Employee Management and Engagement

How Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is Prioritizing Human Interaction

How Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is Prioritizing Human Interaction 764 458 Natalie Tatum

Kevin Johnson is the president and chief executive officer for Starbucks, passionately and proudly carrying on the Starbucks legacy of human connection in all of his initiatives as he leads over 330,000 Starbucks partners in more than 28,000 stores around the world. 

Since becoming the CEO in April of 2017, heightening human interaction beyond customer service has been at the forefront of Johnson’s projects, believing that shared experiences create common understandings, beliefs and languages. Because of this, those working at Starbucks are referred to as partners, not employees, citing that the term fosters a sense of equality and shared vision. 

At his featured Keynote at NRF 2020, Johnson said that “Starbucks has worked to create a special customer experience grounded in human connection” that “ comes together in a comfortable third place, a community different than home or work.” 

When asked about what inspires him to bring back human interaction in the height of commercial technology, Johnson mentioned his disdain of how this age of unparalleled digital connection has brought with it an age of unprecedented human disconnection.  

“While technology has done many wonderful things, it’s also changed behaviors in a way where people don’t interact with one another nearly as much, which is unhealthy and I think is contributing to a global epidemic of human loneliness. I realize that serving 100 million customers a week at Starbucks means we have at least that many opportunities to enhance human connections and perhaps create that sense of community and a place where people feel more connected face-to-face with other people.” 

This sense of community can be seen not only in traditional Starbucks stores, but in their specialty-focused stores for military families and deaf communities as well. The Starbucks Signing Store and Military Families Stores aim to provide a hyper-welcoming environment for all customers, with particular recognition and support of the local military and deaf communities in the cities the stores are found in. The Starbucks Signing Store is located in Washington D.C., while the Military Family Stores can be found in Austin and El Paso, Texas, Clarksville, Tennessee, Newport, Rhode Island, and Bedford, Massachusetts, all located in military camp and base communities. 

Johnson isn’t only encouraging the creation of micro-communities in stores to heighten customer experience. Starbucks Deep Brew is a technology initiative working on a broad suite of tools to elevate almost every aspect of the business, eventually helping to automate many aspects of the store life. Primarily, it will act as an invisible, super-smart sidekick to baristas to elevate the Starbucks experience for the customer. It can help with tracking inventory, supply chain logistics and replenishment orders, allowing partners extra time to focus on fostering meaningful interactions with customers. With more time dedicated to perfecting customer interactions, Starbucks can create micro-communities in every neighborhood that feel personalized and prioritized. 

Behind every aspect of Johnson’s hopes for Starbucks to headline customer service is his tried and true rapid cycle plan of bringing ideas to implementation in 100 days. Off the bat, Johnson saw the need to perfect new ideas and initiatives for 31,000 stores. Instead of focusing on mass implementation, Johnson recommended working on advancements in levels, measuring success by what you learned at each individual step along the way and perfecting initiatives in one store, learning from the process, and taking that expertise to the next store. 

Johnson’s drive and passion for creating a community can be seen from a mile away. His excitement strengthens Starbucks’ legacy of connection from president to partner and continues to pave the way for the future of technology’s role in human interaction.

How to Keep Your Employees Informed, Engaged, and On-Brand

How to Keep Your Employees Informed, Engaged, and On-Brand 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Employing part-time workers is a catch-22. Part-time employees work in the grocery industry (for now) because they don’t require a lot of experience or high wages. However, when your employees aren’t consistently in your store or tied to your company with a full-time position, it’s likely that they’re less informed, less engaged, and ingrained in your brand than they would be if they were full-time employees.

That’s an issue.

Customers expect to have a consistent A+ experience, no matter if the employee they’re interacting with is exempt or non-exempt. Shoppers simply want to know that they’re spending their money in a store that values them, one that employs people who are willing to go the extra mile to make them happy.

It’s up to you to ensure that your employees fit the bill. To do this, you need to keep your employees informed, engaged, and on-brand.


Keep employees informed

Employees need to know your store and your products inside and out to give your customers an expert experience each time they shop. Give them the confidence they need to do just that by providing weekly, monthly, or even quarterly video updates from your corporate office about the business. What’s new to your shelves? What initiatives are important to the company right now? Open it up for discussion and Q&A opportunities with your executives. Even your part-time employees will feel connected when they’re given the chance to transparently discuss company-wide goals and the strategies that you’re putting in place to accomplish them.


Keep employees engaged

Engagement is the next building block in employee success. Think of it this way: without the relevant information, employees will never be engaged. They need to understand what’s going on behind the scenes in order to want to give their job their all. So, this is the next step. Incentivize your employees to do an exceptional job by offering rewards to those who live up to your company values and deliver on the projects that they’re assigned to. Make their work day more than “just another shift” by holding internal contests. How many customers can your employees interact with? How many positive reviews can they attain from your shoppers? How few errors can they rack up during a store walk? All of these metrics and more can be used to keep your employees engaged in your business, and feeling like they’re a part of something bigger than just another shift in a grocery store.


