How effective task management drives positive company culture

How effective task management drives positive company culture

We recently released our guide to retail task management – and now we’re taking a step back to explore why (and how) effective task management is so critical to the success of retail organizations. First up: we’re looking at how effective task management can drive positive company culture. 

The success rate and growth trajectory of any retail organization rises and falls with the performance levels of its employees. It’s a truth recognized by anyone who’s ever worked within the industry – one that’s been accepted since the earliest days of retail. It’s also recently become a relatively well-established fact that employee performance is strongly linked to company culture. 

And according to Stephen O’Keefe, industry expert and Founder of retail consultancy Bottom Line Matters, one of the most important ways to feed into the development of a positive organizational culture is effective task management.

“When all management and employees are on the same page, working together toward the same goals and objectives, a shared sense of pride results,” O’Keefe explains. “From the perspective of a team, if this is the case, with some focus and dedication, everything else follows.”

The importance of developing and maintaining a positive company culture in order to unlock retail success is not lost on O’Keefe, who believes that an organization’s culture permeates everything about the store and brand, impacting the experience and perception for both employees and customers.

Furthermore, O’Keefe believes that instilling a strong task management mindset among staff is critical as staffing issues, supply chain constraints, inflation and other challenges are impacting retailers’ ability to grow and thrive. 

And when they come together? Retailers are unstoppable. 

Here are 4 ways effective task management drives a positive company culture: 

1. Staff have a clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities (theirs, and others)

Defining employees’ duties and the behavior that’s expected from them in a clear and concise manner is the first step in organizing a team for optimized output and performance.

“Making sure that employees know what their individual roles and responsibilities are is an absolute must when it comes to overall retail success. Task management is really the only way to most effectively ensure that this happens, making the onboarding of fresh talent seamless and efficient,” explains O’Keefe.

Furthermore, a recognition of the work being executed by the entire team leads to better results.

“When you can organize your staff, getting them all on the same page with respect to the contributions of the entire team and how it all links together to produce positive outcomes, a greater appreciation for the work of fellow colleagues and associates is inevitable, and often results in increased performance and satisfaction.” 

2. Organizations see a boost in employee morale 

There’s no doubt that a happy employee is a productive employee. But their happiness in this sense is really only made possible through an understanding of their contribution.

“It’s rewarding for employees when they know how the task that they’re responsible for is contributing to the overall goal of the team and organization. To actively participate in achieving an objective, and to understand why their contribution is important, is critical and significantly increases morale among staff,” says O’Keefe. 

3. Workers are encouraged and empowered to drive collaboration and innovation

Effective task management empowers and enables employees, often eliciting significant discretionary effort from them. 

“Because task management re-enforces a culture in which everyone plays a part, it’s easier for everyone to see how their tasks and responsibilities impact the entire team,” says O’Keefe. “It leads to enhanced collaboration among colleagues and provides a catalyst for innovative thinking and problem-solving, encouraging staff to go above and beyond the requirements of their jobs.”

4. It provides a “roadmap” for coming together during crisis or challenging times

O’Keefe goes on to explain that in addition to the overwhelming benefits that organizations reap from the use and maintenance of effective task management and the ways in which it drives an engaged and inspired culture, it can also serve as a roadmap of sorts, helping retail staff avoid ruinous potholes.

“Effective task management actually goes a long way toward supporting risk management efforts. When you provide clarity and have removed ambiguity for staff, giving them visibility into the overall objective, their performance increases,” explains O’Keefe. 

“But where it becomes incredibly productive is when a variable is introduced into a timeline of tasks. These variables typically derail most retailers. But when everyone has visibility into the end-goal, they’re able to address the variable and overcome it as they would a small hurdle. Task management allows teams to adapt very quickly and still deliver positive results. If you’re following directions but don’t know where you’re going, it’s impossible to adapt to disruption. Task management provides that roadmap and visibility for teams to follow in order to arrive at their destination.”

When retailers leverage task management to drive company culture, it can result in myriad benefits. 

First, it can drive increased customer satisfaction. Once a positive culture has been established through the organization of a store’s staff of employees, the influences that can result are extraordinary, allowing brands to strive for and reach the next level of performance. However, as O’Keefe points out, the benefits of achieving such a culture are not limited internally, adding that the potential impact that it has on the customer is remarkable.

“When a store and its staff are running like a well-oiled machine, when everyone is doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, the experience that a customer receives when entering is taken to the next level. The service they receive is elevated, their satisfaction related to the shopping journey increases, their perception of the brand is strengthened, and their loyalty is enhanced. And, it starts by properly organizing and engaging with your staff.”

