How the ADKAR model can prepare your frontline staff for your next launch

How the ADKAR model can prepare your frontline staff for your next launch

Question: what factor is most important when it comes to planning a new product launch or major promotion? 

There are lots of ways to answer this question: a compelling offer. Great branding. Market research. All great answers – but one answer you may have missed is making sure your staff is prepared. Focusing on workforce readiness is crucial when it comes to launching a new product, initiative, or promotion. Planning, marketing, a great product: all of it can crumble without frontline staff who are prepared and consistent across locations.

But how do you actually ensure workforce readiness? In this article we’re going to offer a framework for ensuring workforce readiness by borrowing a model from organizational change management: the ADKAR model. 

What is the ADKAR model?

The ADKAR model is a change management methodology developed by the self-described “global team of change fanatics” at Prosci. We all know that change is hard, whether it’s adopting a new habit in our personal lives or shifting the way an organization works. The ADKAR model (alongside Prosci’s other methodologies and frameworks) presents a way of approaching change to ensure success. 

ADKAR stands for the five stages of change management in the model: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Let’s explore each one: 

Awareness

In the ADKAR model, awareness means more than simply being aware that a change is happening. It’s awareness of why change is needed

There are many factors that make it easy for an employee to not change (inertia, lack of buy in, doubt of the validity). But, according to this model, without awareness of the need to change, employees are more likely to “check out” of training sessions, avoid reading company messaging, or ignore new ways of working. 

Desire

The second step of the ADKAR model is desire. You can spend countless hours raising awareness around all the reasons you’re implementing a change, but this model suggests that you won’t necessarily get people invested in actually changing their own actions without desire.

This is the moment at which employees ask that classic question, what’s in it for me? Prosci suggests that motivators for change may include: 

  • Incentives (a bonus program, or other type of recognition)
  • Penalties 
  • Desire to be a part of something/to belong
  • Willingness to follow a trusted leader
  • Feeling that the alternative is worse

Knowledge

Once awareness and desire have been addressed, you can move onto knowledge. This is where staff receives information about the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will be necessary to achieve the desired end outcome. 

Psst… Here’s where your communication channels become crucial. Using a digital communication platform (like Nudge!) allows you to share information about an upcoming product launch or organizational change in bite-sized pieces, sent right to their phone. This improves engagement and retention, setting you up for success in the next stage.

Ability

Of course, knowledge alone isn’t enough. Think about riding a bike. You could study bike mechanics, or human physiology. These might be useful topics to have under your belt, but they probably won’t result in a successful first ride. Instead, a new bike rider needs time, practice, coaching, and the right tools in order to learn this new skill.  

The same is true for employees putting knowledge into action. To ensure your staff has the ability to use their knowledge in the real world, they must be given time and space to strengthen their confidence and skill.

Reinforcement

Anyone who has ever started a new exercise regime on January 1 knows how easy it is to slip back into old habits by February. That’s why reinforcement is so important when it comes to lasting change. Feedback, accountability, recognition, and rewards are all ways in which managers, leaders and teams can encourage reinforcement. 

Preparing frontline staff with the ADKAR model

During the course of the pandemic, frontline staff have already adapted to many changes. The risk of “change fatigue” is real. But as things stabilize, the natural ebb and flow of business is returning. Product launches, sales promotions, holiday seasons, events: all require planning and workforce readiness for your business to meet its goals. 

How can understanding the ADKAR model help you to ensure your frontline team is ready to deliver?

1. Focus on buy-in

It’s easy to assume that when a directive comes from up the chain, your deskless workers will fall into line. But this kind of “command and control” management style is not only outdated, it often fails to garner the results you’re looking for. 

Imagine you’re launching a new promotion in a retail store. You could send out a memo to all store managers detailing how the promotion will launch, along with step-by-step instructions, which they can reiterate to their staff. 

How effective is this method? 🤷‍♀️

You’ll have some employees following instructions to the letter. Most will participate but may be patchy in delivery and consistency. And some will opt out all together (unless under direct supervision). 

Now imagine a different scenario, where instead of sending down a directive from on high, you instead bring frontline employees into the process. You communicate how the promotion will grow the business and help new customers find your business. You involve teams in the planning process, inviting upward feedback from frontline employees on their ideas for sharing the promotion with customers. 

This approach is likely to be much more effective because employees will have bought in. You’ve demonstrated that their role in the business is important, their work has meaning, and they are valued for their opinions. 

2. Build incentives into your plan

The ADKAR model suggests that both incentives and penalties can be used as methods to build desire among your employees. However, research suggests that incentives are much more effective at motivating action (e.g. bonuses for reaching a sales target of a new product) whereas penalties work better to deter action (e.g. docking pay for chewing gum while working). 

When you’re launching a new product or promotion, you want your frontline staff to be active in selling and promoting in order to make your launch a success. So whether it’s leaderboards and shoutouts, or more tangible incentives such as bonuses or a team celebration, finding the right incentives can do wonders to encourage buy-in and program engagement.

And while incentives work to build desire, remember that the ADKAR model also notes that feedback, accountability, recognition, and rewards are all part of how you can reinforce a new way of working too. 

3. Make time (and space!) to learn

Giving employees enough time to learn about a new product or promotion is critical to the success of your launch. This means employees need to: 

  • Know and understand the product or promotion
  • Know where to find more information
  • Be confident in answering questions
  • Use consistent language and messaging
  • Be comfortable talking with customers about the product or promotion

Of course, assessing workforce readiness can be a challenge, especially for businesses with multiple locations and high numbers of staff to train. Tools that can help you identify knowledge gaps and warning signs (we know a great one!) make it possible to see where staff are underprepared, and allocate additional support to increase their knowledge and/or ability. 