Keep employees on-brand

Finally, once you have employees who are not only informed but also engaged, you can start to ensure that they’re on-brand. This is important to your overall strategy (not just your hiring strategy) because it provides your customers with a consistent experience. If your employees are on-brand, a customer can walk into any one of your stores and feel like it’s familiar.

To help your employees understand and maintain your brand, create in-store collateral around your core values. Hang these rallying words from banners on your ceiling or on posters in your break room. Periodically provide customer service scripts to your employees to show them how to talk about specific products or initiatives so everyone can align around a common message.


Keeping your employees informed, engaged, and on-brand is integral to the success of your business. Without these three building blocks, employees can become apathetic and you’ll have trouble retaining them. Implement the ideas mentioned in this post in order to build and maintain a workforce that is not only informed, engaged, and on-brand, but also just plain happy.

How to Train Your Staff to be In-Store Experts

How to Train Your Staff to be In-Store Experts 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Customer interaction is the single most important aspect of every grocery employees job. It’s one thing to be a great stocker or date checker, a detail-oriented cashier or excellent manager. However, if you can’t assist customers, answer their questions, or develop a connection with them, you’re not adding a lot of value to a grocery business.

That’s because grocery stores have been a community gathering place as long as they’ve existed. They’re the space where you bump into your neighbors as you’re each buying food for the tailgate later, or for your weekly shop. 

There’s a familial aspect to grocery stores that needs to be reflected in every aspect of your business – including your employees. As a rule, they need to be able to talk to your customers as if they are lifelong friends while maintaining a certain level of expertise about your store, your brand, and your products.

We’ve talked about that person-to-person interaction in the past, so today we’re going to cover the other side: developing your employees into in-store experts.


How to Train Your Staff to Be In-Store Experts

Empower employees

First and foremost, if you want your staff to become experts on your store you need to give them the ability to do so. If you have supervisors who are prone to micromanaging your associates, you’ll find that they never get the chance to learn from their mistakes because they’re never given the chance to learn from them. They never feel like they need to know the answers to customer questions, because their manager has all the answers.

You’re taking the wind out of their sails before they’ve even left port.

Give your employees responsibility right out of the gate by either letting them lead the way on a project or own a specific task day in and day out. Through that empowerment, they’ll develop the knowledge of your store’s operations and products that they’ll need to provide A+ customer experience.


Include education at every opportunity

In addition to giving employees on-the-job training, provide more traditional forms of education that they can sink their teeth into for extra knowledge. Set up daily tips and news alerts when they clock in at the beginning of their shift. Ask them to watch quick, digestible video trainings on new products, brand messaging, or corporate updates when they occur. Explain the reasons “why” behind their responsibilities so that they have context for why they should put extra effort into a task. When you empower employees to take on responsibility, and give them the education they need to do it successfully, you’re on your way to developing an in-store expert.


Teach staff how to build relationships with customers

Finally, being an expert means nothing if your employees aren’t relaying their knowledge to your customers. If you have an associate who is timid or reluctant to speak with customers freely, you can provide them with easy-to-use scripts to open a conversation, or work with them through role playing training so that they’re less nervous about speaking with your customers. Once they’re comfortable, they’ll have all of the tools they’ll need to be an in-store expert: customer connection, industry-specific knowledge, and the empowerment to take on whatever problem comes their way.

How to Foster Employees into Brand Ambassadors

How to Foster Employees into Brand Ambassadors 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

In the digital marketing space, brand ambassadors have become a must-have accessory. The media landscape that we’ve all become accustomed to is crowded, so much so that a single message from a company – even on a stage as big as the Super Bowl – doesn’t easily resonate with an audience. It’s not memorable. It’s not moving the needle.

Digital marketers seem to have found their secret sauce in brand ambassadors, those influential people online who can convince others to purchase the products and support the brands that they do. With these ambassadors on their side, they’re able to cut through the noise and convey a message to a specific target demographic without a Super Bowl-sized budget.

What makes them stand out in a crowd of advertising? They’re people

But we’ll get into that more later.

As a grocer, you may think that brand ambassadors aren’t in your wheelhouse. After all, influencers are chasing after big brands and products that can show off their clout. They wouldn’t want to be an ambassador for a grocery store?

Would they?

And, even if they did, would it really have an impact on your business? How would having an influential person spreading the word about your store bring in more customers and more revenue?

I think you just answered your own question.

Let’s get into the details.


What is a Brand Ambassador?

