Practicing empathy: 3 ways to connect with your frontline workers

Practicing empathy: 3 ways to connect with your frontline workers

Modern business leaders would agree that empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—is a key ingredient to effective employee communications. However, in times of crisis, demonstrating empathetic leadership can be challenging, with external pressures and internal stressors getting in the way of supporting those who need it most—your frontline employees.

During times of unexpected change, marked by looming uncertainties for the future, frontline employees will likely experience new and intense feelings in their everyday lives—while at work and beyond. Practicing empathy can go a long way to establish trust and loyalty with your staff, ensuring they feel connected to the organization and reassured while employed (or while waiting to come back to work).

As a business leader, there are a variety of ways that you can foster empathy across the business and empower your frontline teams during times of uncertainty. Below we have outlined the three types of empathy, which business leaders should practice in times of crisis:

1. Cognitive empathy (Think)

Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand how a person feels and what they might be thinking. This type of empathy is also referred to as “perspective-taking”, which is simply the practice of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. As your organization chooses how to adapt to internal or external pressures, it is important to understand how the people on the frontlines of your business are impacted and imagine what it might feel like to be in their situation. Using a “perspective-taking” approach to empathy, business leaders will be able to improve decision making and create people-first strategies in times of need.

2. Emotional empathy (Listen)

Emotional empathy, which is also known as affective empathy, is the ability to share the feelings of another person. This type of empathy helps people build emotional connections and provides an opportunity to understand how someone feels. When navigating periods of change, your frontline staff will need an outlet for expressing their feelings and look to leadership for validation that what they are going through is difficult. Business leaders that can genuinely display emotional empathy, by actively listening and ensuring frontline employees feel heard, will be able to develop deeper levels of openness, trust, and, ultimately, loyalty across their workforce.

3. Compassionate empathy (Act)

The third type of empathy takes things a step further, going beyond understanding others and sharing feelings. Compassionate empathy, also known as empathic concern, is all about action and taking the necessary steps to help people however we can. That being said, there is no one “right way” to demonstrate compassionate empathy towards your frontline employees. Depending on the situation, individuals, and emotions, certain types of compassionate empathy may be more or less appropriate. When demonstrating empathic concern, the two most important considerations should be (1) what your frontline employees want and need, and (2) whether any action you take will benefit them directly.

Overall, while demonstrating empathy is an important skill for any modern business leader, it is most important in times of crisis. When your organization is being impacted by factors that are outside of your control, remember you can control how you respond to your frontline teams. Take interest in what your frontline employees are thinking, feeling, and experiencing, and your organization will be able to develop a reputation for being caring, trustworthy, and supportive—in good times and bad.

3 reasons to invest in your frontline workers during market instability

3 reasons to invest in your frontline workers during market instability

Don’t neglect your frontline associates – especially now. 

Unforeseen market factors are a potential risk to any business, but for experience-driven, multi-unit brands, an engaged frontline can be a powerful stabilizing force through times of uncertainty. Positive economic outlooks can shift in the blink of an eye, and it’s during these periods of volatility that you need your frontline associates to be even more aware of and aligned with company directives while feeling engaged enough to deliver on customer experience as a differentiator.

At Nudge, we advocate for the people who bring the brand to life every day and represent the “human factor” that customers are increasingly seeking. As global markets undergo extreme unpredictability, it’s more important than ever to invest in your frontline. Here’s why.

1. You’ll connect and empower your frontline workers

Frontline workers are often at an inherent disadvantage compared to desk workers when it comes to timely access to information and continuity of communication. These factors are amplified when head office is delivering important updates and policies to address uncertainties. The frontline workforce is one that is unable to take advantage of working remotely when health concerns arise, and frequently experiences lags in critical company communication when they need it most.

One of the most effective ways to reach and alleviate the concerns of your frontline is through engaging micro-communications, delivered through a mobile channel that users love. When you need all employees to be aligned on brand message, you can’t rely on email bulletins or second-hand updates to reach the associates who interact with customers face to face. If your frontline staff are going days without hearing important updates directly from head office, they’re likely feeling isolated and looking to leadership for inspiration and reassurance.

2. You’ll mitigate the risk of employee turnover

We’re already seeing the most competitive job market in decades, with hourly worker turnover at an all-time high. These are the realities multi-unit brands face even when markets are stable, but can rapidly escalate into risk mitigation during instability, exposing staffing issues that the organization wasn’t prepared for.

