores and their online experience. For Mastermind Toys, a big component of their digital reinvention was leveraging Nudge to transform associates into digital ambassadors who could help customers navigate the company’s digital channels, creating a “seamless shopping experience between our physical and digital stores,” explains Jordan.

Nudge played a critical role in bridging the gap between Mastermind Toys’ in-store and ecommerce experiences. Using Nudge, they saw a 22% increase in knowledge of the brand’s Digital Ambassador program – and a 24% increase in associate confidence in supporting customers browsing and shopping Mastermind Toys’ digital channels.

“Foster innovation by empowering our store associates”

Feedback means many things to many different organizations. To Mastermind Toys, feedback meant opening the channel of communication between its frontline associates and head office, to allow for fast pivots and recalibration, and drive innovation in their customer offerings. 

“We recognized the opportunity to foster innovation by empowering our store associates to share feedback by putting themselves in our customers’ shoes – from our littlest customers to our kids-at-heart. We saw the opportunity to unleash the power of our play experts coast-to-coast: to identify the next trend in recess play, to share more ways we could bring wonder to our website, or to roll out our industry-leading curbside offering in the best possible way,” says Jordan.

“I’m constantly impressed by the insights we receive from our store associates that give us a direct line into the challenges, celebrations and experiences of our customers. It helps us to quickly innovate how we set the trends in retail.”

But there’s another reason why feedback is so crucial to Jordan and her team: with the pandemic meaning uncertain times, an open line of communication is all the more important to ensure that concerns and fears are heard.

“It has been so important to me to give employees a direct channel to ask questions, share concerns, and offer feedback,” says Jordan. “In fact, hearing feedback from all of our stakeholders at all levels has been where I have learned some of the most valuable insights and where inspiration has been sparked.”

Closing the loop on great ideas

Tapping your frontline workforce for best practices and great ideas is a game-changer for organizations wanting to stay relevant and adaptive to the changing world. But a key component of that process is circling back to your workforce to show them first-hand how their ideas have led to change – and better business outcomes. Sharing those wins isn’t just about recognition; it’s about making associates feel heard and appreciated – which, in turn, leads to better engagement.

Mastermind Toys saw the importance of that crucial final step. “Nudge has closed the loop for us to communicate back to the stores how their input has contributed to our innovation and success as an organization,” says Jordan.

Building an employee community

In replacing their ad-hoc communication and best practice-sharing with a centralized communication platform, Mastermind Toys was also able to foster an employee community across all their locations. “Our stores are working together to problem solve, help each other with their sales goals, and inspire each other with new ideas,” says Jordan. Now, 80% of Mastermind Toys store associates believe that Nudge helps them do their job better.

“So many of our employees love the opportunity to post and read about what other team members are saying. It’s a tool that has really helped us foster an employee community in our stores coast to coast,” says Jordan. “Now the app feels like an extension of our team.”

Check out our full conversation with Sarah Jordan here! 👇

How 4 companies accelerated change during the pandemic 🚀

How 4 companies accelerated change during the pandemic 🚀

For many industries, COVID-19 has been a lesson in rapid change. Last week at DX3, Canada’s retail, marketing, and technology expo, a roundtable discussion explored how four companies are staying relevant – and resilient – by accelerating projects, iterating roadmaps, and more. 

Here’s a look at how four companies accelerated change during the pandemic. (Hint: it’s all about their frontline employees!) 

Mastermind Toys launched a digital platform in 5 months

Sarah Jordan joined Mastermind Toys as CEO in January 2020 – and within two months, her stores were shut down coast to coast. “We were a retailer who did not have a contactless curbside option, and our website, our web experience was severely lagging our competitors,” explained Jordan at the DX3 roundtable. 

To catch up, Jordan and her team focused on the customer experience. “In the middle of a pandemic, we launched a brand-new digital platform. We did it in five months, from scratch, including all of the ecosystem around it, including a customer service platform, review platform; you name it. Everything was overhauled.” By Christmas, they were offering one-hour curbside pickup – with signature wrapping paper, no less. 

How they did it:

“Progress over perfection,” says Jordan. “Also, the employee experience drives the customer experience, and so for me the employee experience mattered in all of this.” For Mastermind, a big component of that was bringing employees into the decision process, and giving them space to collaborate and share ideas. 

“We want everyone to co-create with us; it’s one of the reasons why we rolled out Nudge. The biggest change is how empowered our frontline feels to provide ideas and best practices, and it’s been game-changer for us.” 