A brand ambassador is someone who is paid to showcase a product or service to their network, digital or otherwise, in the hopes that their influence will inspire a group of people to purchase the product or service.

The term is thrown around a bit loosely when it comes to marketing, but the above definition gives a more specific answer to the question, “What is a brand ambassador?”

One common misconception is that a brand ambassador has to be someone who does their work digitally, through social media. We hold a strong belief that an individual who has a wide, connected network that is invested in their opinion will do just as well as a brand ambassador as someone who has hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of followers. A brand ambassador who can bring up your brand organically at a cocktail party, at an event that they’re hosting, or casually in the drive through at the local fast food restaurant is probably more convincing than a celebrity spokesperson anyway.


Why You Need Brand Ambassadors for Your Grocery Store

Now that you understand what a brand ambassador is, the logical question is, “Why do I need one?” 

Aren’t my in-store promotions enough to get people through the door? My weekly flyers? My digital ads or app notifications?

The truth is, that even those more sophisticated means of reaching your customers may not be working. People are inundated with thousands of messages every day, asking them to buy this, call this number, take action here. It can be incredibly overwhelming, and your litany of messaging could be adding to their mental exhaustion.

Brand ambassadors work in this media environment because they are people. (Remember when we talked about that in the beginning of this post?) Brand ambassadors aren’t hidden behind a company logo, anonymous copywriters, or editorial writers tasked with giving your press release a unique spin. Brand ambassadors are people, and people trust people.

Here are the cold hard facts:

It makes sense when you think about it logically. If you see a commercial for weed killer that tells you it kills 95% of weeds in your lawn, you may not be convinced. If your neighbor Joe is telling you about how the new weed killer that he’s been using in his garden has staved off weeds and essentially saved his tomato plants, you’ll probably be more inclined to remember that message.

Right now, your marketing team is probably spending the majority of their time (and budget) on corporate messaging. However, the research shows that your customers might only be seeing or hearing that message a small percentage of the time, and, even if they do, they don’t trust it as much as a recommendation from a friend or an influencer.

That’s why you need brand ambassadors for your store. Tapping into those personal relationships will help to convey your store’s message to your ideal customers in an authentic, organic way.


Why Employees are Your Best Brand Ambassadors

The key to an effective brand ambassador program for your grocery store is to tap the right ambassadors. As we mentioned above, it takes more than a brand ambassador with a large follower account to move the needle. In fact, it could be just the opposite.

Micro-influencers are hot right now across industries because of their highly engaged audiences. A micro-influencer is any digital influencer who has less than 10,000 fans and a high engagement rate (usually above 3%) on their content. 

For a grocer, this influencer might be right in your midst. They could be walking the aisles of your store on a daily basis, building relationships with customers right under your nose. They might be on your payroll.

That’s right – the best brand ambassadors for your company are your employees. These individuals likely already have social media accounts, and they’re most likely in the micro-influencer range when it comes to follower count.

Here’s why they’re so great as brand ambassadors for your store:

  • Your employees are in your brand each and every day. They understand your company’s mission, your tone, and the reasons behind why you do what you do. They have a deep knowledge of your products and services, and what makes you different in the grocery space. You won’t have to educate them on this information, as it would have already been covered in their corporate training.
  • As brand ambassadors, they would be genuinely authentic. Because they are already employed by your brand, it’s clear that they have an affinity for your company. They likely already shop there on a frequent basis, and it wouldn’t feel disingenuous for them to speak about your brand or post about it on their social media channels.
  • Finally, these employees as brand ambassadors could be found in your store on any given day. The average person who may follow them on social media, or know them within the community, will see them working in your local store, creating a quick association between your brand and a local, aspirational individual.

How to Choose Employees to be Brand Ambassadors

Just because employees are your best bet for effective brand ambassadors doesn’t mean that every employee is the right choice.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that you should choose your best employees to be your brand ambassadors. How you define “best” is up to you: from someone who excels in customer service to someone who exemplifies your brand values, you should choose the employee that will always put their best foot forward in the name of the company.

That’s the thing with brand ambassadorships. It’s impossible to “clock out” as a brand ambassador. Once you’ve given that title to one or more of your employees, they wear it constantly. Whether they’re actively working in your store, talking to people about your brand, or out for a night on the town, they are still known as your brand ambassador. Take that as a word of caution when you’re making your choice.

In addition to setting the right example, the individual or individuals that you choose must also have a presence in the community. It’s one thing if your best employee is someone who only works in the store and heads home for the night, and quite another for them to be socializing in their free time, networking, and building connections with your target customers in the community. Those employees that have a certain level of notoriety in your geographic area are the ones that you should choose as brand ambassadors.


How to Foster Employees into Brand Ambassadors

Find out what a brand ambassador is? Check.