Second, it can attract and retain talent. “Internally, task management is a critical lever in helping to establish and nurture a culture of integrity, authenticity and respect. And when this is the type of culture that exists, people will want to come work for that organization, attaching themselves to the brand,” explains O’Keefe. 

“Those who are currently working there won’t want to leave. Why would they? What ultimately results is encouragement for employees and new hires to adapt their behavior in order to align to the brand that they want to be associated with, decreasing the learning curve involved.”

As we continue entering a post-pandemic environment in which customers and employees are seeking an elevated experience and deeper connection with the brands that they shop at and work for, retailers are exploring a number of ways by which they can make these things happen. And, it seems, the easiest, most efficient and rewarding way to do so is through the development and maintenance of a strong task management-driven company culture.

A guide to improving restaurant operations with effective task management

A guide to improving restaurant operations with effective task management

We talked about retail task management – now it’s time to delve deeper into the world of restaurant operations.

For anyone operating in the foodservice industry the past few years, it’s been a challenge. Maintaining profitability has been an uphill battle, with imposed closures and mandated social protocols prohibiting establishments from operating at full capacity, preventing them from providing the experience that many restaurants thrive on.

During this time, facilitated by impacts of the pandemic, a digital acceleration has occurred, forever transforming the way restaurants interact with their customers – and, potentially, their staff. If implemented thoughtfully, digital technologies can serve to support and streamline business processes and improve restaurant operations exponentially. And, given how important a prepared, organized, and motivated frontline is to the success of any restaurant, organizations will need to prioritize the digitization of task management processes as part of this digital acceleration, enabling their staff with the task management tools they need to succeed, resulting in more efficient task completion, safer food handling, increased performance, improved guest experiences, and so much more. 

With that, here’s our guide to improving restaurant operations through effective task management. 

 

 

What is task management?

Simply put, task management is the process by which foodservice organizations and operators can standardize and scale the tasks that need to be completed at their locations on a regular basis. Effective task management is crucial at any frontline organization, but given the foodservice world’s volatile nature and dispersed workforce – combined with the guest expectation for consistent, memorable experiences – it becomes particularly critical to successful restaurant operations. 

With the development and implementation of a strong task management system and processes, restaurant managers are provided greater oversight concerning the daily tasks related to running a successful restaurant, as well as those related to individual employee shifts.

In addition, effective task management procedures and protocol ensures that employees have a clear understanding of the roles and duties that they’re responsible for and the overall goals and objectives that the organization strives to achieve. This clear line of communication from the individual employee through the location, region, and overall brand, takes time and effort – but it’s the only way to maintain consistency and efficiency, ensuring that customers receive the same level of service and great experience, despite the location they visit. 

Task management will look slightly different at any foodservice organization, but a restaurant’s daily task list usually includes opening and closing tasks and procedures, as well as all other tasks that are to be completed by employees of the store throughout the day. These lists are often broken up between the front of house and back (or heart) of house staff. 

 

Here’s an example of a front of house opening task list:

  • Conduct security inspection of premises
  • Activate lights and other devices and appliances
  • Perform opening housekeeping duties
  • Conduct and record cash count
  • Activate POS equipment
  • Launch POS software
  • Enter daily cash float
  • Conduct inventory check and restock, if necessary
  • Prepare dining area
  • Coordinate ‘specials’ with back of the house, if necessary
  • Open the doors for business

 

Here’s an example of a back of house opening task list:

  • Turn lights and kitchen appliances on
  • Perform opening housekeeping duties
  • Check cold table levels and replenish, if necessary
  • Conduct dry storage, fridge and freezer inventory and make order notes
  • Prepare soup of the day
  • Prepare specials and communicate them to front of the house staff
  • Conduct prep of items to be used frequently throughout the day
  • Open the kitchen for business

 

Task management: Supporting optimized restaurant operations

Why is foodservice task management so important? In order to ensure an optimized operation and the delivery of an experience that meets and surpasses the expectations of restaurant patrons, employees have got to be set up for success. They’ve got to be comfortable and confident within their roles and be armed with the right information to help them do their jobs to the greatest effect. And, if this is achieved, satisfaction within their roles will increase exponentially, helping to combat one of the biggest scourges within the foodservice industry today.

According to the 2021-2022 release of The Deskless Report: Foodservice Edition, turnover is the biggest challenge faced by foodservice leaders today. When combined with the report’s reveal that an alarming 38% of foodservice employees currently want to quit their jobs, there’s a very obvious issue to address. However, when analyzing some of the top reasons for workers to want to leave their jobs – poor management or working environment, staffing issues, overworking and burnout – it becomes just as obvious to understand the ways in which an effective task management system can help to alleviate the current employment dilemma. 

