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. 

6 tactics for driving retail team performance

6 tactics for driving retail team performance

Let’s face it – driving exceptional and consistent performance with frontline retail employees is difficult. The fact is, the majority of employees in the retail sector are not highly engaged at work. A study conducted by the Temkin Group found that the retail sector had the least engaged employees, with 50% being slightly or fully disengaged at work. With the retail industry changing to become more future-friendly, engaging retail employees to drive sales and improve the customer experience is more important than ever. Why?

The growing trends of e-commerce, mobile apps, and shopping on social networks means that today’s consumer now has in-depth knowledge of a company’s offering at their fingertips. Research conducted by Delvv Inc. showed that over 51% of millennials can’t go over 3 hours without checking their phones. With the digitization of the shopping experience and the consumer growing more and more knowledgeable, having a workforce that is full prepared to execute on promotions and product launches is now essential.

The size of the retail industry and workforce is growing, employees are younger, communication is difficult, and disengagement is affecting the performance of retail teams worldwide. This we know. But how can you pull it all together? Yes, increasing engagement and your choice of communication channels are important, but understanding how to harness these options and drive your team’s performance is even more critical to success. Here are a few tactics to help you make this happen:

1. Set goals and establish KPI’s

Work with your team to establish store-wide or company-wide sales goals. Are you working towards an overall sales target? Or are you focusing on selling a specific product or promotion? Then, establish key performance indicators to measure the success of the specific goals. KPI’s could range from measuring customer satisfaction, sales, and gross margin, or sales per square foot.

Goal setting will help to create a sense of focus amongst all team members. Working towards one common goal will give your store or company initial momentum to having a well-oiled, high functioning retail team.

2. Share information (then look for gaps!)

We’ve already talked about how consumers are informed like never before. When you’re mobilizing your team around specific KPIs in retail – whether it be for a product launch, new promo, or other key event – a crucial early step is ensuring your associates are armed with the information they need to really make the launch shine. We recommend bite-sized info to avoid info overload. Then use knowledge testing to identify retention rates and cast a light on the gaps that need addressing.

3. Create a sense of challenge

Create a sense of challenge amongst your staff based off of the goals and KPI’s that you are trying to reach. Then, gamify the challenge to take motivation and performance to the next level. Applying game-design principles to non-game scenarios, such as reaching a sales goal, has the potential of increasing employee engagement by 48%. Try setting up a point system or leaderboard to motivate your team to reach the next goal. You can set up a challenge or contest manually, online, or through a mobile application. It will help to keep company goals in mind and will generate excitement amongst team members!

4. Foster a culture of learning

On-the-job learning should be continuous- even after employees have been onboarded and trained. It’s important to keep your employees updated on new products, promotions, and company-wide goals. Educating customer-facing employees is a key component to improving the overall customer experience.

That also might mean reinforcing tasks on an ongoing basis. The repeated recall of information can improve knowledge retention by up to 80 percent, so reiterating SOPs, tasks, and goals during huddles or through a central task management system (we have one in our communication platform!) is a great way to ensure your staff is prepared. After all, a highly educated employee is an employee that will perform well. Organizations with a strong learning culture have proven to be 52% more productive and 17% more profitable than their peers.

5. Establish a continuous feedback loop

Make communication between head office and frontline employees a business priority. Provide a space for two-way communication, where employees can give feedback and get responses, whether it is through your digital communication platform or other feedback channel.

Getting continuous feedback from your retail staff can be beneficial to both parties. Does your frontline have ideas to make your next in-store promotion better? Are there inefficiencies that need addressing? Does the promotional material need clarifying? Asking these questions will help you build stronger relationships and create opportunities for innovation and problem-solving.

6. Celebrate performance and achievement

The valuation of our work is directly tied to the amount of effort we’ve put in. The harder the project is, the prouder we feel of it, even if it does not generate big results. Try providing prizes, rewards, or even simple recognition to employees from their managers to celebrate positive performance. Acknowledging an employee’s achievements can all go a long way. Remember: 88% of workers at companies with a values-based recognition program describe their overall experience at work as positive. Recognition is an important psychological need, which means it should be an important piece of your internal business structure.