Discover why you need them for your store? Yep.

Choose the right ambassadors? Done.

You’ve made it to the final piece of the puzzle: actually fostering those chosen employees into brand ambassadors.

It’s likely that this has already happened organically to some extent. People in your community are probably aware of who works at your store, and the subsequent association between that individual and your brand. If that individual already carries a certain level of influence, you may have had a brand ambassador working for you without even knowing it!

However, to make this initiative truly successful, you need to put a bit of effort into it. Here are our suggestions:

  • Provide your chosen brand ambassadors with resources that they can use to spread the message. Marketing toolkits, easy to photograph spaces in your stores, and opportunities to speak about your brand are great places to start. Make sure to let them know that it’s better if they use their own words instead of “corporate speak”. It will come off more genuine and drive better results.
  • Encourage your brand ambassadors to share their day-to-day activities, the work that they’re doing, or any news from your store either on social media or with their network through word of mouth. A post here and there during their shift won’t hurt you, and, in fact, it may help humanize you.
  • Offer rewards or a stipend to your brand ambassadors for their work. The best way to get great work is to incentivize those who are doing it with the things that motivate them most. Whether that is monetary, through physical prizes, or something a bit out of the box (event tickets, additional PTO, etc.), you’ll need to consider how you’re reimbursing your brand ambassadors for their time.

Are you already thinking about which of your employees could be a great brand ambassador? We look forward to seeing how you make this concept your own, and how you run with it in the grocery space.

How to Train Employees to Be Loss Prevention Advocates

How to Train Employees to Be Loss Prevention Advocates 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Loss prevention is a constant source of worry in the retail space – and therefore an incredible place to
innovate. The strategies that have long been associated with this department have grown a bit stagnant,
and it’s high time that grocers took a good hard look at their loss prevention mindset.

One strategy that we have seen work in the grocery space is training employees to be loss prevention
advocates. Instead of drilling mindless processes and fear tactics into employees in order to get them to
prevent theft and fraud, companies should place trust and responsibility in their employees to see real
results – and a happier team.

How to Train Employees to Be Loss Prevention Advocates

There are a few quick concepts that you can integrate into your traditional corporate training and
continuing education in order to turn employees into loss prevention advocates.

Teach employees to talk to people like they’re people

Sounds obvious, but the way that we teach employees to interact with customers (if we do at all) tends
to be very corporate and canned. In a way, it makes sense – we don’t want to put our businesses in
harm by letting employees respond in any way that they see fit – but, if we give our team the correct
resources and trust, we can create a culture of loss prevention advocates.

You see, loss prevention can be accomplished if customers feel that they like and trust your employees.
When employees speak to them in a way that is human and helpful, they create a connection with your
customers that will deter those with sticky fingers from following through with their intended action. No
need for forced language or uncomfortable procedures if your employees build a relationship with your

Explain the “why” behind your strategies

Employees need to buy into your loss prevention goals and strategies in order for them to work. For the
best results from this perspective, you need to make them feel purposeful. Explain why certain loss
prevention tactics work and others don’t, how small changes to their routine in your store could have a
major impact on LP, and how a comprehensive loss prevention plan can actually give your customers a
better experience. If you can tie a “why” to each of their responsibilities, you’ll find that there will be
less resistance to your LP strategies.

Discuss dollars and KPIs

Adding on to the previous point, employees like to feel like they’re a part of the larger company goal
and mission. They want to feel like the work they’re doing every day matters. Once you’ve explained the
“why” behind their responsibilities, get into the cold hard facts.

“We lose $XS,XXX dollars per month to loss. When we are completing every step of our loss prevention
plan, that number decreases to $X,XXX.”

“Our goal is to reduce theft by XX% in Q2. Here are the steps that our team is taking to make that

Keep track of those KPIs in your team break room, and reward team members who become loss
prevention advocates and make a significant impact on your goals.

Reframe loss prevention as asset protection

Finally, do away with the phrase “loss prevention” all together. If you really want your team to get on
board, spinning this set of responsibilities in a positive light (protecting your store instead of preventing
something bad from happening) will take the fear and pressure out of it for your employees.

The Grocery Industry and the Gig Economy

The Grocery Industry and the Gig Economy 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Whether you’re a New York Times subscriber, a cable news watcher, or the type of guy who gets their
news from social media, you’ve heard the term gig economy.

Business reporters can’t get enough of this buzzy phrase, as it brings to mind an image of a
revolutionized workforce, one that hasn’t changed much since unions enforced 40-hour work weeks and
institutionalized weekends off. They’re enamored by the power it holds not only for America’s capitalist
society, but for job growth and new industries.

