6 Steps Grocers Can Take to Empower Their Frontline Workers With Technology
E-commerce in the grocery industry was already climbing in the past few years, with 23 percent of U.S. households shopping for groceries online in 2017.
Today, however, a growing number of households have picked up the online grocery habit throughout COVID-19, with 43 percent saying they’re likely to continue with this even after the pandemic ends. As the country continues to rely on e-commerce within the grocery industry, what are retailers and industry professionals doing to adequately equip frontline workers?
Many key players in retail mapped out aggressive digital transformation plans in 2020, and it’s time for grocery retailers to do the same. This requires prioritizing frontline workers and giving them the tools they need to succeed (beyond bonuses or temporary hazard pay). A successful digital transformation requires the right blend of technology that ensures a strong frontline communication strategy and connects workers with relevant digital tools. This allows companies to streamline operations and build lasting loyalty.
In the Grocery Industry, E-Commerce Requires Digital Agility
According to some, “adapt” was 2020’s word of the year. It’s easy to see why, as many industries were forced to pivot some operations entirely at the beginning of the pandemic.
Adaptation requires more than shifting processes temporarily, however. The world has lived in crisis mode for a year now, and this has highlighted areas where grocers could invest in resources that ensure agility — a critical component of successful adaptation in such a dynamic market environment.
So how do grocers ensure agility? By hiring high-quality store associates and empowering them with technology. If grocers fail to train employees on the proper technologies or cause breakdowns in frontline communications by not providing these tools, they risk high turnover, inefficient operations, and lower profits.
A mobile-first collaboration and productivity platform is one of the most effective ways to digitally enable a grocery store’s staff. Every worker should have access to a secure, cloud-based app that they can download to their phones because it’s the most direct way to connect them in real time. Unsurprisingly, 96 percent of younger workers in the U.S. already use smartphones, meaning a powerful tool that could keep them in the loop is already in their pockets.
6 Strategies to Digitally Enable Frontline Workers
The best internal communication strategies fully connect the workforce, centralize communication and processes, and allow workers to adapt to changing circumstances and improve workflows.
Besides this, they also create natural brand ambassadors. Frontline associates often engage with customers as soon as they enter the store, and they need the right morale boosting to deliver better, more consistent customer service. Now more than ever, customers want a safe, efficient shopping experience. And the more a worker knows about the store’s operations and can keep themselves in the know with safety requirements, the better the customer experience will be. In this way, streamlined communication strategies are a win-win for customers and workers alike.
Grocery industry leaders can look to these steps during their journey toward digitally enabling their frontline workforce:
- Facilitate two-way communication. Frontline employees often work in isolation. With a mobile productivity tool, however, they can connect and collaborate with one another to resolve problems, share information, and create a seamless flow of real-time conversation. Plus, communicating with colleagues often boosts morale, which can enhance performance. As a bonus, try using the same channel to digitize your paper-based processes. For example, a notice you might traditionally place on a bulletin board might be more “sticky” if sent through a mobile app.
- Simplify access to relevant content. We’ve found that frontline workers waste an average of three hours every week simply looking for information they need, but a mobile app creates a channel for them to access information and tools that help them with their daily tasks. Any platform you adopt should include a document library where managers and moderators can digitize and store information all in one place for employee access.
- Aim for an integrated platform. Be sure to integrate your platform with existing systems and processes. Don’t overload staff with one app for each use case. Instead, establish an integrated platform that contains all relevant information and tools. Again, the goal is to streamline work, not make it more difficult.
- Prioritize employee experience. Many existing solutions already offer some kind of mobile interface. However, only a solution that’s built with the needs of frontline employees in mind will allow you to keep your training efforts to a minimum and free up management’s time.
- Create a flexible workplace. Store associates often find their weekly schedules and updates tacked on a bulletin board. With mobile apps, however, they can access those hours quickly and adjust them if necessary. Technologies you use to integrate the workforce should allow frontline managers to share personalized schedules with every employee. Likewise, employees should be able to request changes, swap shifts, and update their availability in one place.
- Aim for data-driven leadership. When frontline workers contribute to overall communication within your organization and feel they can freely share their thoughts, your leaders can gain incredibly valuable insight into business operations. Once your communications are down pat, solicit employee feedback via tools like engagement analytics or pulse surveys. This enables leaders to make data-driven decisions that accurately reflect the needs of their workforce and their customers.
A company with a digitally enabled workforce is more resilient. Why? Because any frontline workforce is not only more productive and empowered with the right information, but also able to react faster in a constantly changing environment.
Essential workers have shown great strength in these challenging times, and leaders should leverage mobile tools that grant them the support and connection they need. Improving frontline communications in the hopes of establishing a more effective internal communication strategy not only demonstrates care, but also prepares frontline workers for any uncertainties the future has in store.
Andreas Slotosch is the chief growth officer and co-founder of Beekeeper, the collaborative productivity suite for your frontline workforce.
Andreas Slotosch is the chief growth officer and co-founder of Beekeeper, the collaborative productivity suite for your frontline workforce. Beekeeper’s mobile platform brings communications and tools into one place to improve agility, productivity, and safety. Prior to his work at Beekeeper, Andreas played a role in founding various companies and events. Andreas specializes in frontline worker technology and entrepreneurship within the internet industry.