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ATD Blog

Fixing the Retail Industry’s Most Common Communications Problems

Friday, February 18, 2022

Give frontline workers and their managers tools to connect and learn.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores run smoothly when employees are informed and engaged. When sales associates understand everything from new products and promotions to standard operating procedures and company-wide policies, they’re better able to represent the brand and sell effectively.

However, getting information to employees and communicating with them regularly can be tricky. Deskless workers often struggle to connect with management and higher-ups, who may be unable to ensure their teams are fully informed. Additionally, the nature of retail and shift work means that not all employees will receive news simultaneously, so retailers often rely on a chain of communication to ensure everyone stays up-to-date.

This is a challenge for all involved, with employees potentially feeling out of the loop, managers and leaders wondering why employees aren’t in-the-know, and talent development professionals feeling like they don’t have the tools to reach and develop these people.

Create a Dedicated Channel for Communication

Ongoing advances to enterprise software give stores—along with L&D professionals, managers, and owners—the capability of streamlining communication and learning. Modern-day workforce management and task-solution tools with communication capabilities allow retailers to create dedicated channels for communication. This facilitates information flow for managers who may not have the bandwidth to share updates with direct reports and ensures that no information slips through the cracks. These tools allow sales associates to feel engaged, connected, and equipped with the updates they need to do their jobs well. In addition to seamlessly connecting employees with news from the head office, incorporating modern technology via an app into the retail space provides easy access to training and other important information. With a bit of additional time back in their shifts, managers can connect with staff in meaningful ways and create more powerful employee experiences.

Frequently, store associates must leave the sales floor to receive messages and other information they need to do their jobs. Often, communication tools such as staff bulletin boards or company portals are accessed in a back room or manager’s office. While staff are retrieving information this way, they are unable to help customers. Alternatively, employees get messages before or after work, which means they put in additional time to stay current with company communications.

When the talent development team coordinates with other departments to centralize communications, employers give employees one place to access the information they need to do their jobs, saving them from frantically scrambling for important updates buried in lengthy email threads or on a piece of paper circulating in the staff room. Using an interface like an app, employees can easily access documents containing best practices, standard operating procedures, and upcoming promotions on products. Further, many apps include a comprehensive search engine, which makes content and answers easily findable and available when needed. And, when accessed on a company-approved smartphone or tablet—tools requiring minimal training because employees already use them in their daily lives—employees can retrieve communications in-store or on-the-go, allowing them to stay on the same page as the rest of the company.


Teach Through the Communications Tool

In addition to vital company announcements, talent development professionals can offer supporting training and development materials in small, easily consumable bite sizes—in video, photo, and interactive media types—making learning easier and producing better results.

TD teams can use the communications app for onboarding. New employees can download the tool to their phones and immediately gain insights into company mission and values and acclimate themselves to products and standard operating procedures. Training videos shared through the app can help employees learn more about product design or the company brand.

The metrics that such platforms offer let talent developers or managers see if employees or team members have read company announcements, training documents, and conversations—including training and demos on using the platform itself. For example, managers can see if the employee signed in to catch up on updates they may have missed since they last worked—which can enhance employee performance.

Leverage Your Workforce-Management Tool

Talent development professionals can tap a workforce-management tool to provide just-in-time information, improve employee engagement and morale, facilitate better customer service, and give managers more time in their schedules to interact with their direct reports.

When workforce apps are installed on a mobile device in-store or on employees’ personal devices, staff access pertinent information on the sales floor without missing opportunities to interact with customers. Information surrounding promotions, sales tips, and product details are instantly accessible to employees, allowing them to transfer their knowledge directly to customers and improving the store’s overall performance and sales.


Workforce management and task solutions also help retail leaders implement company-wide changes by giving management a way to survey store-level employees and send information back up the chain to decision makers, who can then create processes for better in-store experiences for both employees and customers—ultimately leading to increased productivity for staff and higher sales for the company.

And L&D professionals can incorporate workforce management and task solutions into the retail space to streamline training, setting sales staff up to be more productive and engaged during their shifts. After implementing a workforce-management tool, one company sent an estimated 75 percent fewer emails to stores about tasks.

Opening the lines of communication and allowing employees to send direct messages to co-workers and superiors allows them to initiate pertinent conversations, giving employees and managers a chance to ask questions or respond with feedback directly, helping staff maximize their time at work. For example, store associates can communicate with fellow staff or superiors and gain valuable historical insight into what sales pitches, products, or promotions at checkout customers do or do not respond well to.

Shining a spotlight on business inefficiencies, this last year and a half required companies to pivot and adapt to new ways of working. The harsh realities of the global pandemic have shown the need for company leaders to practice a more human-centered approach to management and provide employees with the tools to get work done more efficiently. Modern workforce-management and task solutions with internal communication capabilities offer the tools for staff to have better experiences at work and thrive in their roles.

Bottom Line

Manager benefits. Streamlined communications can free up managers’ time to connect with staff and improve one-on-one relations with their direct reports.

Frontline employee advantages. Using tools that employees are already familiar with and have at their fingertips—their smartphones—gives employees the information they need to do their jobs, improves their engagement, and allows them to provide feedback easily while feeling more connected.

Organizational returns. Giving employees tools and information to better serve customers means increased revenue and customer loyalty.

About the Author

Marc Gingras is SVP of employee experience strategy at WorkForce Software. He has been on the forefront of innovations in the way companies connect with and communicate with their employees for over a decade, with roles at Foko Retail, Tungle, and Blackberry.

In his current role at WorkForce Software, Marc leads a team passionate about creating the best employee experience and engagement technology so teams can connect, collaborate, communicate and access the information they need – creating moments that matter at work. He’s based in Gatineau, Quebec.

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