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As Retail Transforms, Employee Engagement Is More Important Than Ever

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The retail industry is going through a tectonic shift as online shopping continues to grow. Although this shift is not the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores as once predicted, online shopping has introduced new demands for in-store experiences. At the center of these new demands is the front line associate, who is most responsible for ensuring consumers have a positive, differentiated shopping experience. The challenge for retailers, then, is how to best inform, retain and engage the front line associate.

Fortunately, employee engagement tools are rising to the challenge.

Let's start with the benefit of the in-store experience.

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With a centrally managed employee engagement tool, retailers can educate sales associates to transition from sales enablers to personal consultants and provide a personalized real-time experience shoppers can't get online. The right training now represents a significant value add for brick and mortar stores over their online counterparts.

The next demand facing retailers  is reducing employee turnover. With the expertise of associates as a key reason shoppers come into a store instead of shopping online, turnover is highly detrimental. With major brands experiencing 50-60% sales associate turnover, store operations and HR leaders are eager to find ways to foster engagement and loyalty among team members. Again, employee engagement tools like Breakroom TV help keep employees invested in the store. 

Thirdly, centrally managed employee engagement tools help support the implementation of new marketing and sales strategies. In order to show revenue growth, retail stores must adjust the product mix and develop new sales strategies and marketing programs. Experts at corporate offices study customer preferences, research new products and investigate new, and creative ways to gain market share. With an employee engagement solution, retailers have a way to quickly disseminate all necessary information for seamless implementation.

As retailers examine how to best support the front line associate, they must think carefully about employee engagement. This important tool is usually assumed to be covered by corporate communications, but it is a separate and different communication segment that is now mission critical.

For example, industry proven capabilities are available to help organizations communicate with the front line in real time. The time from boardroom to showroom can be minutes. When a decision is made, the information can be relayed to the stores immediately with live communication or within minutes with recorded communications. This speed in deployment can be an immense competitive advantage.

In addition to the importance of having an employee communication strategy for the modern retail environment, the method of execution matters just as much. The importance of video usage for employee communication cannot be stressed enough. Industry research finds viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.

Record your executives, your leaders and your subject matter experts talking about the programs, the incentives and the reasons why things are being done. Let them see and hear the passion and commitment in the voices of their leaders. This will be 21st century employee communications and will go a long way toward building your brand and meeting your goals.

No, the online revolution hasn't killed brick-and-mortar stores, but it has put front line associates front and center in the competition for consumer spend. The next question is who well best prepare their staff. The answer starts with employee engagement.

Mike Tippets

Mike Tippets is the Vice President for Enterprise Marketing & Organizational Development at Hughes. He leads a team that helps multi-site businesses engage, communicate, grow and make The Right Connection with their staff and their customers.