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Quick: how are you sharing information with your frontline managers? How are you collecting insights from them back to head office? 

Here’s our guess on how things go: 

  • Head office sends an email with information on a new product launch to senior leadership. 
  • Senior leadership emails the intel to their middle managers. 
  • Middle management, in turn, emails the info to their floor managers. 
  • Your floor managers then explain it to their shift leads and staff at a pre-shift team huddle or (gasp!) by printing out the email and pinning it to the bulletin board. 
  • Your frontline shares their ideas and feedback to head office through annual surveys.

This is what’s known as the “traditional communication cascade” and – spoiler alert! – it doesn’t work. In fact, it’s probably costing your frontline organization money. 

And what’s the solution? Open two-way communication that runs between head office and your frontline. With a digital communication platform (like Nudge!) head office can send information right to their workers’ phones, and leverage robust analytics to see exactly what’s resonating – and what’s falling flat. 

Our recently-commissioned Total Economic Impact™ Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, uncovered some staggering insights on the traditional communication cascade – and how it might be costing you, big time. For the study, Forrester Consulting interviewed four Nudge customers in the retail and foodservice industries to understand the costs and benefits associated with the investment. The study created a “composite” company, and then explored the ways that shifting from a traditional communication cascade to a digital communication platform saved them time, money, and energy. 

Here are 5 reasons the traditional communication cascade is costing your deskless organization:

1. It turns floor managers into bottlenecks

In a deskbound organization, it might make sense for a team manager to be the one sharing key information with their team. However, in deskless organizations, where frontline workers aren’t all working at the same time, and often don’t use any kind of communication tool to unite the team, the responsibility of floor managers to disseminate information to their staff becomes far more challenging. 

For one thing, this leads to “Championing fatigue” where it’s constantly on floor managers to drive awareness and engagement around key initiatives and company announcements. 

But even more worrying, it’s a major time investment collecting, organizing, and relaying information from head office. Whether they’re relying on one-off conversations, pre-shift huddles, or sharing information through a binder or bulletin board, it takes time and energy.  

“Managers were overwhelmed with communication from HQ. Instead of spending time on the floor playing a leadership role, managers spent a significant amount of time fielding communications from HQ,” explains the Total Economic Impact™ Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Nudge.  

And this turns managers into bottlenecks. Particularly now as we continue to navigate the post-pandemic new normal, managers are wearing many hats. They’re managing safety protocols, mentoring staff, driving CX or guest experience, focusing on operational efficiency and execution. That leaves little time for disseminating announcements from head office, especially in a consistent and measurable way. 

In the study, Forrester Consulting found that when its “composite” company was using the traditional communication cascade, each store manager spent 1.5 hours per day reviewing and organizing information and then communicating key concepts to frontline workers.

“After the investment in Nudge, the composite reduces the length of pre-shift meetings and manager information ingestion, decreasing the overall number of hours spent on communication by managers by 50%, 55%, and 60% in Years 1, 2, and 3, respectively,” explains the study. 

2. Communications get “filtered and reinterpreted”

Another major challenge of the traditional communication cascade (or the “manager waterfall” as the Total Economic Impact™ Study calls it) is the broken telephone effect. 

“Communication through a manager waterfall relied on the manager’s ability to ingest the content and relay it to the deskless workers. It was not uncommon for messages to get lost in translation. Messages that were successfully relayed to a deskless worker had been filtered and reinterpreted, diluting the meaning of the communication,” explains the study. 

Why is this an issue? It reduces operational consistency, which every deskless organization desperately needs right now. Operational consistency is the key to memorable CX, efficient execution, and successful campaigns. 

Let’s say you’re a retailer launching a new sportswear line. Head office develops key information about the promo, and shares it down the communication cascade. But as you get further down the cascade, that broken telephone kicks in. Details of the promotion get interpreted or summarized. Floor managers across the country each put their own spin on the information. Key points are shared verbally so key points get missed or changed. Maybe even a few factual errors creep in. So now it’s launch day, and customers are coming in-store, only to get an inconsistent, confusing, frustrating CX. And that has a major impact on the overall success of the promo. 

3. Pre-shift meetings run too long

We love pre-shift team huddles, but those quick check-ins aren’t for sharing all the information coming from head office. Floor managers should be using these huddles to reiterate daily task execution, share quick updates to menus or inventory, and go over general housekeeping. It’s not the right time to introduce a major organizational change, or announce the organization’s plan for Black Friday. 

According to the TEI study, organizations that shifted over to using Nudge were able to reduce the length of their pre-shift meetings by 50% or more – and decrease the frequency of them altogether. That’s more time on the floor for staff – and managers. 

4. It drives employee turnover

We all know that turnover costs you. According to Forrester Consulting, the average turnover cost per associate is upwards of $1,200. And while there are many things that drive voluntary turnover at a deskless organization, one of the big ones is workers not having enough access to the tools and information they need to do their job – and do it well. 

After all, workers are motivated by a sense of purpose at their work. They want to feel like they’re contributing to something important. And without proper communication – or any contact with head office – it’s very difficult for them to feel that sense of purpose. 

“The know-how to do a job well is a key factor to job satisfaction and success for frontline workers,” explains the Total Economic Impact™ Study. 

In fact, it found that deskless workers using Nudge have a 10% higher retention rate. That’s the power of effective communication. 

5. It impacts CX

Here’s where that two-way communication comes into play. In the traditional communication cascade, upward feedback is being gathered annually – if that. But if you’re only inviting feedback from your staff once a year, employee experience is taking a hit. 

“Employee satisfaction is a precursor to creating a great customer experience,” explains the study, which found that using Nudge to allow workers to share best practices, identify problems, and receive recognition on a daily basis had a huge impact on employee engagement – and, in turn, customer experience. 

And CX has a huge impact on revenue. “A related metric is Forrester’s own Customer Experience Index (CX IndexTM ) score, which highlights how improvements to CX have a measurable business impact,” explains the study. “For the retail composite organization, a single-point increase to the CX Index score is worth $4.69 incremental revenue per customer. If the composite organization is assumed to have 2 million customers, the additional revenue would be nearly $9.4 million.”

The traditional communication cascade is inefficient for deskless organizations – but the impacts go far deeper. It can increase turnover, hurt CX, cause burnout in your floor managers…the list goes on. Luckly, there’s another option. To learn more about how digital communication tools are the solution, check out our recent on-demand webinar on the ROI of digital frontline communication!