Nudge veered off its product roadmap to give brands what they needed

Nudge has spent a decade building the complete digital solution for empowering frontline workers and driving better business outcomes for companies – but when COVID-19 hit, the needs of Nudge’s customers changed. Fast. 

“We took our product roadmap, put it all out on the table and reoriented around our customers’ needs,” said Brennan Wilkie, Chief Revenue Officer at Nudge. “Courage means doing the right thing even when it’s hard. Or especially when it’s hard. And we saw a lot of businesses doing that, putting people before profit – their employees and their customers alike – but it changed the way they operated. So we reacted to this change.” 

The result? Nudge found new ways to help brands communicate and engage with their frontline workers, and stay nimble in the ever-changing pandemic reality. 

How they did it:

With so many of Nudge’s customers representing retail, food service, and other essential businesses, they refocused the product roadmap to focus on tools that would help teams navigate the rapidly-changing protocols and restrictions. For example, automated onboarding was developed to get employees ramped up quickly when businesses started reopening, and a task management feature was fast-tracked to help managers reinforce new, one-off and recurring tasks. 

“What do they need to strengthen their business, and how do we reorient what we do to best serve them?” said Wilkie. “It was a great challenge for us and one we’re proud of. It was the right, reactive move at the right time.” 

Sobeys did a last-minute overhaul of a launch two years in the making

The early days of COVID-19 were a flurry of activity for grocery stores. “The grocery industry became an essential service effectively overnight,” said Sarah Joyce, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce at Sobeys Inc. “Everybody just moved immediately in the same direction with agility and velocity in a way we never have before to react to the change around us.” 

But while they were implementing plexiglass, one-way aisles and senior shopping hour, the company was also prepping something else: Voilà by Sobeys, a large-scale robotic automated warehouse grocery home delivery service. “We were preparing for two years for the launch of a new business, and pretty much the entire launch plan changed in the final weeks,” said Joyce. 

“We had to talk to our suppliers about what product was actually available for us, given the constraints that they were facing. We had to change our delivery protocols so that we could have increased sanitation, contactless delivery, and all of the new important emerging safety protocols in that field. And then we had to change our entire marketing launch plan – the messaging, the channels – to reflect the mood of the nation and the state of the reality of where everybody was in and how we were going to reach them now compared to how we might have prior to the pandemic.”

How they did it:

“It was agility and it was empathy,” said Joyce. “Everything we were doing was on behalf of the customers and the teammates – and everything we were doing was as quick as humanly possible.”

In other words: investing in their people was a crucial component to accelerating change. “Our teammates were the real heroes of the last year, and they continue to deliver exceptional customer experiences to the customers that are still coming in our stores or receiving our deliveries. They make all the difference.”

Marriott stayed relevant with new COVID-relevant offerings

When travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders brought occupancy from 80% down to 2%, Marriott International quickly shifted their focus from luxury events and corporate travel to creative new products geared toward current needs. For example, Work Anywhere with Marriott Bonvoy offers room packages for remote workers who need a break from their home office. They also focused on the contactless experience, like mobile check-in and mobile keys. “We needed to make sure we were keeping travellers feeling confident that, if they needed to travel, they would be safe. Or if they were considering travel in the future, we’d be ready,” said Laura Pallotta, Regional Vice President of Sales and Distribution, Canada, at Marriott International. 

Marriott also has an eye to the future. “We know the luxury segment is pent up,” said Pallotta. “We’ve already seen it in the U.S. with our luxury brands. They have missed major milestones in their family: birthdays, graduations, weddings, that kind of thing. They’re buying out suites; they’re spending a ton of money. So we’re definitely looking at how to make sure that we’re out in front of that customer.”

How they did it:

For Marriott, accelerating change started with listening closely to what’s actually needed, both now and in the future. Now, that means bleisure and staycations; in 2023 or 2024, that means a luxury boon. But beyond that, it goes back (again!) to the employees. “Mr. Marriott always says that if you take good care of your associates, they will take good care of your customers, and the customer will come back. So I think that’s really the foundation of our culture,” said Pallotta. 

 – – –

The biggest takeaway from this DX3 roundtable? Success starts with your employees. Especially during unprecedented times, investing in the employee experience is the first step in next-level customer experience, loyalty and more.  

Nudge for retail: Three visionary brands delivering memorable customer experiences

Nudge for retail: Three visionary brands delivering memorable customer experiences

At Nudge, we love working with remarkable brands who understand how an engaged frontline workforce can be a game-changing differentiator in the customer experience. See how these three retailers are using Nudge in innovative ways to deliver on their brand promise.