The inherent ramifications have spawned hundreds of think pieces and startups alike. The gig economy
is taking over – even if it seems to be through a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As a grocer and employer, it’s imperative that you understand just what a gig economy looks like, and,
even better, what it means for your grocery stores and your workforce.

What is the Gig Economy?

The gig economy is a phrase used to describe a workforce that operates with short contracts or
freelance work as opposed to holding permanent positions.

In a gig economy, instead of having consistent employees on your payroll, you would outsource the
responsibilities you need accomplished to a company that provides specialized laborers, or hire
independent contractors to complete work on a contract basis.

This is the direction that our current economy is headed in. Harvard Business Review reported that 150
million workers in North American and Western Europe are currently engaged as independent

Even in the United States, the land of the American dream, the gig economy is exploding. It is estimated
that 34% of the workforce in the United States is part of the gig economy, and it is projected to include
43% of the workforce by the year 2020.

By this time next year, nearly half of the country’s workforce will be independently contracted.
In your head you might be thinking, well, the majority of those individuals probably work in fields that
make it simple to become an independent contractor: software development, design, copywriting,
skilled trades, etc.

However, the gig economy is not sequestered in one industry or specialization. It is affecting every
industry in our economy – even retail and grocery.

To examine the potential implications of a gig economy on the grocery industry, let’s first look at the
grocery industry workforce as it stands right now.


Current State of the Grocery Industry Workforce

Grocery, and retail in general, have an interesting dynamic when it comes to their employees, employing
both the youngest and oldest workers in the labor force.

⅓ of grocery store jobs are held by people between the ages of 16 and 24, a fact that hasn’t changed in
decades, when a job as a cashier or a stock boy was a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood.

However, the typical team at a grocery store is rounded out by more veteran employees, individuals
who have retired from their lifelong careers and are looking to make a bit of extra cash without a lot of

That’s another key differentiator for grocery store jobs: they’re part-time for the most part. Individuals
who work in the corporate space hold full-time positions, but on-the-ground retail employees typically
work staggered hours, allowing for opportunities to pick up extra shifts, but resulting in inconsistent and
frustrating scheduling experiences. In addition, the part-time nature of a grocery store job means that
employers aren’t required to provide benefits for these sales associates.

Grocery industry workers who work the register, stock shelves, and conduct other administrative tasks
often aren’t required to have experience before they’re hired. This makes a grocery store job a perfect
entrance into the workforce, but it also means that many hours are spent training new employees on
processes and systems that they may otherwise be familiar with. It also means that grocery store jobs
are usually considered entry-level, a stepping stone in a larger career path. Retention rates are lackluster
in retail and grocery.

Finally, entry-level grocery industry positions often pay at, or just above, minimum wage. Because
employees aren’t full-time, and the jobs don’t require a lot of previous experience, employees expect to
be paid at a lower level, and employers expect to hire people who won’t negotiate their wages. Labor
costs are low for grocery store owners, and this has largely affected the way the grocery industry
workforce has developed over time.

Pros and Cons of Gig Economy

The gig economy has huge implications for workers and employers, both positive and negative. Though
we are already on the path toward a nationwide gig economy, it’s still important to know and
understand why this labor market came to be, and how it could benefit, or detract from, your business.

For Employees:

The gig economy has been largely driven by employers who are in search of a simpler, less-strings-
attached market, but employees have jumped in wholeheartedly. The major benefit for employees is
the freedom and independence that they can experience from a gig economy compared to a
permanent, 9-5 position. Opportunities to work for companies like Uber, Wag, Jyve, and TaskRabbit let
workers work on their own time, when it fits into their schedule. This independence is particularly
appealing for members of a generation in which entrepreneurship is highly valued.

However, the gig economy does have some shortcomings for workers. Though they are given the
freedom to choose how and when they work, and they aren’t beholden to rigid corporate rules, they
lose out on the benefits of that corporate structure. Risk is moved from the employer to the employee
in the gig economy. Independent contractors aren’t given the same benefits as a full-time employee,
and so they are on their own in the healthcare market and when it comes to retirement planning.

For Employers:

There are some clear reasons why employers are interested in moving a gig economy forward, and
many of them are based in simple business best practices. Employers want to keep their overhead costs
low, and the gig economy would do just that. Grocery stores traditionally have low margins, so reducing
labor costs and expenses associated with providing benefits to employees would be beneficial to their
bottom line.

However, employers need to be aware that with the good comes a bit of bad. Employers may not have
to hire full-time employees, or even part-time employees to their payroll through a gig economy, but
this means that they’ll likely have to deal with employees who are less focused and engaged with their
company. When outsourcing tasks to independent contractors or companies like Jyve, grocers lose out
on the important connection that their employees must have with their stores, values, and culture in
order to provide an optimal customer experience.

