Managing employees in a business with one or two locations is by no means easy. But for international employers, the combination of physical distance, multiple time zones and geographic cultures amplifies employee communication and engagement challenges tenfold.
As our recent study illustrated, most employers contend with low engagement and problematic turnover among their hourly workforce. For globally distributed service industry organizations, including franchises, the consequences of ignoring these issues can be damaging to their overall customer experience and profitability.
In 2017, as corporate leaders look to strengthen their human capital to take advantage of new business opportunities, they should start by rethinking the way they communicate with their front lines.
Bridging HQ and the Sales Floor
For many global organizations, direct communication between corporate employees and hourly employees is nonexistent.
In the retail industry specifically, almost half of store managers say their head offices’ primary way of informing associates about new processes or promotions is by filtering messages through middle management. This is problematic for a handful of reasons:
• Replicated across hundreds of locations worldwide, these habits increase the likelihood of important details falling through the cracks.
• Passing information through layers of country, regional and store management prevents employee feedback from flowing all the way up the chain.
• The head office has no way of accurately tracking what information gets through to the front line, and what actions are being taken at the store level.
Executive leadership can’t be physically present in every office and outpost. But the right technology can serve as the head office’s eyes and ears, helping to keep a constant pulse on the state of their hourly employees and store experience through:
• Targeted communication: Most shift-based employees don’t have corporate email addresses, but they do have (often personally owned) mobile devices. With a digital employee engagement program, corporate teams can push out important product announcements, policy changes or promotion details directly to front line associates. Sharing the same message across locations (rather than filtering it through various managers) ensures all employees receive consistent information – increasing service and campaign consistency as a result. Head offices can also build closer ties with hourly staff by enabling employees to share feedback via the same app.
• Digital training: For global organizations, in-person training sessions give corporate leaders little insight into hourly employees’ performance. What’s worse, different locations may rely on disparate, potentially outdated training materials that can’t be updated easily. Employee engagement platforms flip the script, letting employers replace training binders with interactive quizzes, videos and other digestible forms of content staff can review from any device, anywhere. This approach standardizes associates’ learning materials across locations, and helps head offices identify top performers and see if associates are understanding and learning information about new campaigns. A companywide platform gives top leadership a forum for recognizing individual employee or store achievements, which in turn boosts morale and associate loyalty.
• Task management: Employee engagement platforms can also help hourly associates stay on-task, ensuring specific campaigns are carried out uniformly regardless of a store’s postal code. Imagine, for example, a retailer that rolls out a new pricing promotion. Staff would automatically be informed, quickly trained and then assigned tasks for making changes within the store to support the promotional campaign including taking pictures of their work. This not only helps store managers monitor staff progress, but also lets corporate offices maintain campaign consistency throughout their organization. As a result, customers are more likely to receive the same experience whether they’re in Portland or Paris.
The larger and more distributed your workforce, the more important it is for corporate offices to effectively communicate with employees of all ranks. Doing it right will ensure you have an engaged workforce that will lead to lower turnover, increased loyalty, and enhanced customer service. The right internal technology makes the distance less of a challenge, creating a united front of engaged, informed staff.