The experience-driven brands who endure the highs and lows in market and consumer confidence are investing in their frontline associates with a long-term view of sustained communication and engagement. They align their company goals with frontline communication and seek real-time feedback from the people in the field. Research from Nudge supports this investment, showing higher retention rates of staff at Nudge-enabled locations, with over 80% of users reporting that Nudge helps them do their job better.

3. You’ll capture higher sales

When foot traffic declines, it’s more important than ever for associates to make the most of each and every customer interaction. How can your frontline more effectively drive positive revenue impact at critical points of conversion in the customer journey?

We’ve seen leading brands deliver impressive lifts in promotional sales and offers, even during dips in consumer confidence. The ones driving the most effective initiatives are tying sales goals to their frontline communication strategy and delivering high-impact programs with the added benefit of increased employee engagement. For example, in February of this year, a global office supplies retailer using Nudge saw a 200+% lift of in-store sales in a key category, through a targeted mobile employee program. Arming your frontline with the tools they need to excel at their job will help drive consistency in results and customer experience through fluctuations in market conditions.

Nudge is the best way to keep our regions informed. It’s very difficult for our hourly associates to see the emails and other forms of communication that the team leaders see. Giving everyone the same opportunity to know what is going on in the business is crucial to our success as a team and overall company.

User review, App Store

Three steps to optimizing your frontline workforce

Three steps to optimizing your frontline workforce

As the competition for talent in a tight job market intensifies, we’re hearing more and more about long-term strategies designed for optimal employee engagement and performance. At Nudge, we advocate for thinking differently about the frontline segment of your employee base, as they face unique challenges, yet hold great opportunities for employers.

Lessons from behavior science tell us that some of the most effective ways to make a meaningful connection with the frontline involve simple, positive ways of thinking about motivation, delivered through the right vehicle. In a recent webinar, we sat down with acclaimed practitioner Tim Houlihan to learn more about engaging, recognizing, and ultimately optimizing the workforce who brings your brand to life, every day.

To close the discussion, we summarized an approach for optimizing your frontline in three steps:

  1. Empower staff and drive results with effective communication
  2. Support clear and consistent communications by delivering the right information to your teams at the right time, increasing knowledge, engagement, and team morale.

  3. Build highly motivated teams by balancing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
  4. Align performance and promote the right behaviors by recognizing and rewarding employees for their contribution to business goals.

  5. Improve customer experiences with knowledge sharing
  6. Tap into staff knowledge and insights to increase social cohesion and create empowered, knowledgeable teams ready to execute on brand promise.

      A framework built on these three objectives is a thoughtful approach to engaging with your frontline, with the added benefits of increased employee satisfaction and retention. To learn more about each component, be sure to check out the slide deck and webinar recording.

3 Nudges to boost employee engagement this season

3 Nudges to boost employee engagement this season

During the summer months, there is so much to be excited about. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the ice cream trucks are arriving, the outdoors are calling… and, of course, we’re featuring three new Nudges you can use to boost frontline engagement!

Organizations with a frontline workforce, including retail, food service, and hospitality brands, understand the importance of empowering employees to deliver a great customer experience. By consistently and effectively engaging frontline teams, brands can exceed expectations and create loyal customers for life, while also improving productivity and profitability.

So, take advantage of that surge of Vitamin D and try out some new content for your frontline communications. In this blog post, we’ll highlight some of the top new Nudge ideas from our Customer Success team and share how our customers are using them to drive engagement.



Executive AMA (“Ask Me Anything”)

Create excitement and promote transparency with an executive-sponsored Nudge campaign.

Bridging the gap between corporate headquarters and frontline teams is a critical step for improving employee engagement. Employees want to get to know executives and have the opportunity to interact with them in real-time. However, with numerous locations spread across a large geography, this is often not possible in-person.

The Executive AMA campaign allows executives to interact digitally with frontline teams and answer common questions. Whether employees are interested in learning more about a recent corporate initiative, or the executive’s favorite sports team, the Executive AMA gives brands the opportunity to create excitement and promote transparency across the business.

How it is done

Start by selecting a recognized leader in the business who is committed to participating in the campaign. Work together to plan the right format, timeline, and promotion based on the selected topic of discussion. Use Spark, the area of the Nudge App that facilitates two-way communication, to gather and prioritize questions based on employee comments and likes.



#DayInTheLife Takeover

Showcase the employee experience across the business by featuring role-specific, employee-generated content.