With the right strategy and tools, the implementation of a smart task management system can help restaurant owners and managers align their staff with the right executables. It can help to create a winning, team environment that’s rooted in accountability and cooperation, and provide their staff with the motivation and encouragement to go above and beyond, expending discretionary effort that ultimately benefits their progression, the experience enjoyed by patrons, and the profitability of the business.

Other benefits resulting from effective task management include:

  • Clearer understanding among staff of goals and objectives
  • Greater awareness and appreciation for the roles and responsibilities of others
  • Increased morale among an empowered group of employees
  • Greater innovation and willingness to go above and beyond requirements of job

 

The importance of scaling task management

Running a successful restaurant can be complicated. The speed at which service is required to move throughout the day can lead to a level of volatility that other industries can’t even imagine. As a result, it can prove to be incredibly difficult to ensure that all staff are moving in the same direction toward the attainment and completion of the same goals and objectives. 

However, when you multiply the challenges within a single restaurant across a national (or global!) brand, the job of uniting and aligning staff becomes that much harder. And, if communication is an issue, as the Deskless Report suggests that it might be for many, managing consistency across stores is nearly impossible. The report reveals that 94% of foodservice leaders feel that they’re sending meaningful, quality communications to their employees. Yet, 54% of their workers say that the communication they receive is only somewhat to not at all useful.

When organizations enhance their communications through the development and leveraging of effective task management systems and processes, engagement among employees increases. And, anyone who’s ever worked within the fast-paced foodservice industry knows, an engaged employee is a motivated and productive employee. By ensuring the same consistent message across multiple locations and groups of employees, foodservice district and regional managers responsible for networks of stores are better equipped to align their staff’s efforts and elevate the experience offered to customers and employees, resulting in success for the business.

 

Digitally enabling foodservice staff with the right task management tools

With the right tools in place, the implementation and maintenance of a task management process at scale becomes infinitely less daunting. 

Using the latest in digital technologies to support an effective task management system allows for a number of powerful outputs. First and foremost, the right digital solution provides restaurant owners and managers with the ability to consolidate and track information related to tasks and performance for individual locations as well as across entire networks of stores. And, by leveraging mobile devices to communicate messaging to employees concerning tasks and performance, restaurant operators are enabling their staff and empowering them to excel within their roles. 

Other benefits that rise from the centralization of information include:

  • Head office can manage and direct SOPs, opening and closing checklists for different shifts and staff, pre-shift team huddle agendas, and any other messaging that might benefit employees and the organization as a whole
  • All employees, despite the location they work at, have the same access to the same information, ensuring a deep understanding among workers and enhanced operational consistency
  • District and regional managers are better able to monitor at scale, resulting in a clear understanding of the performance of each store across the network
  • Operators can cultivate and develop a culture of cooperation and teamwork, guaranteeing a clear and collective understanding among all employees concerning the tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve success
  • Head office can easily source feedback and facilitate best practice sharing to better understand the employee experience as it pertains to restaurant operations – and quickly identify ways to improve it

 

3 restaurant challenges that task management can solve for

Scaling task management to reach your entire foodservice workforce can do wonders for driving efficiency, safety, productivity, and more.  Here are some of the common remedies provided by an effective task management process:

1. Scaling onboarding 

With one of the highest turnover rates of any industry, restaurants need consistent onboarding processes that ramp up staff quickly. When restaurants leverage digital task management tools, new hires are more easily and seamlessly onboarded and can hit the ground running in less time than by using conventional tactics, providing them with a clear understanding of the standards and processes of the brand and the expectations of them as an employee and ambassador of the restaurant.

2. Addressing knowledge gaps 

When task assignment is executed through more traditional or legacy approaches (like clipboards or word-of-mouth) there are less (or no) opportunities to identify completion barriers or knowledge gaps that are preventing staff from executing on their daily tasks. Digital solutions provide the analytics and supporting resources to identify and remedy this challenge.  

3. Reducing manager burnout

Managers wear many hats. When task management is executed manually by the managers, it needlessly increases the workload, while also increasing the chance of inconsistencies. On the other hand, when employees are empowered with the information they need through a scalable digital solution, managers can focus on higher level responsibilities with greater focus and intent.

 

Choosing a restaurant task management tool

When exploring potential digital task management solutions to implement with in your locations, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Enable staff with Nudge task management

Consider the user experience 

Make sure that any tool you’re considering is suited to your staff. Keeping the tool mobile-friendly with an easy to navigate interface for ease of use is a safe bet. 

Make it compatible

It’s critical to consider solutions that are part of a larger frontline enablement suite of tools and services, which may include communication, feedback, training, and other functions. This enables centralization of information for the organization as a whole. 