Jyve + the Grocery Gig Economy

When it comes to the gig economy, you’re probably familiar with companies like Uber and TaskRabbit,
but neither of them quite align with the grocery industry. Does that mean grocers are being left out of
this labor revolution? Not quite.

Jyve is the biggest purveyor of gig economy workers to the grocery industry, matching workers with a
specific set of skills to employers who are looking to fulfill positions that require those skills. Jyve
workers cover tasks like merchandising, backroom stocking, ordering, auditing, and even digital
shopping so that your store can run smoothly.

As the leader in the grocery gig economy space, it’s important for you to be familiar with the jobs that
are available to workers through Jyve, and to determine whether or not dipping your toe into the gig
economy in this way would be beneficial for your business.

How the Gig Economy Affects Grocery

Let’s get down to brass tax. How exactly does the growing gig economy affect the grocery industry?
What consequences and benefits will you see from this shift in the way we work in the United States?

Loss of workers

First and foremost, the gig economy could cause you to lose some of your prized part-time workers. Gig
economy workers fit into a similar demographic as your current team: they’re looking for flexibility,
don’t necessarily need to be paid large amounts of money in one go, and they may not have as much
experience as a traditional independent contractor or employee. You may find that your workers are
more interested in the flexibility that they could attain by becoming a part of the gig economy through
companies like Lyft, starting their own independent contractor business, completing handyman tasks in
their neighborhood, or even walking dogs.

Need to hire gig economy workers

As labor markets change and your customers start demanding a higher level of customer experience and
engagement, you may need to hire gig economy workers to keep up with the times. Perhaps you are a
small independent grocer who is unable to implement large-scale technological change because of cost
or manpower discrepancies. However, you know that grocery delivery and e-commerce are becoming
integral to the grocery business, and to remain competitive you need to get on board. Hiring workers
through the gig economy could be a cost-effective way to jump on the trend without undergoing a
massive reconstruction of your operational systems.

Shut-in economy

Finally, the gig economy is not only affecting the way we work, it’s affecting the way we shop.
Customers who are members of the gig economy (and it’s a growing number) don’t get out and about as
often as individuals who work in a corporate structure. They are more likely to order the things they
need online. Because of this behavior change, you’ll need to consider other ways to get in front of your
customers as a grocer – both in marketing and through grocery delivery.

The labor market is changing, even for the grocery industry. Are you prepared for the ramifications of
the gig economy?

4 Tech Tools to Enhance Employee Experience

4 Tech Tools to Enhance Employee Experience 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Technology is no longer an option for grocers – it’s a requirement.

While we tend to think of technological advancements as opportunities to improve our business for our customers and subsequently generate more profit, as retailers we also need to consider the benefits of technology for our employees.

The retail workforce is changing, and keeping up with technology as an employer is imperative to attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry. Here are just a few tools that you can use to improve your employees’ experience with technology.


4 Tech Tools to Enhance Employee Experience

Remote Scheduling

Talk to any retail employee and you’ll soon discover that their biggest pain point has to do with their schedule. The majority of the retail workforce is part-time, which means their schedule fluctuates with the strength and business of the business. It’s not always clear to them how many hours they’ll be working even the week before the schedule is released.

This uncertainty puts a strain on your employees. By offering them the ability to view their schedule on a mobile device, you’re giving them freedom to consult their scheduled times and make plans farther into the future. Choose a system that allows them to switch shifts with their coworkers as well. This will alleviate a lot of the scheduling headaches that retail employees experience.


Digital Training and Continuing Education

Training sessions can eat up a lot of your employees’ time, and if you require them to come in outside of their normal shifts to complete it, you could be creating animosity amongst your team.

Technology tools like Brainshark that allow you to digitally train your employees and provide continuing education in bite-size, watch-when-you-want-to snippets make the experience far more seamless for your team. Skip the hassle of trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules for a group training – go the digital route instead.


Expiration Date Management Software

Let’s face it – your employees don’t like rotating and spot checking. It can be a tedious task, one that they might not fully understand the impact of. To them, it can feel like busy work with no real value, leading to inefficient and incomplete work.

By adding expiration date management software to your repertoire, you can give employees a satisfying way to complete the all-important task of checking dates. Using an app can gamify this routine, letting employees see how quickly they can check for expired products on your shelves and compare themselves to their teammates. With expiration date management software, checking dates is no longer a chore – it’s something that your employees will look forward to.


Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Employees are starting to demand BYOD policies in retail environments. They know that by utilizing a device that they’re familiar with, they’re better able to serve your customers in real-time. Though it can be nerve-wracking to allow your employees to carry their devices on the floor, there are definite benefits to BYOD including a lower internal tech spend and boosted management productivity.

Technology is not only a tool that improves customer experience, it can also improve the employee experience. Start with these four ideas for tech implementations in your store and reap the rewards.

