The benefits of communication run deep. Really deep.
Keeping your deskless and frontline workers well-informed and well-trained goes way beyond safety and execution – it impacts your bottom line in many more ways than you’d think. So, without further ado, let’s talk ROI.
Here are 7 benefits of communicating with your deskless employees.
1. Lower employee turnover
One of the most common challenges facing deskless and frontline organizations is employee turnover. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the retail and hospitality industries consistently have the highest “quit rate.” Depending on the industry, turnover rates can be as high as 300%. Yikes.
And it goes without saying that high turnover can take a huge chunk out of your profits. One estimate puts the cost of losing a single retail employee at over $3000, while this research found the cost of losing a hospitality worker is between $3,000 and $13,000.
There are several reasons frontline turnover is such an issue – and salary isn’t really top of the list. Frontline workers want a sense of purpose, clear information, and a company that listens – all of which has traditionally been lacking at frontline organizations, where communication can be somewhat of a broken telephone.
That lack of investment in the frontline employee experience is a mistake. In Harvard Business Review, Achyuta Adhvaryu, Teresa Molina, and Anant Nyshadham outlined their research on frontline worker turnover, where they found that being heard matters way more than wage hikes: “In a context where turnover is high and workers do not typically have many opportunities to communicate their concerns to management, providing workers with voice can be a simple yet powerful way to keep workers from quitting.”
2. Less workplace accidents
Financially – and this is really a no-brainer – there are a number of reasons why you want to avoid workplace accidents among your frontline workers. There’s the medical and administrative expenses, and loss of labor, of course, but according to the National Safety Council, there’s also time lost by workers indirectly involved; cost of time to investigate and report on injuries; damage to work property and vehicles; and overall productivity loss. The council estimates the cost of workplace injuries in the U.S. to be over $170 billion a year.
To put it another way, this study found that for every dollar an organization needs to spend on direct costs around workplace incidents (like the worker’s compensation claim), there’s another $2.12 spent on indirect costs (like work stoppages, fines, legal council, additional hires, and increased worker’s compensation premiums). However, the same study found that every dollar spent on improving workplace safety had an ROI of $4.41.
Enter employee communication. With a proper strategy in place (like bite-sized communications and quizzes sent straight to employees’ phones), safety training becomes an ongoing process that keeps deskless and frontline workers engaged and well-informed on protocols and daily tasks.
3. Higher profitability
Yes, deskless employee communication boosts engagement, but employee engagement isn’t just about happiness. Deskless workers armed with the right information are more engaged about their job – and more productive and profitable as a result. Gallup explains it best in their State of the American Worker report:
“Organizations falter in creating a culture of engagement when they solely approach engagement as an exercise in making their employees feel happy . . . Organizations have more success with engagement and improve business performance when they treat employees as stakeholders of their future and the company’s future. They put the focus on concrete performance management activities, such as clarifying work expectations, getting people what they need to do their work, providing development, and promoting positive coworker relationships.”
In other words? To make more money, you need to give your frontline workers the information they need to make you more money. Take Golf Town: when the Canadian golf retailer started using our communications platform to share critical corporate messaging directly with its associates, and keep them up-to-date on product information and employee training, they saw an 8% boost in conversion across stores.
4. Better CX and customer loyalty
Want happier customers and loyal guests? Of course you do. New customers are expensive, and repeat customers are more valuable. Back in 1990, Bain & Company startled executives by reporting that increasing customer retention rates by 5% could increase profits by 25% to 95% (HBR compared the numbers against e-commerce trends 10 years later with similar results). Today, the value of customer retention still can’t be overstated – and the cost of losing customers is a serious concern.
“Brands that take care of their people will retain top performers, which will retain customers,” explains Ekers. “The most important relationship that exists for profitability is how brands treat their employees. Customers are not desiring a transaction, they are desiring a human interaction.”
While some industries (we’re looking at you, retail) have moved into an omnichannel approach, where brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sites work in tandem to provide the best possible customer experience, it’s crucial the organizations ensure that their deskless and frontline workers are keeping up – and a proper communication strategy is the solution.
“Customers have access to so much information that they’re often walking into a location with more knowledge than an associate,” he says. “We as consumers have all experienced this. That is completely broken and causing a fundamental shift where brands are investing more in their people.”
5. Fewer costly mistakes…
Yes, mistakes can be learning experiences. But especially in industries like retail, food service, and hospitality, mistakes can have a huge impact on customer loyalty and revenue – not to mention workplace safety.
What makes it even more frustrating is how many mistakes are easily avoidable by standardizing tasks, and – you guessed it! – clearly communicating with your deskless workforce. That means sharing easily-digestible information and then finding ways to test retention and identify knowledge gaps on an ongoing basis. It also means leveraging upward feedback to hear directly from your frontline on what’s working – and what’s not – so you can keep processes as regulated as possible.
6. …and more valuable ideas
Speaking of upward feedback, one of the most profitable benefits of communication is that amazing ideas find their way from your workforce back up to head office – and to other locations. After all, if one location discovers an easy way to improve the customer or guest experience through a tweak in a display, or boosts sales through a simple upsell, wouldn’t you want the rest of the company to leverage that learning?
There’s another benefit to sharing great ideas – and that’s employee engagement. We’ve already established that employees want to be heard, and that line of communication can be particularly fragmented in deskless industries, where there’s often no way for employees to communicate with head office. But when you find ways to connect your frontline with head office, and offer ways for your various locations to communicate, share ideas, and voice concerns, you’re opening the door to way more great ideas and best practices.
7. Increased operational agility to change quickly
Never before has operational agility been so important to organizations; the ability to respond quickly to changing local, national, and global conditions means something a lot different than it did a couple years ago. And the role of employee communications has been a huge differentiator for companies looking to accelerate change to stay relevant (or even just open) during a crisis.
A perfect example of this is Mastermind Toys, a Canadian toy brand that entered the pandemic with an outdated ecommerce platform and no contactless curbside option. In five months, the company launched a brand-new digital platform, complete with one-hour curbside pickup, just in time for the Christmas rush. And a big component of accelerating that change was bringing the company’s frontline associates into the conversation using Nudge. Mastermind CEO Sarah Jordan explains:
“We wanted everyone to co-create with us. The biggest change is how empowered our front line feels to provide ideas and best practices, and it’s been game-changer for us. Like, there’s no new currency on recess, since recesses aren’t happening. And no one’s really doing extracurricular. And how are you trading Pokemon cards? All of these insights are coming from the stores, because the way we live has completely changed. It has been really impactful – that change of encouraging others to participate at all levels of the organization and really co-creating together.”
As we move into a post-pandemic reality, operational agility will remain just as crucial to organizations – because nothing will be the same again. Consumer behavior, travel boons…nothing can be predicted like before. So companies will need to stay nimble and adaptive to the changing world. And a well-informed workforce will be an integral piece of that puzzle.
The benefits of communication go far beyond these numbers and advantages. Giving your frontline workers the information and training they need to truly thrive will boost your business in more ways than we can count.