Future-proof your technology 

Let’s face it: the foodservice world is evolving at a rapid pace. Make sure that the technology explored is adaptable and has the ability to evolve with the changing digital needs of the business. 

Psst… Did you know that Nudge’s guided task management feature provides everything you need to keep your foodservice staff focused on the right tasks – and get oversight into what may be at-risk? Learn what Nudge can do here.

 

Tips for leveraging task management to improve restaurant operations

The ways in which restaurant owners and managers establish and implement solutions to help organize tasks and manage and support employee performance vary. However, in seeking to receive their greatest benefits, they should always be used with the goal of setting employees up for success and enabling them with the digital tools they need to perform to the highest standard.

In order to achieve this objective and optimize the effectiveness of task management tools, operators will want to look beyond the rudimentary and utilitarian functions. To engage and empower staff and begin nurturing a culture of teamwork and performance, consider the following tried-and-tested tips:

Focus on clarity

Properly engaging and enabling foodservice staff means providing them with clear and concise direction, and sharing how proper completion of their tasks contributes to the overall success of the team. Be clear and concise to get your message across.

View performance holistically

A task management tool is all about guiding and informing, not auditing. With that in mind, avoid jumping to conclusions as a result of an incomplete task or two. Rather, use the information long-term to identify trends around locations or regions that might require additional support or resources to succeed. 

Celebrate achievements

Digital task management tools allow head office to track and monitor real-time performance, which means they can easily celebrate achievements reached by individuals, stores, or the entire network, making it an incredible team building tool.

Make it fun

If you want your foodservice staff to stay engaged and loyal, you want them to enjoy their work – finding ways to make the process fun is always win-win. So, consider ways to implement a scoring system for points that can be applied to staff discounts or gift cards, turning mundane duties into opportunities to excel.

There’s no doubting the fact that the foodservice industry and restaurant experience has changed dramatically as a result of impacts related to the pandemic. And, the changes that have occurred have likely left indelible marks. However, with the right strategy, task management system and processes, as well as the digitally-enabling tools to help support it all, restaurant operators will have the opportunity to realize a number of different benefits that provide the power to raise the bar concerning the experiences received by both patrons and employees, and to increase the success and profitability of their establishments.

A guide to retail task management

A guide to retail task management

It’s time for retailers to re-think their approach to task management. Why? 

Retail is ever-evolving. It’s an industry whose players are used to shifting and pivoting with market conditions, consumer preferences and behavior, and just about everything in-between, in order to remain viable and successful. However, the changes that have occurred as a result of impacts influenced by the pandemic have turned the industry upside-down. Driven by an accelerated digitization of the world around us, the retail landscape has altered. So, too, has the physical environment and the subsequent experiences enjoyed by both customers and employees of the store.

In order to navigate this change and to continue meeting and exceeding the needs and desires of customers while equipping their employees to excel at their jobs, retail organizations are increasingly exploring the adoption of digital tools. If implemented thoughtfully, digital technologies can serve to support and streamline business processes and achieve greater operational consistency and efficiency. And, given how important a prepared, organized, and motivated frontline is to the success of any retailer, organizations will need to prioritize the digitization of task management processes, enabling their employees with the task management tools they need to succeed, resulting in higher task completion rates, increased performance and happier, more engaged employees.

With that, here’s our guide to task management for the ever-evolving world of retail.

 

 

What is task management?

Task management is one of the more critical cogs within the retail operations machine. Yet, it’s traditionally also one of the most overlooked layers contributing toward operational consistency and efficiency and, as a result, the overall customer experience.

If implemented and maintained properly, task management is often defined by organizations within a set of processes and procedures that allow store managers to organize their staff, providing them with greater oversight concerning the daily tasks that need to be executed while ensuring a clear and collective understanding among employees of the goals and objectives set out by the organization.

For district managers, effective task completion enables greater consistency across multiple stores, resulting in the same level of customer service and experience provided across an entire network.

Though it can become complicated depending on the retailer’s level of internal organization, task management is, in essence, a store’s daily task list which includes opening and closing tasks and procedures, as well as all other tasks that are to be completed by employees of the store throughout the day.

Here’s an example of an opening task list: 

  • Conduct security inspection of premises
  • Activate lights and other devices and appliances
  • Perform opening housekeeping duties
  • Activate POS equipment
  • Launch POS software
  • Enter daily cash float
  • Check all merchandising displays and signage
  • Restock shelves, if necessary
  • Conduct inventory count, if necessary
  • Open the doors for business

 

Task management: the backbone to operational success

There’s no question that it’s been an incredibly challenging time of late for retailers with respect to attracting and retaining the right talent to their organizations. In fact, according to the 2021-2022 release of The Deskless Report: Retail Edition, turnover is the number one challenge identified by retail leaders. The second biggest concern, which often directly influences the first, is communication. 