How to Develop Successful BYOD Standards

How to Develop Successful BYOD Standards 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has its advocates and detractors in the grocery industry. Experts on either side argue over whether the benefits of having employees armed with digital knowledge centers outweigh the disadvantages of having a potentially distracted workforce.

The difference between these two outcomes lies in the standards that are set by the company surrounding BYOD. If an organization is able to follow a collaborative, open-minded process when creating and enforcing their policies for BYOD, they’ll be able to reap the benefits of this practice and gain employee buy-in.


How to Develop Successful BYOD Standards

Determine the tasks that employees can use devices for

Before putting pen to paper, it’s important to consider the reasons why you want to implement a BYOD policy in the first place. How will it benefit your employees, and your company processes specifically? What tasks will employees be able to accomplish once they have access to their devices? How do you expect your employees to use these mini computers on a daily basis?

Taking a comprehensive look at your ideal use cases for BYOD can inform the policies that you put in place to make them come to life. This step is integral to developing a successful BYOD standard in your grocery store. 


Work with employees to develop standards

Now that you have an idea of how BYOD could be used in your company, sit down with your staff and get deep into the details of what you’re thinking for your policy. That’s right – involving your employees in a transparent, open-minded conversation surrounding internal policies will not only result in protocols that are customized to your company, but also more buy-in from your staff.

Make your first meeting a brainstorming session to let employees air their excitement, their grievances, their ideas for why it could work, and their ideas for why BYOD won’t succeed. Ask them questions that reveal pain points in their current position, and work through ways that BYOD could help. Determine what motivates them, what distracts them, and what reward systems could be in place to keep them on track and focused on customer service.


Ask yourself a series of technical questions

Anecdotal and qualitative information is important to have during your standard development process, but next you’ll need to consider the technical aspects of BYOD.

What apps should be blocked based on your knowledge and the information you gathered from your employees? Will you offer a data reimbursement to employees who participate in BYOD? Do you need to build a separate network in your stores for your employees to have access to a quick, secure connection? Your policies should reflect your answers to these questions.


One-size does not fit all

Finally, before you skip the steps above and simply Google “great BYOD policies”, absorb this quick reminder that one size does not fit all when it comes to BYOD policies in grocery.

Every company is different, and sometimes attitudes toward the practice differ even on a store level. It’s impossible to find a set of standards on the internet that will fit your company and  culture without any adjustment.

Bring Your Own Device policies are becoming a persistent reality in the workplace, and it’s time to start thinking about whether or not your company should have one in place. If you believe that this technological assistance could be an advantage for your stores and your employees, use the information above to create a set of policies that you know will be successful.

How Your Workforce Will Change Over the Next Decade

How Your Workforce Will Change Over the Next Decade 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

If you’ve been in the grocery game for a while now, the hiring process probably doesn’t trip you up. You know exactly who you need to hire for specific positions, what traits and skills they should have, and generally how their personalities should align with the work at hand.

It’s all pretty standard at this point.

However, a seismic shift is on the horizon for the retail industry, particularly for grocers. Hiring for your stores will no longer be a one-size-fits-all process, and you’ll need to rethink the job descriptions that you’ve relied on for years, maybe even decades.

Consumers are starting to expect more from your store associates, cashiers, and managers. The way the world sees retail is different now – spurred on by incessant technological change and overwhelming choice in every market.

Your shoppers are going to rely on your employees heavily in the next decade. It’s your job to understand this trend and prepare your staff effectively.


The Current State of the Retail Workforce

The retail workforce is made up of a variety of professionals, but one demographic sticks out amongst the fray: young people.

 ⅓ of grocery store jobs are held by people between the ages of 16 and 24, perhaps because they don’t require a ton of experience, or perhaps because grocery stores have such a great reputation within the community that young adults flock to them for their first jobs.

Grocery stores in particular are filled with younger employees because the traditional positions hired by grocers are entry-level, including sales associates, cashiers, and stockers. These positions don’t require a lot of experience or an elevated skillset.

For that reason, grocers are used to hiring a large number of staff in order to keep their store running. Younger employees are often part-time, and take on less responsibility, so a staff roster at a grocery store can be extensive. Grocers need to make up for the lack of experience and a minimal skill set with more feet on the floor.

The pay level is another unique fact aspect of the retail and grocery industries. Outside of corporate offices, the pay is most suitable to a younger employee or a more mature team member who isn’t looking for a robust salary. Most in-store positions pay around minimum wage, which lines up with the responsibility and experience required for those traditional job descriptions. 

That all makes sense to you right? You probably weren’t surprised by any of the information that I just shared with you. It’s expected in your industry.

And it’s about to change.