When you’re planning a launch, promotion, or event, it can be easy to get stuck at the 50,000 feet view, and lose sight of how each individual frontline member of staff will be involved in making your plans a reality. By using the principles from the ADKAR model, you can drive workforce readiness by adopting the key strategies to keep your staff involved, engaged, and eager to deliver. 

6 ways to foster high-performing teams

6 ways to foster high-performing teams

At our recent Spark Session roundtable, the theme was building high-performing teams – the leaders that inspire them, the benefits of investing in them, and tips for fostering them. And our speaker lineup did not disappoint: Rachel Huckle, Chief Retail Officer at Staples Canada, Sarah Jordan, Chief Executive Officer at Mastermind Toys, and our own Lindsey Goodchild, Chief Executive Officer here at Nudge

Here are 6 of our favourite takeaways from the discussion 👇

1. The key to leading high-performing teams? Authenticity. 

The panel discussed leading teams through the past two years of the pandemic, and how a new type of leader has emerged: the authentic leader. 

“One thing that I’ve learned during the pandemic is that authentic leaders are finally being recognized for what they are – badass and needed,” explained Sarah Jordan. “There was no playbook during the pandemic. There was a real need for leaders to be authentic. They needed to lead with strength, but also empathy; courage, but also compassion.” 

And according to Rachel Huckle, leaders of high-performing teams also have a knack for agility. 

“Leadership of high performing teams is not a binary thing,” she said. “You aren’t one thing or the other, you are many things. So how you show up as a leader is going to change, and as a leader you need to be agile. You need to be flexible and, I would argue, you need to be anticipatory.”

2. The cost of low performance (or a lack of high performance!) can’t be overstated

“Instead of what investing in high performance gives you, let’s talk about what not investing in it brings you,” said Huckle. “It is expensive. It is costly and your ability to be agile is next to none. You will spend a lot of money in rework. You will not have a culture where people are inspired and engaged to bring their best every single day. And it will take its toll on a culture.”

And more so, Huckle warned that if all this leads to even just one low-performing worker in an otherwise high-performing group, and you don’t have the tools to deal with it… you’ve got a recipe for disaster. “There are prices to be paid,” she said. “Because you’re not leading effectively.”

3. You need to define what high performance means to your organization

The key to fostering high-performing teams? Know what high performance means to your organization. “When I think about high performing teams, one thing that’s been really important during the pandemic is really being clear on the priorities,” explained Jordan. “For the first time last year we launched cultural goals. And those became really important to tell high performers and teams what great looks like – not from financial metrics, not from customer metrics – but from how we want you to behave.”

In other words: high performance needs planning and culture. “A high performing team starts with strategy and having a clear roadmap of where you’re headed, but it comes to life through culture and execution,” said Jordan. 

4. Transparency is key (even when you don’t have the answers)

“Clarity, vision, strategy, culture, engagement, vulnerability, leadership…all of those things unlock the potential of your workforce,” said Huckle, adding that there’s one more crucial ingredient in cooking up high-performing teams: transparency.

“When we didn’t know and we didn’t have the answers, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Huckle. “And sometimes I said, ‘I don’t know, but I’m going to make sure I take care of you. And then these are the things that I’m going to be thinking about to help us navigate this.’ And the support I think that I heard was just, ‘We didn’t know either, but at least you’re being honest with us and we could trust that.’ And that was big – the trust component.”

5. A key component of fostering high performance: being present

All of our panelists agreed that another critical component to fostering high performance, particularly during a crisis like the pandemic, was being present with staff, and actively listening. 

“Through the pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of that human interaction and we’ve been unclear on how we can connect with each other. But when you’re a leader and you’re trying to inspire high performance, you need to walk the talk. You need to visit your stores. You need to get to know the customers,” said Jordan. “And as a leader, you set that tone. So when was the last time you visited your stores? When was the last time you interacted with your employees? When was the last time you did a Town Hall with every single cohort? Have you seen those individuals? Have you thanked them? Have you inspired them? Have you listened to them?”

That active listening is also about making sure your teams are getting what they need.

“When we had to just focus our efforts on safety in our stores, we put aside some work and we listened,” said Huckle. “It was key to listen and this is where Nudge helped us from a two-way dialogue perspective. I could, in real time, hear what people were thinking, feeling, sensing, and we would lead with some questions to help them bring that back. And that was pivotal, because it actually informed some of the decisions I would make on what I needed to do to make sure these folks are getting what they need to deliver in the moment and to drive performance overall.”

6. High performance starts with preparedness

At Nudge, we love numbers. So it’s no surprise that Lindsey Goodchild brought a little data to the discussion of what drives high performance. 

“We’ve been looking at what kind of patterns we can decipher from teams that are doing really great things and performing really well,” she explained. “We’ve recognized that workforces that are very prepared and very ready, tend to perform well.”

So if high performance starts with preparedness, how do you drive preparedness?

“When the team is really aware of what’s going on and they have clear direction, whether it’s around some new sales initiative or new customer experience initiative, whatever it is, if they have a really solid understanding of what’s coming and why it matters and what their job within that role is – when it’s time to execute, they’ll be ready to go,” said Goodchild. “Sometimes it’s just those small actions of building up that knowledge, making sure people have information ahead of time, dripping that in digestible forms – and then when it’s go-time, they know exactly what they need to do.”

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. 

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.