According to the report, 37% of retail employees don’t feel heard by the organizations they work for, while a whopping 68% say that communication and feedback from their managers is extremely important to them. In short, in order to attract and retain top retail talent, organizations have got to increase communication with employees, thereby deepening engagement and enhancing productivity. And, at the heart of this engagement is effective task management.

In addition to supporting increased operational efficiencies and consistencies across networks, the proper use of task management enhances employee satisfaction, loyalty and retention, and decreases absenteeism, lending toward the cultivation of a culture of cooperation and teamwork. And, as a result of motivated, inspired employees, the customer experience is elevated, ultimately benefiting the organization by way of an enhanced reputation among customers and increased revenue.

Other benefits resulting from effective task management include:

  • Clearer understanding among staff of goals and objectives
  • Greater awareness and appreciation for the roles and responsibilities of others
  • Increased morale among an empowered group of employees
  • Greater innovation and willingness to go above and beyond requirements of job

 

The importance of scaling task management

Although it may seem complicated enough to organize a group of frontline employees and guide them in the same direction toward a common goal each shift, it’s critically important to ensure the success of any store. For retailers that operate multiple locations, however, the importance of scaling task management across their network to ensure alignment and consistency can not be overstated.

According to The Deskless Report, there is a general disconnect that exists within individual retail locations concerning communication – a disconnect which tends to become a divide between multiple locations. The report suggests that while 81% of retailers say they send meaningful communications to their employees, 59% of employees feel that the communications they receive are not useful. In addition, 54% of retail leaders say that they share information daily. Yet, only 27% of employees agree. As a result, just 58% of retail employees feel connected to the roles of coworkers outside of their location.

Enabling frontline staff with the same set of tasks management tools – and processes by which to complete those tasks – allows the entire organization to move in the same direction, providing not only the same experience for their employees, but the same consistent experience for customers of their brand. It also allows employees across the network to maintain the same messaging and efficiency of service. And, considering the volatility of the industry as we enter into a post-pandemic environment, the need to focus on providing a consistent experience is going to be paramount, and could very well be a key differentiator for the brands that can get it right.

 

The power of task management tools

Enabling task management solutions within retail operations to not only organize employees and productivity, but to integrate within an evolving technology-driven landscape as well, can seem daunting. However, with the implementation of the right digital tools, retailers can empower and enable their employees to excel within their roles.

Leveraging these tools and innovations to develop and maintain effective task management also poses tremendous benefits to the retailer in the way of consolidation of all communication and performance tracking for the store or stores. With the right task management tools, retail head offices are equipped with the ability to control and guide SOPs, opening and closing checklists, pre-shift team huddle agendas, and any other form of communication that’s important to the success of the overall team.

Other benefits resulting from the centralization of information include:

  • Tasks are accessible to employees across store networks, ensuring a collective understanding and operational consistency
  • Managers and district managers can easily monitor at scale, providing a clear understanding of the performance of each store
  • Every employee possesses a clear understanding of the tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve success, driving cooperation and teamwork
  • Task management tools can be leveraged to elicit employee feedback concerning their tasks and more efficient ways to complete them

 

3 retail challenges that task management can solve for

Scaling task management to reach your entire retail workforce can do wonders for driving support, success, productivity, and more.  Here are some of the common remedies provided by an effective task management process:

1. Streamlining the onboarding process 

Digital task management tools allow new hires to hit the ground running, bringing them quickly up-to-speed with the standards and processes of the brand and the expectations of them as an employee and ambassador of the store.

2. Filling existing knowledge gaps

Sharing communications and information digitally ensures that all employees are on the same page, filling any knowledge gaps that might otherwise exist.

3. Reducing the need for manager intervention

Providing centralized information for employees also removes the requirement for managerial intervention. When employees are empowered with the information they need, managers can focus on higher level responsibilities with greater focus and intent.

 

Choosing a task management tool

When exploring potential digital task management solutions to implement with in your stores, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Enable staff with Nudge task management

Consider the user experience 

It’s important to make sure that any tool explored is mobile-friendly and includes an easy to navigate interface for ease of use. Employees need to be set up for success. Any digital tool they’re armed with should support that success.

Ensure compatibility

It’s critical to consider solutions that are part of a larger communications enablement suite of tools and services. This enables centralization of information for the merchant. 

Plan for the future 

Make sure that the technology explored is adaptable and has the ability to evolve with the changing digital needs of the business. 

Psst… Did you know that Nudge’s guided task management feature provides everything you need to keep your staff focused on the right tasks – and get oversight into what may be at-risk? Learn what Nudge can do here.

