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Employee Communication in Retail: Challenges and Solutions

7 minute read

According to a recent Gatehouse study, more than 40% of businesses say they have difficulties sharing corporate information with desk-less employees.

In the retail industry, it’s often up to the store or regional managers to inform their teams about products, policies, procedures, and promotions. And consequently, this often results in disconnected and misinformed teams, working in silos at different stores.

When it comes to internal communications, this is a real worry. When asked about their main activities, the internal communication respondents in the Gatehouse survey answered as follows:

  • Encouraging two-way communications with employees (80%)
  • Corporate announcements (87%)
  • Communicating the strategy, vision and values of the organization (88%)

Of course, some managers are better at communicating than others, and hence, their teams will be better informed and probably feel more connected to the rest of the company. But the kind of internal communications that builds engagement and empowers frontline staff in their contacts with customers cannot be left to local managers.

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The biggest internal communications challenges in retail

 

  • Many employees do not have access to a computer or, they have to use shared tablets.
  • Part-time employees and people working in shifts do not always have the chance to interact with managers and may not be present when information is shared amongst the team.
  • Training and onboarding new frontline employees is inconsistent since this often depends on the store manager, who is often preoccupied with other tasks and does not give proper attention to the matter.
  • Employees often feel frustrated and not valued by the upper echelons in the company because they don’t receive recognition or feedback.
  • As a result, frontline staff will be less passionate about their brand and products.

6 Tips for better internal communications in retail

Frontline workers are the face of your brand. They are the ones who interact with customers daily. Simultaneously, they are also probably your most disengaged employees due to their dispersed locations, high mobility, and lack of connection to the company. How do you solve this prevalent harmful discrepancy? Here are some suggestions.

Focus on effectiveness and clarity

Improving and bettering your internal communications methods for them to become more effective takes time and energy, but in the end, it is definitely worth your time. Consistent communication is crucial for any organization. Once you have polished and perfected your internal communications techniques, you will realize the many benefits of a fruitful and functional communication system. Effective internal communications, in the form of top-down or bottom-up communication, ensure no room for ambiguity or interpretation, and everyone is on the same page - no matter which store or department they work in. Other than the obvious benefits such as increasing employee engagement and building stronger teams, consistent internal communication guarantees order and structure within employees, resulting in no miscommunication or confusion.

Make sure your communication caters to your employees' different needs

Internal communication should always be adjusted to your employees' needs and not vice versa. Many prefer top-down communication in which they receive information and the latest important updates through a hierarchal structure and in a simplified, uncomplicated manner. In this internal communication method, higher authorities are in charge of large decision-making and conveying it to the remaining workforce, including frontline employees. Others favour bottom-up communication where frontline employees can help top management understand what is happening in the stores, and their feedback is essential for improvement. Due to daily firsthand experiences, they tend to know what works better than corporate and, their helpful opinions should be listened to properly. Surveys and polls, anonymous feedback options, or open-door policies are some of the many ways that encourage employees to reach out to management higher up in the organization. Diversifying internal communication techniques is not only an excellent way to develop and better the company, but managers will also be more well-aware on how to approach their employees. Overall, this results in a more positive and productive environment which benefits both parties.

Train your store managers

Whatever strategy and tools you employ, local managers will always remain a vital link in the communication between corporate and frontline staff. Your store managers should understand and value the importance of good communication. Train them in the best practices and give them the tools to support their team.

Improve your onboarding process

You want your customers to have a consistent brand experience, no matter which store they visit. Welcome new hires with a uniform onboarding training that conveys the same key messages. It is also crucial to remain in contact and engaged, especially digitally, until they start their first day of work. Automate the onboarding process to make sure it is smooth and convenient, and ensure your new potential employees have a way to access all the necessary information they need from one platform.

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Celebrate and reward

Your workers on the frontline are essential for your business; let them know how much you value them. Not just occasionally, but as part of your internal communications strategy. Most employees will be motivated to perform better if their managers praise and commend them more often. In fact, 67% of workers believe that this is a top motivator compared to financial and non-cash incentives, as you can read in Employee Recognition: The Power of Compliments. And what goes for all employees is even more significant for frontline staff, who often feel disconnected from the head office.

Switch to mobile

Your store workers may not have access to a desktop or company email, but just about everyone has a smartphone. Obviously, this is the device you should use to reach them. And the most effective way to use it is through an employee app. An ideal employee app is tailored to the communication needs of desk-less workers. Real-time updates, personalized communication, push notifications for urgent messages, identifying and rewarding internal ambassadors, polls, and analytics - whatever you need to streamline your internal communications is available in this versatile stand-alone solution. Switching to a mobile app for communication with desk-less workers brings two crucial advantages for internal communications. You are sure to reach everyone, regardless of where they work. And it makes life a lot easier and convenient because this single tool replaces all other communication channels.

Conclusion

Creating and implementing an internal communications strategy in the retail industry is a big challenge. It starts with a suitable and detailed plan, but just as important is which communication channel you choose. Looking for tools, you will probably find that an employee app is the most versatile and elementary way to inform and engage your desk-less workers.

If you found this article useful, you might want to check our QA Guide about Internal Communications during and after crisis or our Infographic about How retail leaders cracked the challenges of COVID-19 and sent performance through the roof.

Rob is a content writer, copywriter and novelist. His work for Apple, WWF, Mercedes-Benz and many other brands has been awarded with prestigious creative awards.

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