Found in the Book of Genesis, the story of the Tower of Babel, tells how the people of the world once spoke the same language. They worked together to build a tower that would reach the heavens. Just like with a communication breakdown in retail, God saw their ambition as unappreciative and disorganized their language so that they could no longer understand each other, so the tower was never completed.
This ancient tale resonates with many modern situations where communication breakdowns lead to misunderstandings, conflict, or missed training opportunities. In the retail industry, where businesses rely on effective training and communication to run smoothly and stay competitive, the lack of direct channels between headquarters, line managers, and branch employees can lead to significant problems.
One of the main issues research has shown is the difficulty of providing information or news to front-line employees. More importantly, training these deskless workers, who make up the majority of the retail workforce. These particular team members, who do not have a fixed workstation and spend most of their time on their feet, often feel disconnected from the rest of the organization. They may have limited opportunities to develop their skills or communicate their feedback to management.
Moreover, often front line-managers feel burnt out with having to keep on top of employee training or multiple product updates. Sometimes they may not have the necessary technological tools to follow up and track data.
As a result, retailers may miss out on valuable, knowledgeable team members, that would help improve their sales or customer experience. Employees could also miss out on career advancement or skills development. For example, a stockroom worker may have multiple health and safety regulations to comply with which may need refreshing or updating regularly. Or a new sale or product could be coming onto the market and be required to inform the whole team in many different franchises. A communication breakdown in retail occurs since without the necessary tools to communicate, train and develop, all this information simply gets lost and the team members are left feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated.
Furthermore, when deskless employees do not feel valued they may become disengaged, leading to higher turnover, low morale, and poor performance. This can be particularly damaging for retailers, who rely on frontline employees to deliver the brand promise and create memorable customer experiences. With a more robust ability to monitor feedback and track training data, the frontline employees feel a closer connection to the product and decision-makers, ultimately developing a stronger passion to drive sales.
When retailers decide to prioritize development, communication, and feedback, they foster a culture of collaboration, innovation, and continuous learning. By leveraging technology tools such as mobile apps, training platforms, or surveys, (or an all-in-one platform like Enabley which can do it all) retailers can create channels for two-way communication and enable employees to learn or develop their skills and contribute feedback in real time.
For example, a retailer could use a learning platform to share updates and training materials with deskless employees, and encourage them to respond with their own questions, comments, or suggestions. The platform could include gamification elements to incentivize participation and recognize outstanding efforts and contributions.
Retailers can additionally use data analytics and artificial intelligence to analyze training data and identify patterns or opportunities for improvement. This will also help retailers make data-driven decisions that align with the needs and preferences of their customers and employees.
So while the Tower of Babel story reminds us of the importance of communication and understanding in any organization, by breaking down language barriers and creating channels for feedback and collaboration, retailers can overcome communication challenges and unlock the potential of their deskless workforce. By doing so, they can build a tower of excellence that reaches the sky.