 

Tips for successful task completion

Though there are certainly a plethora of ways by which retail organizations can establish, develop and implement their task management process, they should all be leveraged with the same objective in mind: to enable and support employee and store success.

In order to achieve this objective and optimize the effectiveness of task management tools, retailers will want to look beyond the rudimentary and utilitarian functions.To engage staff and begin nurturing a culture of teamwork and success, consider the following tried-and-tested tips:

Focus on clarity

Properly engaging and enabling associates means providing them with clear and concise direction concerning their tasks and the ways in which their proper completion contributes to the overall success of the team. 

View performance holistically

Be sure to leverage task management to guide and inform. So, avoid jumping to conclusions as a result of an incomplete task or two. Rather, use the information to spot worrisome trends or warning signs that might indicate that additional resources may need to be shared. 

Celebrate achievements

Because digital task management tools allow head office to track and monitor real-time performance, it provides them with the opportunity to celebrate achievements reached by individuals, stores, or the entire network, making it an incredible team building tool as well.

Make it fun

Wherever possible retail employees should be having fun. So, consider ways to implement a scoring system for points that can be applied to staff discounts or gift cards, turning mundane duties into opportunities to excel.

It’s clear as we approach closer to a truly post-pandemic world that neither the retail environment or experience will ever be the same. The technological shift that’s occurred, combined with the consumer behaviour and attitudes that it’s impacted and influenced, is forcing retailers to rethink they’re service and offering. And, to support their rethink, they’ve got to be empowering their employees and managers with the latest digital task management tools and solutions, enabling them to raise their individual and team performance and enhance the retail experience as a whole.

7 tactics for driving retail team performance

7 tactics for driving retail team performance

Driving retail team performance isn’t always easy. The ever-changing industry has left retail workers burnt out and disengaged. But even before the pandemic decimated workforces, concerns around retail team engagement were emerging. A benchmark 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. But with brick and mortar stores becoming less transactional and more experiential, engaging retail employees to drive sales and improve the customer experience is more important than ever. 

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 KPIs

Communicating clear goals to your retail team is a critical step in driving the discretionary effort retailers need. It ensures associates are fully aligned on how their tasks contribute to the organization’s success. 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. KPIs 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 the retail team. Working towards one common goal will give your store or company initial momentum to having a well-oiled, high functioning retail team.

2. Share, share, share information (then look for gaps!)

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. 

“Customers have access to so much information that they’re often walking into a location with more knowledge than an associate,” explains Nudge COO Jordan Ekers in a recent interview. “We as consumers have all experienced this. That is completely broken and causing a fundamental shift where brands are investing more in their people.”

So how can retailers deliver the information associates need to drive memorable customer experiences? 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. Standardize task execution

Effective communication isn’t just about providing context on products and promotions. It’s also about being clear and direct on the tasks and processes associates are expected to complete. We’ve already talked about the importance of clear goals and KPIs, and ensuring your retail team knows exactly how to reach these goals through task execution is a critical component of keeping them aligned on how they can contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Our recommendation? Bake task executions and checklists right into your existing communication channels to keep everything corralled into one place (we can recommend a great one). 

4. Create a sense of challenge

Create a sense of challenge amongst your staff based on the goals and KPIs 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!

5. 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 microlearning 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.

6. 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.

7. Retail employee recognition | NudgeCelebrate 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.

After all, according to our research, 40% of retail associates say recognition makes them feel engaged and motivated at work. 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 drive brand advocacy in frontline workers (hint: the answer isn’t hiring bonuses!)

How to drive brand advocacy in frontline workers (hint: the answer isn’t hiring bonuses!)

In case you missed it, last week we shared Nudge COO Jordan Ekers’ three-step plan for driving discretionary effort in frontline workers:

“Frontline organizations, particularly in retail, hospitality, and foodservice, are in rebuild mode. They’re up against a perfect storm, with supply chain delays and shortages, changing consumer behavior, and many other challenges. And while finding and retaining staff is part of the solution, a much bigger effort should be placed on empowering existing staff to go the extra mile. Because if you have your staff on board, collectively working to drive your core mission, increase revenue, and constantly deliver next-level customer and guest experience… you’re going to jump leaps and bounds in front of the competition. And that’s the magic of discretionary effort.” 

And step one in this process? Culturally inspiring your workforce. “How do you inspire them to fall in love with the brand that they choose to work for, so that they care about their job, the brand, and the customer experience,” Ekers wrote. “How, in other words, do you transform an entire workforce into brand advocates?”

So that’s what we’ll talk about today: how to transform your workforce into brand advocates. 

