7 Tips and Strategies for Effective Employee Communication in Retail
When done right, communication has the ability to inspire, inform and encourage store teams to collaborate to do their best work. But according to Gallup research, only 13% of employees believe that their leaders effectively communicate with the entire organization.
This communication gap is also highlighted by the disparity between employers and their employees when it comes to issues like job training, scheduling, and employee recognition. For example, the Workforce Experience Gap found that 98 percent of employers felt that they provided adequate job training, but only 66 percent of employees felt the same.
So, to make sure that your team is on the same page, we’ve compiled a list of tips and strategies that can help every employee at your company get up to speed and effectively communicate with one another.
But First, What Does Effective Communication in Retail Look Like?
Everyone communicates differently. But there are some transferable skills to keep in mind that always help to deliver messages clearly and effectively. Consulting firm Deloitte suggests honing the following skills:
- Active listening
So, whether you’re part of an HQ comms team or work in-store, with these skills under your belt, you’ll be able to apply your communication skills to any messaging, audience, or situation within your organization.
So let’s get to it!
7 Tips and Strategies for Effective Internal Communication in Retail
#1. Use Internal Retail Communication Software
Software is the best way to consolidate all of your communication needs. It allows managers and employees to have access to important documents, best practices, emergency policies, training modules, and visual merchandising guidelines all in one place.
A solution like WorkForce Experience can help your team stay on top of daily store operations by assigning duties and clear expectations to individual employees. Once completed, employees can message or send photos to their manager for feedback and approval. This eliminates the need for constantly updating paper checklists or spreadsheets, and ensures everyone knows what needs to get done.
Plus, instant messaging features allow all staff members to be in touch with each other whenever needed. In addition to one-on-one and large group conversations, regional managers can send out messages to specific stores (i.e., only those in eastern time zones), store managers can contact a select group of associates (i.e., only people that work until close on Thursdays), and associates can message their peers or their superiors to ask questions and clarify information.
“People working in the stores feel like they have a voice and a platform to share their thoughts and be heard,” WorkForce Software customer Kurt Geiger’s Retail Operations Manager, Alice Millichamp, says. “There’s lots of interaction and camaraderie on the platform—even our retail director will regularly like and comment on posts.”
#2. Keep Messaging Clear and On Brand
Whether you’re communicating information, directions, or team objectives, it’s important to keep messaging clear and consistent with your brand.
Internal announcements and company updates should strike the same tone and personality, and align with the brand image that associates share with customers. Logos, store colors, and brand fonts should be included in the design of all communications — like emails, posters, social media posts, presentations, documents, any official reports or staff evaluations, and internal posts. Messaging should be quick to read and easy to understand, so store teams can get back to work quickly.
Run all official messages through a communications specialist or team who can check to avoid conflicting messages or misinformation circulating and ensure that there aren’t any HR or legal red flags. And remember: it’s okay to have fun with internal communications, but never at the expense of professionalism. (So, go easy on the emojis!)
#3. Allow Employees to Use Personal Smartphones and Devices
Once you have retail communication software in place, consider making it available to your employees any time they’re on the sales floor by implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.
The majority of millennial and Gen Z workers are adept smartphone users, so minimal training with mobile devices and retail communication software would be required for younger, digitally savvy associates. For those who don’t have their own devices or don’t want to use their own at work, make a few phones or tablets available for use in-store.
This way, all of the information you have stored with your software is available to employees at the touch of a screen, and they don’t need to leave customers on the sales floor to look up product information or promotions. If checkout lines are starting to form or multiple customers have questions, associates can easily message another co-worker to help out without having to track them down in-person or page them over a storewide PA system.
#4. Incorporate Video Into Your Messaging
Video has long been incorporated into retail training sessions, and interactive videos with pop-up resource links or embedded quizzes can keep employees engaged throughout the onboarding, learning, and reskilling processes.
But it’s never been easier to record and share video messages, so why not include them in other ways? After all, a 2019 report from Kaltura found that 69% of employees would rather learn from a video than a written document.
Make videos part of your internal strategy for effective communication in retail.
Virtual town halls and meet-and-greets can be a great way to connect employees across large national or international retailers and can lead to useful discussions and ideas that would have otherwise never reached certain stores or employees.
Quick video updates from CEOs or regional managers that aren’t always able to be on-site can be included in newsletters, email memos, or shared through a retail communication platform like WorkForce Experience to put a human face to higher-ups in the organization.
Video is also a valuable medium when it comes to visual merchandising and day-to-day store operations. The head office can send stores video clips of what displays and floor layouts should look like, managers can record walkthroughs to send to superiors (saving time on travel and in-person store audits), and staff can up their product knowledge with demo videos from the stores’ buyers or brand reps.
#5. Foster Two-Way Communication
While it’s important for retail leaders to communicate decisions and company mandates to associates, it’s also crucial that associates have direct access to their managers and higher-ups.
Two-way communication is based on the premise that once a sender’s message has been received, the receiver is able to deliver feedback to the sender. It can be either horizontal (between two people of the same rank or position) or vertical (between higher and lower-level employees). In retail, that’s not always possible when you’re stuck using an intranet, company portal, or email.
Again, that’s where retail communication software can help. Two-way communication allows store associates to communicate with their managers, regional managers, and head office, making them able to clarify information, ask questions, and voice concerns in a timely manner.
#6. Listen to Associate Feedback
Once you’ve established two-way communication, analyze employee feedback and respond in a meaningful way. In addition to gaining the trust of your employees, hearing out their concerns and taking steps to address them will allow you to help them overcome obstacles before they have a negative impact on performance.
Take, for example, an employee at an electronics shop who approaches their manager, and explains that the phones and phone accessories are organized inefficiently and requires them to send their customers to different sections of the store. They ask for permission to rearrange products and cross merchandise so that it’s easier to bundle phone accessories with the purchase of a phone.
The employee is the one most familiar with the set-up and sales process, so the manager or head office decision-maker should take their experience into account and allow for adjustments. By listening to the employee’s concerns, allowing them to move products around (even if just on a trial basis), their quality of work may improve significantly. This would lead to happier customers and fewer issues down the road.
“The internal feedback from our employees has been overwhelmingly positive,” says WorkForce Software customer Converse’s Retail Director for Global Partner Markets, Thiago Rigo. “Employees love the mobile app and the improved visibility to their schedules, and managers can create their rotas much more quickly and make sure they have the right people staffed at the right time.”
By communicating with in-store employees, you can prevent problems before they occur, which makes things better for everyone — management, the employee, and the customer.
#7. Be Transparent
Finally, be transparent in your communication with employees. Explain to them how the communication system works, how decisions are made on your end, and what you’re doing to fix any problems.
It’s also crucial to be honest when you don’t have all the answers. Admitting that you don’t know something is always better than making something up or simply withholding a response. Assure your employees that when you don’t know the answer to their questions that you will find out by doing research or contacting an expert who does have the answers.
Give them realistic timelines for when you will be able to get back to them with information, and update employees as often as necessary — they’ll understand if you don’t have all the answers immediately.
Effective communication in retail goes a long way to building trust and bettering internal communication between all levels of retail staff. When employees feel like a valued member of the team because their voice is heard, it builds a bond between an employee and their employer. This makes them want to stay with the organization, and in turn, boosts employee retention.
Follow these tips, and your retail team will be well on their way to mastering effective internal communication. In turn, you’ll see increased productivity and engagement, which benefits everyone, including the customer.
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