Want to add some variety to your frontline communications and highlight the employee experience? Look no further than the #DayInTheLife Takeover Nudge campaign. Employees today are accustomed to sharing their experiences on social media and eager to connect with their peers in different areas of the business.

With Nudge, you can embrace selfie culture by encouraging the frontline to generate role-specific content. The #DayInTheLife Takeover campaign allows employees in different functions to showcase their day-to-day experiences, which can help foster empathy and engagement amongst your workforce. Takeovers can span hours or days, and include fun content like pictures, videos, interviews and/or inspiring anecdotes.

How it is done

For each role you want to highlight, choose the right employee for the job. Frontline managers can help or you can use Nudge Analytics to identify for your most engaged or knowledgeable employees. From there, provide guidance to employees on what content they should create, and make sure to promote the takeover with the hashtag #DayInTheLife!



The Nudge is Right Game Show

Increase employee knowledge on a particular topic with a series of knowledge-testing questions in a game show format.

Sparking friendly team competitions is a highly effective way to increase frontline employee engagement. Challenges, like hosting a company-wide game show, encourage employees to learn and ask questions about the featured topic, which, in turn, help boost competence and confidence.

By hosting The Nudge is Right game show, you will be able to ask a series of knowledge-testing questions on a particular topic while sustaining the level of engagement in your Nudge program. Top-scoring participants can be entered a draw to win a prize, or even win a chance to be featured in a #DayInTheLife takeover (see what we did there)!

How it is done

Identify an upcoming initiative or objective you’d like to educate employees on, then devise a variety of game show questions that can help frontline teams get up to speed. Within the Nudge App, you’ll then be able to award points based on correct answers and direct employees to the educational resources they’ll need to get ahead of the competition.


Today’s workforce expects a seamless experience, including technology that helps them feel connected to the brand and provides clear and consistent communications. However, when it comes to creating an effective employee engagement program, technology can only get you so far. Organizations that go the extra mile to create, memorable content will be able to empower frontline teams to achieve their full potential, which creates better outcomes for both your customers and your brand. With these fresh ideas in your employee communications toolkit, there’s no doubt you’ll be able to increase employee engagement, while impacting larger business objectives, like productivity and profitability.

The gap in every CX plan

The gap in every CX plan

In recent years, retail, foodservice, and hospitality brands have strived to improve the customer experience. From loyalty programs to voice of customer initiatives to the digitization of customer experience, it has been assumed that by investing heavily in the customer, brands will become a category leader. While these efforts have resulted in some progress, they fail to address the most critical part of a customer’s experience—the human interaction between frontline employees and customers. By empowering frontline teams, brands can inspire true brand loyalty and deliver the exceptional in-location experience customers expect.

At the Future Stores conference, Nudge Rewards’ Chief Customer Officer, Jordan Ekers, discussed how investing in the employee experience can be an incredible way to deliver more effective customer experience. “The experience gap is, that we’ve created great programs that have raised customer expectations, but we haven’t empowered our employees to meet these expectations,” Jordan said. “We believe that employee experience is the next big transformation in the world of retail.”


Frontline employees still play a vital role in the buying experience of customers, especially in speciality stores. Nearly 50% of PwC’s “Future of Customer Experience” survey respondents cited “unknowledgeable employees” as a driver for switching brands. “If you walk into a location and an associate does not understand how to deliver on your brand promise or what the new promotion is, that’s a missed opportunity to drive a transactional behavior,” Ekers explained.

The following are three ways  you can work with your employees to improve frontline performance and supercharge your CX plan:

1. Gather behavioral data

Frontline employee-facing tools that promote engagement and collaboration can help you understand the performance and execution at top performing locations. They can also help you identify key employee behaviors that are driving location success.

2. Replicate proven behaviors

Once you know which employee behaviors are driving success, then you can replicate them across locations. Leveraging top-down, bottom-up, and peer-to-peer communication, can help frontline employees adopt proven best practices and solve challenges in real-time.

3. Mobile Evolution

To improve the employee experience, brands need to provide their employees with the tools, resources, and support they need to do great work. Start by reaching employees where they already are—on their mobile devices. Using a familiar channel, brands can better engage their employees and help them feel more connected to organizational goals and brand.

“I want to inspire the retail industry to care more about their people. We know that associates want to do an exceptional job, yet the tools that we’ve put in their hands to date have not empowered them to do that,” Ekers noted. To close the experience gap, retailers must find new ways to communicate with and engage their frontline associates to meet elevated customer expectations and deliver memorable customer experiences.