Of course, it’s not easy. Culturally inspiring at scale has its challenges, especially when a workforce numbers in the thousands – or tens of thousands – dispersed across the globe. And, let’s face it: we’re in challenging times. Allocating time, energy, and budget toward driving brand advocacy among frontline workers is often an uphill battle.

Speaking of budget, here’s one pitfall you can avoid: hiring bonuses. You’ve likely seen posters and billboards all over; brands like Papa John’s and Disney World are offering cash (from $50 to over $6,000 for more specialty positions) for new hires that meet specific criteria, like staying on for a certain amount of time. 

Are hiring bonuses getting the attention of frontline candidates? Yes. Are they going to magically transform your staff into the brand advocates you need for long-term success? Likely not. 

In a (dated, but still relevant) article for Harvard Business Review, author and lecturer Alfie Kohn cited a series of studies run by Northwestern University that attempted to test the “bonus effect” and whether or not it actually works. 

“What they found was both straightforward and remarkably consistent,” wrote Kohn. “When people are promised a monetary reward for doing a task well, the primary outcome is that they get more excited about money. This happens even when they don’t meet the standard for getting paid.”

In other words, it doesn’t get at the core driver of brand advocacy: cultural inspiration. 

Because culturally inspiring your staff doesn’t come from compensation – at least, not compensation alone. It comes from answering one simple question: “Why.” Why should your employees care about their job? Why should they want your organization to succeed? Why should they care? The answer to that question might be, in part, a competitive employee compensation and benefits – but there’s so much more to it. 

Here are 3 ways to culturally inspire your workforce to drive brand advocacy:

1. Support your staff’s mental health 

Food service and retail have always been stressful jobs, but now it’s even more so. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional burden employees face because of staffing challenges, they are under more pressure than ever. A recent interview with food expert Sylvain Charlebois goes deeper into into the challenges facing foodservice workers: 

“They have been showing up to work every day generally unsure as to the safety and security of their jobs as well as the health of the businesses they’re working for. In addition, many of their jobs and the way they used to do things changed overnight. The ways they interact with and serve the customer changed. Some establishments also introduced new services like curbside pickup which requires new skills, new equipment and new ways of doing things. As a result, many had to essentially retrain themselves, on the fly, in order to continue doing their job effectively. It’s all caused an incredible amount of stress and adds up to a big mental health issue that operators within the foodservice sector have got to address.”

In fact, the Foodservice Deskless Report found that burnout is one of the top three reasons employees in this industry want to quit. But prioritizing mental health is about so much more than retaining staff. As Josh Bersin puts it, employee mental health is no longer an HR KPI – it’s a business strategy: “Before you delegate the mental health issue to the benefits department, let me suggest something else. This is a responsibility of leadership (who also feel stressed out), so look at it as a strategy. If you, as a leadership team, can focus on mental health first, financial success will likely follow.”

2. Foster a sense of community

Frontline employees spend a huge chunk of their lives at work, so it makes sense that they would want to feel like they belong. In fact, 60% of deskless workers would like to have a stronger community with workers outside of their location. Being connected would improve both morale and retention significantly. Need proof? 38% of polled workers feel that a strong workplace community would make them more engaged and motivated. And according to Gallup, engaged employees are far more likely to stay. They found that business units in high-turnover organizations have 24% less turnover than non-engaged business units.

3. Review how information is flowing

If there was one major takeaway from last year’s Deskless Report, it’s that there’s a huge disconnect between workers and leaders on the effectiveness of internal communication. Frontline workers are desperate for more information about company updates, product information, you name it. And, unfortunately, insufficient or unclear information leads to uncertainty, which leads to stress – which isn’t going to foster brand advocates. 

Ineffective communication is also a missed opportunity for sharing the “why” – for baking your brand mission and core values into everything you share. On the other hand, when you can connect a company update or task back to the core question of “why”… you’re well on your way to culturally inspiring your staff. 

But for the “why” to resonate, your communication needs to be flowing effectively and consistently. 

A hiring bonus may be flashy and draw lots of attention (and press!), but it alone won’t help drive discretionary effort by fostering brand advocates. 

For that, you need to culturally inspire your staff by answering that one magic question, again and again: “why.”

Driving discretionary effort in frontline workers

Driving discretionary effort in frontline workers

My take on driving discretionary effort was inspired by Simon Sinek. In his classic TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action, Sinek explained the way we all think, act, and communicate using the “Golden Circle,” where “what” is on the outside, then “how,” and in the center is “why.” 

Discretionary effort Simon Sinek golden circle“Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do,” explains Sinek.

“As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations – regardless of their size, regardless of their industry – all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

In other words, they start with why.  