Samsung drives device sales in Walmart by tapping into a new wave of brand advocates: With product distribution through big-box retailers, the global consumer device maker relies heavily on knowledgeable frontline teams to interact with customers and drive sales. But without a direct channel to reach associates selling their devices, Samsung needed an innovative way to accelerate training and increase product expertise.

SOFT SURROUNDINGS unites their frontline during rapid storefront expansion: Founded in 1998 as a women’s lifestyle catalog retailer, Soft Surroundings opened their first physical store in 2005 and have since expanded to over 70 locations across the US, continuing 4 consecutive years of double-digit store openings. For customers, in-store visits are a tactile experience where sales associates play a key role in bringing the brand to life.

How does Soft Surroundings manage to keep a consistent and delightful experience for their employees – and as a result, their customers – in the midst of major expansion? Find out more.

GOLF TOWN narrows gap between corporate teams and store managers/associates:
After filing for bankruptcy in 2016, Golf Town was faced with some big decisions. What followed was being acquired and downsizing store locations. During the period of transition, one of their key decisions was to improve the customer experience and they chose to focus on frontline employees, giving them a digital advantage.

Today, Golf Town is enjoying a successful rebirth as “Canada’s Home of Golf,” with strategic employee communication underpinning the transformation. Read their story.

Golf Town is building their company culture from the store up

Golf Town is building their company culture from the store up

If you visited a Golf Town store just 12 months agoyou would have seen a very different company than the innovative brand which exists today. Becoming the Canadian owned and operated golf retailer was just the first step on its transformative journey to re-establish itself as Canada’s Home of Golf.

And this year has been one for the books. While many retailers are facing declining foot-traffic, decreasing sales and store closures, Golf Town marches forward. Between elevating their brand, to rebuilding their company culture (in partnership with their store associates, no less), to introducing experiential store concepts across the countryGolf Town is working hard to offer a differentiated experience for their customers. Their new foundation has been built on a forward-thinking strategy and encompasses the core values of the team, winning, adaptation and authenticity.

How does an organization, which is undergoing a brand transformation, move forward and thrive in the new retail landscape? We had the opportunity to speak with Susan Gilpin, Director of HR, and Madelaine Tricanico, Communications Manager at Golf Town, to discuss the organization’s remarkable transformation. As Gilpin put it, “to be a great retailer today, you have to be curious, you have to be bold, you have to be fast, and you have to shift. If we don’t do that, we’re not going to be here tomorrow.

To view the full interview, listen to the podcast or read on below!


Transforming their brand for the new realities of retail

In a recent blog post, we discussed how retail is, in fact, not dyingbut rather going through a massive transformation. Today’s shoppers place experience over everything, meaning retailers can no longer turn a blind eye to initiatives like customer experience, loyalty programs, and employee engagement. With the additional challenges of declining foot traffic and online retailers undercutting brick-and-mortar stores on price, progressive brands are realizing the importance of the in-store experience and are putting proactive plans in place.

As for Golf Town, they’re focusing on reinventing the employee and customer experience across their stores. “There’s never been such an emphasis on experiential as there is now. At Golf Town, we believe our differentiator to be that feeling when you walk into any one of our stores. You get to test out our clubs and engage with associates who are passionate and knowledgeable. They have the expertise and know-how to help customers play their game well. There’s a need to connect with our customers on our shared passion for golf and growing the game, and that’s a plus”, added Tricanico.

We’re seeing this transformation happen across retailstores are becoming more than a place to make purchases and evolving into experiential destinations. New store concepts allow customers to interact with products, learn from knowledgeable associates and connect with a brand. With examples like Apple’s Genius Bar and Top Shop’s experiential events (like a VR waterslide in London), retailers are finding innovative ways to attract customers and engage with them while in-store.


Culture is built (and brought to life) by your associates

Frontline teams play one of, if not the most important role, in delivering an exceptional in-store experience. The consistency of that experience is, in large part, influenced by a retailer’s culture. A focus for Golf Town has been to re-build their culture in partnership with their store associatesensuring they feel connected to Golf Town’s larger goals and core values of the team, winning, adaptation and authenticity. So far, co-creating values with their store employees have been a great success. As Gilpin put it, “I’m excited. This is the first time I’ve been involved in values where we’ve really taken it from an employee perspective up, as opposed to being pushed down”.

