As social distancing rules continue to be lifted, brands are experiencing the initial phases of recovery and opening their doors across the country. With customers starting to experience the “new normal”, it is clear that frontline associates are playing a more critical role than ever before, especially when it comes to educating customers on how to navigate the new in-location experience.

Experience-driven brands, including retailers, restaurants, and hotels, are being tasked with educating their entire workforce—existing, returning, and new. With government regulations, plus new operating procedures, they need to ensure employee and customer safety and satisfaction. The brands that will succeed in this new environment are those that are able to develop communication strategies that cater to the unique needs of these different employee groups while also inspiring them to exceed expectations. In doing so, brands can not only expect to successfully activate their workforce but also benefit from increased levels of performance across teams.

Multi-unit brands can start by providing associates with the information, inspiration, and insights they need to succeed under new market conditions. The strategies below outline ways brands can activate their workforce through accelerating frontline performance during location reopening and beyond.

1) Accelerate onboarding and recruitment

The speed at which your organization recruits and onboards associates during the initial phases of reopening will be paramount to long-term success. Brands that keep the lines of communication open with furloughed employees, ensuring they are engaged and connected to the brand, will be able to rapidly integrate waves of returning staff, in alignment with reopening schedules. Also, as operations continue to scale-up, brands will need to quickly hire new staff which they can prepare for by enabling returning associates to refer top talent from their own networks.

An effective re-onboarding campaign will ensure that returning associates have the information needed to get up to speed on new protocols and operating procedures. For example, with Nudge, brands are able to recognize and greet associates with a “Welcome Back” digital badge. This not only creates a welcoming atmosphere but also kick-starts a series of automatic, bite-sized communications that inform staff on operational changes and reinforces new behaviors.

For many, it is unclear who among the furloughed staff will be returning to work, so now is a good time to turn to your associates to boost recruitment. By tapping into employee networks, brands can rapidly scale their teams to access potential hires that may be great additions to the talent pool.

2) Ensure consistent execution

As business operations return to a “new normal”, brands will need to ensure alignment across the frontline more than ever before, especially during phased reopening plans. For most organizations, frontline managers will be the first employees to return to physical locations and will likely take the lead on inspiring associates as they come onboard. During this time of transition, headquarters will need to ensure frontline managers are equipped with the right tools to streamline operations and effectively reinforce new practices to meet expectations.

With team-based task management tools, frontline managers can align their teams by providing associates with a clear understanding of operational expectations. Rather than assigning tasks from headquarters, organizations can empower frontline managers to drive execution by creating and monitoring tasks for each location they oversee. By quickly informing associates of best practices surrounding new policies, frontline managers can play a central role in meeting heightened customer expectations and maintaining a competitive edge.

3) Increase brand alignment

Finally, as operations continue to fine-tune over the short term, brands cannot lose sight of the brand-employee connection. This connection will be a driving force behind the new in-location experience and a key motivator for associates to meet heightened customer expectations. Aligning employees to your brand, while fostering a sense of community, will be imperative after a significant time of disconnect. As employees return to work, organizations can empower employees to become brand ambassadors by reinforcing their mission, vision, and values, also creating alignment across teams.

With the goal of fostering passionate brand advocates that create differentiated experiences in-store, brands should plan to continuously communicate how associates can succeed in creating memorable moments in the customer journey. Using open-forum communication channels, brands can take things a step further by also creating a culture of feedback and gathering ideas directly from the frontline on what can be done to improve the customer experience. Associate-facing technology can be especially helpful when it comes to furthering the brand experience, giving employees an outlet to discuss tips, tricks, and best practices from their own experiences, which can be shared amongst locations.

By successfully implementing strategies that support recruitment, onboarding, execution, and brand alignment as part of their reopening plans, retail, restaurant, and hospitality brands can expect to gain a competitive edge by successfully activating their frontline workforce. To see these strategies in action, watch our 45-minute on-demand webinar with Marc Galloway, VP of Store Operations at Soft Surroundings.