Driving frontline performance and hitting those KPIs in retail starts with preparation and monitoring your workforce readiness on an ongoing basis. Once you start to hone in on those indicators, you can really start to unlock operational consistency – and retail team success.

How to engage and motivate your frontline employees

How to engage and motivate your frontline employees

In North America, frontline retail and food service jobs are among the largest occupational groups, with more than 27 million workers. By 2025, Millennials will make up the vast majority (75%) of this workforce, with a majority working in retail, foodservice, and hospitality. Today, organizations are struggling to effectively engage and motivate their frontline teams, let alone communicate with them. On a mission to solve this problem and help brands excel at engaging with their frontline teams to drive performance, we went straight to the source, the next generation of employees, to find out what they value in the workplace. Here’s what they had to say:

After interviewing frontline Millennials and Gen Z, we discovered the next generation of employees are starving for more effective workplace communication. The needs were clear: Organizations must adapt their communication methods and strategies to better align with the modern workplace. Employees top three motivators at work? Establishing a clear team vision, providing recognition and rewards, and building a culture of transparency. Here are three steps you can take to start better engagement, drive team performance and satisfy the needs of your frontline workforce.

1. Establish a clear team vision

Frontline employees are your direct connection to customers and play a big role in providing an exceptional customer experience. Despite that, they can often feel disconnected from headquarters, reducing their capability to deliver on the brand promise with confidence and to feel that they’re effectively contributing to the team. Ensuring frontline workers are passionate about your brand vision and empowered to engage with customers is essential.

Our tip: Ask your employees what your brand means to them. Gather feedback and ideas on how you can make your vision come to life – empowering employees to take part and contribute to the bigger picture.

2. Provide feedback and recognition

Frontline employees have extremely valuable insights on customer experience, consumer preferences, and have a lot of great ideas to share with the team. 51% of Millennials want their managers to better listen to and value their ideas, so why are there not more effective feedback systems in place? Today, employees want feedback frequently so they can quickly and continuously improve. They don’t want to wait until quarterly, or even monthly meetings to hear what they can do better.

Our tip: Today’s employees are looking for guidance in their failures, but are also looking to be recognized and rewarded for their successes. Nothing motivates or engages an employee more than being recognized in the workplace – whether it be a compliment at the end of a shift, or providing an extra vacation day.

3. Build a culture of transparency

In many cases, store associates or restaurant staff are given a task or a snippet of information, without understanding where it is coming from or its underlying purpose. The next generation of employees are looking to see the full picture – they want to be kept in the loop with company news, sales objectives, targets, and performance data. They want to understand what the team is working towards – and how letting a customer know about the latest promotion fits into that.

Our tip: Create team-based challenges to provide context around your current promotions and customer initiatives. Ensure transparency by sharing progress and results with employees along the way, helping everyone feel a part of the team and motivated to achieve business results.

Knowing what your frontline employees value is a critical step in your journey towards building high performing teams. Recognizing that your workforce is increasingly becoming made up of Millennials and Gen Z, and adapting your communication strategy to meet their needs is the first step in getting there.

Interested in learning more? Check out our report, ‘How Mobile Technology is Transforming Workplace Performance’ here.

8 BYOD benefits for organizations with frontline staff

8 BYOD benefits for organizations with frontline staff

Consumer expectations are making their way into the workplace in fascinating ways and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is a prevalent example. Fifty-nine percent of organizations already allow employees to use their personal devices for work, and another 13% plan to implement a BYOD policy within the year. Though many enterprise companies have implemented BYOD into their organizations, how are those with deskless workforces—retail, hospitality, and foodservice—responding to the new demands of technology and how does a BYOD policy help their business succeed?