By involving their frontline teams in defining their culture, Golf Town can deliver a truly authentic brand experience. When all store associates have a common understanding of the Golf Town experience and values, they are able to connect to the brand in a much more meaningful way. “Our associates could name the four values today because we’ve worked with them, they have brainstormed, they have started to build what these values mean to them,” Gilpin explained, “to me that is super special, and something that I’ve never seen before”.

While involving associates to build a brand’s culture from the store up is very important, Giplin underscores that alignment at the leadership level is still a must. She notes, “I’ve talked about it going from the ground up, but you have to have the consensus with your leadership team. They need to believe in the importance of involvement at all levels and that it’s not just a corporate initiative that’s going to be pushed down. It has to come from the employees, they have to believe it and with that, they’ll start to live it within their environments”.


Driving a foundation for success

While embarking on this transformative journey, Golf Town has realized the importance of taking an employee-first approach to the in-store experience. Tricanico emphasized that they “want to make sure it’s not just a great place to shop, but also a great place to work”.

As part of that effort, Golf Town is empowering its employees to share stories about customer interactions and best practices. As Tricanico explained, “That is a strategic objective. How do we tell more stories? That way when a customer comes into our store, it isn’t just about… Hey, how are you? But it is more like – Hey, when was the last time you were out on the course? Or I’ve heard this putter can help your game with X.” By helping associates share their stories, Golf Town can rely on their frontline teams to authentically connect with their customers. Gilpin adds, “When we have those stories come in, the great thing is everyone can read it and they’re learning. We’ve seen stores modeling behaviors after the stories they’ve heard and start to implement some of these new ideas”.

To continue this momentum, Golf Town has placed a priority on leveraging technology to improve the in-store experience and the alignment between associates and customers. Tricanico added that they’re “leveraging tools like Nudge Rewards to provide associates with relevant knowledge and the opportunity to share their expertise. In turn, our customers will feel like the person they’re talking to is knowledgeable, and will be more inclined to visit the store again”. She went on to describe how customers are using their phones more than ever before and, by aligning their associates’ behaviors with their customer behaviors, it demonstrates Golf Town’s ability to innovate.

When thinking about the future, Golf Town plans to continue their focus on engaging frontline teams to drive exceptional customer experience. Gilpin describes their connection with customers as relational and says, “we want to learn their story, we want them to learn ours, and with that, we really believe that’s going to then drive the business and our success.” Going forward, Gilpin hopes this will start to shape the kind of employee they hire and adds, “if we can get everyone working towards our new values in everything they do we’re going to be successful.”

As we all know—brand and culture are not built overnight. Gilpin stresses that “it’s not a quick fix, it’s not fast from start to end. This kind of initiative is something we’re really trying to build with our associates, and from there, there will be some changes and some adaptations to it over time”. But for now, Tricanico says, Golf Town is thriving, we’re doing a lot of neat things and we have many talented people working for our company to help us get there.”

Golf Town launches Nudge to empower store employees

Golf Town launches Nudge to empower store employees

Golf Town, Canada’s golf superstore has partnered with Nudge Rewards to reinvent the way they drive team performance across their Canadian retail operations. Watch the customer story here:

With a vision of delivering an exceptional customer experience, Golf Town recognized the importance of ensuring their frontline associates are well trained, knowledgeable and passionate about delivering on their brand promise. In order to facilitate the delivery of such an experience, Golf Town placed priority on the role of communication to empower the team with the right information to drive the right outcomes.

In June, Golf Town launched Nudge Rewards to engage, educate and reward frontline managers and team members. Their results to date are unprecedented. Within five days of launch, Golf Town achieved 78% adoption across their entire frontline workforce, and more impressive, have achieved a 75% response rate using the Nudge app.

“Nudge has achieved positive traction for our associates Canada-wide, and we’re happy to see our teams engaging and sharing ideas. We want to be ahead of the curve, and Nudge will help us achieve that and be recognized as a retailer who’s looking at mobile device technology as a means for accomplishing more as a company,” says Sue Gilpin, Director of HR at Golf Town Ltd. 

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with our partners at Golf Town to help improve the way they support their frontline staff in delivering an exceptional experience. We now live in a world of the ‘knowledgeable consumer,’ and brands that are able to empower their staff to meet the expectations of their customers are going to be category leaders” says Jordan Ekers, Chief Customer Officer at Nudge Rewards.

Proven ROI of 484%

Forrester Consulting's Total Economic Impact™ study found a 484% ROI with Nudge!*

*over three years.