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Since the onset of e-commerce and its impact on consumer shopping habits, the retail landscape has seen significant change. That transition accelerated due to COVID-19. As more retailers reopen their doors and settle into a new normal, they will find that using employee forums to communicate and gauge sentiment will become extremely valuable.

Employee forums operate much like a town hall or employee meeting. Everyone has a voice to provide feedback, swap stories, or present new ideas. Retail leaders can harness the power of online forums to keep employees more engaged and productive on a daily basis through their mobile phones. 

But it's a slippery slope. Providing a voice for every employee can blur the lines of communication. If not monitored, it can lead to increased negative employee feedback. On the flipside, providing this platform for retail employees can enhance the overall culture of a company. 

Ultimate Guide to Training Retail Employees

Pros of Employee Forums 

Communication

Retailers are in the business of selling. But that isn’t easy to do unless their employees are committed to the cause. Research shows good internal communication with frontline retail employees is essential to delivering excellent customer experiences. And customer experiences are what 81% of companies say they plan to focus their attention on. By communicating information such as sales programs, marketing campaigns, or brand values, retailers are putting their employees in the best position to succeed when interacting with a customer. Communicating these things well cultivates confident and knowledgeable store advocates. 

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Idea sharing

Employees want to feel engaged and valued in the workplace. Companies with a highly-engaged workforce are 21% more profitable, a substantial revenue difference for national retailers with hundreds or thousands of hourly employees. To engage and motivate, retailers can implement employee forums as an idea-sharing platform.

Nestlé utilizes InGenius, its employee innovation accelerator, to generate ideas from retail employees. InGenius empowers Nestlé employees to innovate in various areas such as marketing, research, design, supply chain, etc. InGenius has generated over 6,000 new ideas globally from 63,000 employees. If an idea generates enough interest, employees have an opportunity to pitch it to executives and receive seed money to pursue it further.

Cons of Forums

Miscommunication

Giving your employees a voice to be heard is great until there are too many communication lines. The old saying "too many cooks in the kitchen" applies here. If idea submissions go unchecked, some employees may implement policies without a green light from management. Forums should be moderated and discussions facilitated properly to avoid miscommunication. Communication breakdowns can result in 18% fewer sales.

Management Lines and Security

Empowering employees can lead to great things, but structure is required. Communicated timelines for when ideas and feedback are accepted are necessary. Management should keep in mind that the more people who know about a sensitive project or idea, the greater the risk of leaking details. 

Gamification Tips for Better Employee Engagement

Retailers Utilizing Forums 

As front line workers, retail employees interact and engage with customers most frequently. They pick up on consumer habits such as spending or what type of merchandising works best. Sharing this information helps management make decisions. In addition, employees who feel their opinions matter are 4.6x more likely to feel empowered and perform better work. 

By utilizing forums, retailers can ask for feedback -- good or bad -- and constructively use that information. When management acknowledges input, it makes employees feel like they are an essential part of the process. And management benefits by learning from one of their most important assets. 85% of employees feel the most motivated when they are treated this way, and in an up and down retail market, motivated employees are invaluable. 

SellPro's platform uses smart engagement techniques and rewards to pull employees in and learn through forums, original games, concise vendor-sponsored training, and more -- all from their mobile phones. Training modules are brief, fun, and can be done during downtime on the sales floor. Click below to learn more.

Engage your retail employees

Additional Resources:

Post-Lockdown Game Plan: Bringing Retail Employees Back to Work
Gamification Tips for Better Retail Employee Engagement
Training Millennial & Gen Z Staff to be Retail Store Advocates