How retailers can improve the employee experience

How retailers can improve the employee experience

“The best retailers will deliver intensely personalized experiences based upon a deep understanding of customer needs, wants and desires. The best retailers will see sales associates not as costs to be reduced, but assets to help move a brand from boring to remarkable and intensely relevant.” Steve Dennis, Forbes

All signs point to the fact that retailers must continue investing in the employee experience, particularly for their frontline staff. In 2018, retailers saw an increase in staff turnover rates, with 81% the average turnover rate for part-time hourly store associates, an increase from 76% in 2017. By focusing on creating a great employee experience (EX), retailers can build teams that are happy, motivated, and willing to go the extra mile.

A great EX not only helps to build high-performing teams but also impacts overall revenue and profitability. In fact, research by the Temkin Group showed that 82% of employees at companies with strong financial results are “highly” or “moderately” engaged, compared to 68% at underperforming companies.

With 80-90% of sales still coming from physical stores, a lack of emphasis on the employee experience can jeopardize your main source of sales. When retail associates aren’t engaged and motivated at work, customer experience can suffer as a result.

To solve these challenges, we’ve put together a guide to help brands build high performing retail teams, which you can download here.

Below is a summary of our 5-step playbook for improving the employee experience:


1. Hire the right people for your brand

Research from the University of Iowa shows that employees who are a good fit with company culture perform better, express greater job satisfaction and stay with their employer longer. Hiring these perfect fits, however, is no walk in the park. It requires close attention to all hiring processes, including the tools and guidelines used in the recruiting and interviewing phases.

Once hiring is complete, it is crucial to focus the onboarding process around communicating brand values and vision. By helping employees understand how they contribute to the overall success of the company, they’ll feel more connected to your larger strategic objectives.


2. Provide ongoing communication and real-time information

Clear communication is vital to every business, especially those with a deskless workforce. Yet, for many brands, creating a direct line of communication between head office and their frontline is a top operational challenge.

With the number of mobile users, globally, expected to reach 4.8 billion by 2020, mobile is the most effective channel for delivering real-time information to employees. By utilizing the full capabilities of mobile, organizations are able to improve communication that ultimately helps staff deliver on key business objectives. Retail TouchPoints Store Operations Survey respondents saw an increase in customer satisfaction, the average dollar sale, and improved employee knowledge when arming frontline staff with mobile technology.


3. Empower employees to create an authentic customer experience

Employees that are passionate about the brands they work for are more likely to create a great experience for customers. Unfortunately, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, only 32% of US workers describe themselves as engaged.

To empower frontline teams, many brands are turning to technology and improved communication channels. Using software such as an employee app, organizations can encourage two-way collaboration across their business and recognize employees for their ideas, feedback, and performance.


4. Improve performance through gamification and real-time interactions

Gamification has been used to effectively engage customers and create a great customer experience. A survey conducted by Boston Retail Partners found that 87% of retailers are planning on using gamification to engage their customers by 2020. While retailers recognize the value of customer-facing gamification, internal gamification can be equally beneficial.

Research has shown that frontline employees would benefit from gamification, with nearly 80% of learners saying that gamification would make them more productive in their workplace. With a growing trend in workplace collaboration, creating team-based challenges focused on specific business objectives is the most effective way to foster that engagement.


5. Evaluate and improve employee program success

Ongoing measurement is crucial to the success of engagement initiatives. Armed with the right data and an effective tool for communication, training, and incentives, retailers can proactively evaluate their programs and make changes in real-time.

Using mobile software for empowering frontline staff, organizations can monitor:

  • Associate engagement
  • Confidence and knowledge rates
  • Compare data to transactional performance
  • Source feedback on in-market campaigns

And more.


The takeaway?

Empowering retail associates is the most effective way for brands to create an in-store experience that fosters satisfied customers, increased revenue and repeat visits. But, barriers like high turnover rates, broken training systems, and poor communication are preventing retailers from creating meaningful interactions with their customers. By following these 5 simple steps, brands can shift away from old, stale paradigms and foster happy, well-prepared frontline associates who drive stronger, long-term relationships with the brand.

Download our guide to get an in-depth look at the five steps brands can take to transform the employee experience. At each step, you’ll learn best practices, get ideas for measuring success, and read case studies from brands that are using mobile solutions to engage their staff.

Proven ROI of 484%

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

*over three years.