The retail, hospitality, and foodservice industries are enduring a massive shift in workforce composition. With millennials taking over a third of the US workforce and set to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, companies are adapting to a massive demographic shift. Digitally native millennials and Gen Z have non-traditional preferences when it comes to communicating, learning, collaborating, and getting things done. By equipping current and future generations with the right tools they need to gain access to information, frontline staff are able to deliver a better customer experience, which improves brand profitability and the overall employee experience.

It doesn’t stop there, here are 8 benefits of BYOD that will help your organization succeed:

1. Alignment with existing behaviors

Let’s face it, employees are already using their mobile devices at work, whether it’s on break or on the job. It’s happening anyway, so let’s shift the thinking to the opportunities for productivity and output. A study from the Pew Research Center found that 77% of employees use their phones at work regardless of employer policies. Also, 20% of staff use social media to get information that helps them solve work-related problems. Having a BYOD policy helps businesses align with behaviors to engage, educate, and communicate with frontline staff while staying compliant with labor laws and regulations.

2. Increase trust

Without knowing or understanding company policy, employees are faced with ambiguity and a sense of sneaking around when using personal devices at work. These behaviors can cause trust issues between managers and associates creating a negative environment for both employees and customers. Having a clear BYOD policy that is accessible to all frontline staff, creates a culture of trust, transparency, and a clear understanding between managers and staff on mobile use in the workplace.

3. Save on costs

This one’s easy. Workplace technology is associated with rising expenditures, but BYOD actually helps save money on hardware and support. Allowing employees to use their own devices, decreases the cost of buying and replacing technology for frontline staff.

When you consider the multitude of research linking BYOD policies with increased employee satisfaction, you can also factor in cost savings associated with retaining talent.

4. Recruit top talent

Unemployment is low and there’s heated competition for talent. In this job market, companies are having to adapt their workplace cultures to attract and retain top talent. With millennials and Gen Z soon to occupy the majority of the workforce, and 93% of millennials stating that technology is key when choosing a future workplace, it’s crucial that employers invest in technology to deliver an exceptional employee experience. BYOD helps to keep staff technology costs low, while also creating an adaptable work environment for shifting employee expectations.  

5. Improve efficiency and security

Associates are already using public-facing apps, such as WhatsApp and Facebook, for various workplace activities, such as organizing shift changes, asking work-related questions, and creating personal connections with their peers. These conversations are important for smooth day to day operations and the employer has an opportunity to formalize the framework with a BYOD policy.

Conversely, unregulated usage of public-facing apps for work-related tasks can open up the risk of security breaches. A BYOD policy helps companies build a compliant, regulated and well-managed mobile program, reducing the risk of security breaches.

6. Increase employee productivity

The average BYOD user saves 58 minutes a day by using their personal devices at work, which gives them more time to learn, grow, and execute a great customer experience. Having access to product and promotional information in real-time as well as digital schedules and training programs, helps frontline associates be more productive, engaged, and committed to customer satisfaction.

7. Provide better customer service

Though 83% of shoppers think they know more about products than frontline associates, 79% still think that associates are a key part of a good customer experience. Allowing frontline associates to use personal devices for work-related tasks, influences their behaviors towards business goals, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and ultimately increased sales. BYOD policies empower frontline associates to perform better, which in turn creates better employee and customer experiences.

8. Increase employee engagement

Engaged employees are more motivated, productive, and committed to the brands they work for. Having a good BYOD policy in your organization increases employee engagement by building trust and breaking down communication barriers. It also helps brands to effectively create an employee experience that engages frontline staff to, in turn, deliver a better customer experience.

With the number of smartphone users estimated at 2.5 billion worldwide by next year, mobile technology will continue to transform the workplace. Getting ahead and implementing a BYOD policy not only helps to recruit and retain top talent but also positively impacts operating expenses and the employee experience. BYOD isn’t the future of workplace technology, it’s the current reality and it’s important now more than ever to bring it to the frontline.

Proven ROI of 484%

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

*over three years.