That resonated with me. Baking the “why” into employee communications is such a critical part of what we’re doing at Nudge. We’re constantly working with customers to help them go beyond the standard internal memo to drive better knowledge retention and engagement among their frontline staff. 

And that engagement portion is key. Our The Deskless Report research found that having a sense of purpose or meaning at work makes 55% of frontline employees feel engaged and motivated at work. And particularly as frontline organizations adapt to the labor market right now, they’re trying to find the right brand presence to attract talent – and also build the right brand promise and work experience to retain them.   

But on top of that, frontline organizations, particularly in retail, hospitality, and foodservice, are in rebuild mode. They’re up against a perfect storm, with supply chain delays and shortages, changing consumer behavior, and many other challenges. And while finding and retaining staff is part of the solution, a much bigger effort should be placed on empowering existing staff to go the extra mile. Because if you have your staff on board, collectively working to drive your core mission, increase revenue, and constantly deliver next-level customer and guest experience… you’re going to jump leaps and bounds in front of the competition. And that’s the magic of discretionary effort. 

I first came across the phrase discretionary effort last year in a CX webinar with the amazing Rachel Huckle, Chief Retail Officer at Staples Canada. She talked about leveraging discretionary effort to pivot Staples Canada during the pandemic: 

“My objective is not to drive discretionary effort. My interest is creating a culture and an environment where people want to give you discretionary effort and for me, that comes to life in communication and transparency. And that means, you know, one of the things I think throughout this pandemic that has been really, really powerful.”

So I have Simon Sinek and Rachel Huckle to thank for getting me to this idea of how to drive discretionary effort. Like the golden circle, it’s got three key stages: 

  1. Culturally inspire
  2. Strategically align
  3. Tactically enable

And also like with Sinek’s golden circle, a lot of organizations don’t approach them in the right sequence. Here’s what I think is the winning approach:

Discretionary effort stage 1: Culturally inspire

You have to first start by culturally inspiring frontline employees. This is the “why” – why your staff should care about their job, why they should want it to succeed. This is about capturing the hearts and minds of your workforce. 

This can be tricky. Some frontline organizations we work with employ hundreds of thousands of workers. How do you inspire them to fall in love with the brand that they choose to work for, so that they care about their job, the brand, and the customer experience? How, in other words, do you transform an entire workforce into brand advocates? 

Culturally inspiring your workforce is about setting them up to thrive with the employee experience they want. For example, according to The Deskless Report, one of the most critical things your staff wants is a sense of purpose. You need to find ways to communicate your mission and values across your organization. Bake that messaging into everything – your internal communications, your pre-shift team huddles, everything. It shouldn’t be something you review once a year – it should be embedded into everything you do, so that if you approached any worker at any time and asked them what their company’s core mission is, they should be able to tell you. 

Discretionary effort stage 2: Strategically align

The second stage is strategically align. You’ve already given your staff a sense of purpose around the brand they work for – now we’re going deeper into the specific role that they play in the grander picture. 

So let’s say you’re a store cashier. And then at the very top of the retailer’s hierarchy, you have the CFO caring about growth, margins, costs, and strategy. That store cashier has a critical role to play in executing on that vision and growth story, and driving all those key deliverables the CFO is thinking about.  

So strategically align is all about finding the right way for any individual in the business to recognize the impact of their role on the broader organizational strategy. Like, if you just ask someone to smile when they collect money at the cash register, they’re just going to collect money. But if you explain to them why it’s important to deliver a memorable and positive customer experience, and the impact that has on the broader goals of the organization, that cashier is far more likely to go above and beyond. 

Discretionary effort stage 3: Tactically enable

In stage 1, we’ve inspired a frontline worker to care about what happens to their organization. In stage 2, we’ve shown them exactly what role they can play to help their organization succeed. Tactically enable is about then showing them exactly what’s expected of them to deliver the impact we’ve shown them is possible.  

In the past, this would mean managers asking staff to get work done, and hoping they do it properly at the right time. Of course, that’s not an effective way to drive performance and operational consistency at scale – and it puts a huge load on the managers’ shoulders. That’s where frontline enablement tools come into play. Using a tool like Nudge for task management, organizations can assign tasks at a global, regional, location, or individual level – and monitor task completion at scale. 

When you start to scale up the process to be standardized across every single location, you start to unlock operational consistency. And when you make it easy for workers to complete those standardized tasks, you unlock discretionary effort.

It’s about making it easy for people to get the right work done the right way, the first time. If someone has to put less effort into completing a task, but still delivers a consistently strong outcome, they’re more likely to do that. 

These are unprecedented times. Labor shortages, supply shortages, food prices… there is so much out of our control. But the one thing that frontline organizations can control is their people. And tapping into the magic of discretionary effort is going to make or break organizations in the years to come.