How to Communicate With the Retail Employee

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As I have reiterated time and time again, the retail employee is servicing the customers and  selling your products. This is what we want them to do and hired them to do! We did not hire them to sit in front of a computer and read emails all day. And, because of this it is often difficult to communicate with those employees.

After having joined the retail industry from a company where everyone WAS reading emails all day, it was a real wake up call. I remember trying to figure out how the heck I would communicate new policies and processes to the masses. Group emails are just sooo easy to write up and push send! Within a few weeks of starting with the company I made a huge mistake by changing a company policy and emailing all of the managers about the changes that would be affecting them in the future. This turned into a huge uproar! Not only was I only able to reach a few of the managers by email but I neglected to think about how they were accustomed to receiving this sort of communication. Mind you this is a company of maybe 300 employees at that time and probably only 35 people had company email addresses. PS – This was only 3 years ago! This situation taught me I have to figure out ways to communicate with the employees and managers in a retail environment.

Over the years we have tried a few things which have worked and we still use today. Here’s a few that have passed the test.

Meetings – be a real live person

I know, I know we all hate attending meetings and so many of them are so unproductive but this is definitely necessary to engage with employees face-to-face. A few years ago we needed to do a mass revision of the job descriptions for every position in the company. Yay! We all know how much work this is. Well, instead of sending out a bunch of emails and asking people to make edits, we had meetings with each functional area. We included all levels of people within the company. People who were in the position, people who managed those positions, people who managed the categories, etc. They all provided input and HR managed the process. It was an awesome collaboration and people were so excited to be involved.

The trickle down effect is a good tactic too and can often work well for a simple implementation. I have found it doesn’t work well with complex policies where it’s really important for employees to hear it “from the horses mouth”. Management is expected to meet with their direct reports twice a month and then those supervisors are expected to meet with their staff. Ideally the information I share with the senior leaders makes it way down the organizational chart. Sometime it just works better to make a trip to the other locations and present the new material yourself. This ensures the recipients hear the message with the tone you intend you can address any questions or concerns immediately. Then after a few weeks have passed with the managers using the new program, go back out and check in with them to see whats working and whats not working.

Paper – Old School

I know this is going to sound really old fashioned but it still works. The company I work for still delivers a paycheck or check stub to every employee. Once a month the HR office with the contribution from all areas of the company publish a flyer, which is attached to a paycheck. It has upcoming important dates, new hires, people who transferred, fun facts, employees birthdays that month (up until a few weeks ago), and any other important information we want every employee to know about. At the bottom of the flyer is a simple quiz about the information in the flyer the employee can complete and earn an incentive the equivalent to $1. Employees can earn these incentives in a variety of ways in their jobs and save them to buy things at our Employee Store. In this day and age where everything is digital, it’s sometime fun to keep things old school and simple.

Digital Communication – New School

This can be in a number of forms: Intranet, a smart phone app (if your company is large enough), Facebook, Twitter, emails, TV screens in break rooms, employee/manager portals, etc. Again, my company is on the slower track with this sort of thing. But recently we added flat panel displays in all of our employee break rooms. Now a days TV’s are everywhere. I have noticed recently that there are TV’s in most restaurants, you used to only see them in sports bars. We update the TV’s every other week with similar information to what we put on the flyers. Implementing a new policy or process, announcements, new hires joining that location, who to contact with various concerns, fun factoids, are all great things that you need to communicate with the masses. The TV’s have really helped reiterate information that we are communicating through a few different channels.

These are just a few tactics that have worked well for us in a non-techie world.

What has worked well for communicating with the masses in your company?

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