How Your Workforce Will Change Over the Next Decade

Relying on a formula for hiring usually results in a business that fails to innovate or adapt to changing times in their industry. That’s the case when it comes to the current ways that grocers are hiring their staff.

Customers are starting to expect an elevated retail experience across the board, with employees who have the answers to all of their questions, understand the finer points of each product within your store, and have demonstrated skills in sales and customer service.

It’s likely that, to achieve that feat, you’ll need to adjust your team.

Going forward, grocers need to be aware of the changing ways in which customers view retail, and how they will need to change their current staff makeup in order to satisfy their shoppers.


Better-skilled staff

First and foremost, you’ll need to start hiring people who have a bit more experience than your average entry-level hire. Your customers want to interact with people who have been around the block, who understand how your store works and is merchandised, what products you’re carrying, and how to treat a shopper. 

Look for applicants who have previous retail or customer service experience when hiring for your next store associate. Even a year or so of a developed skillset will translate into an employee that your customers will enjoy interacting with – and one that will generate more revenue for your business.


Less employees

When you have employees who are more skilled, you can hire less of them. Employees who have already worked in a retail environment are not only better for your customer experience, but you also won’t have to spend as much time training them on basic retail practices and they’ll be able to take on more responsibility.

When more tasks can be added to an employees plate, you won’t need to keep as large of a staff roster. This will require employees to work more hours and cover more ground in your store, taking on everyday tasks while assisting your customers with any and all of their needs.


Higher-paid team members

Finally, if you expect to hire less employees with better experience, you can expect to pay them more than you’re paying your employees right now.

Granted, you have fewer staff salaries to cover, so it should only affect your bottom line in a small way. Consider paying at least 50% more than your state’s minimum wage in order to attract a more experienced, reliable applicant pool for your next position opening.

The retail workforce is shifting in favor of fewer higher-paid, experienced employees. Your customers no longer see your store associates as silent workers in your store, but as expert resources on your business. By adapting to this trend and adjusting your internal workforce accordingly, you’ll be able to provide your customers with an ideal experience and bolster your team with industry knowledge, work ethic, and long term growth opportunity.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Retail: Pros and Cons

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Retail: Pros and Cons 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

We go everywhere with our phones. They have made a home for themselves in our back pockets, in our purses, in the cup holders of our cars. They sit next to us at the dinner table, and beside us when we sleep. We even bring them into the bathroom. (TMI?)

If we’re used to bringing our personal technology with us wherever we go, why would work be excluded from that conversation? Couldn’t our phones be a useful tool in allowing us to get our job done more efficiently?

Retailers are confronting this conversation with their employees in 2019, working through the highs and lows that could be associated with allowing staff to use their phones in the workplace. While there are immediate concerns about distraction and inefficiency, there are definite benefits to implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in your grocery store.


Pros of Bring Your Own Device Policies

Decreased costs

The most straightforward benefit of a Bring Your Own Device policy is that employees are bringing their own devices – which means that you don’t have to supply them with expensive tools in order for them to get their jobs done.

AKA, when you don’t have to supply your employees with tablets, laptops, smartphones that can act as scanning devices, etc., you experience a multitude of savings in your P&L. 

According to a Cisco report, “companies with a BYOD policy in place save on average $350 per year, per employee. Reactive programs can boost that savings to as much as $1,300 per year, per employee.”


Real-time answers for your customers

Service is a key factor to maintaining an excellent customer experience. Your shoppers expect to be able to ask your sales associates any question that comes to mind, and receive an answer instantaneously.

Allowing your employees to bring their devices with them on the floor and access company inventory, policy, and dietary information with that device, gives them the confidence that they can provide an answer for their customers. This makes for an overall better customer experience, and builds trust between your shoppers and your stores. 


Engaged, efficient staff

A BYOD policy can be used as a tool to attract talented employees to your business. 44% of job seekers view an organization more positively if it supports their device, according to a report in InformationWeek.

In-store, a BYOD policy encourages your employees to be more engaged and efficient. Here are the cold, hard facts, according to a study by Sapho:

  • Workers save 81 minutes a week by using their own devices
  • 78% of workers feel BYOD supports better work-life balance
  • 56% of IT workers believe BYOD has completely changed their company’s culture


Increased employee value

Employee efficiency and engagement are just the beginning when it comes to the benefits of BYOD. Once you’ve implemented your own policy for your grocery stores, the value of your employees to your company will also increase.

According to Cisco, BYOD creates an annual average value of $1,650 per employee when implemented effectively.


Boosted management productivity

BYOD not only makes it simpler for retail associates to do their job when they’re on the sales floor, it also it makes it easier for them to communicate with their managers. According to a new study from WorkJam, “about two-thirds of hourly retail employees say they would use their personal cell phones to access information about scheduling changes or company training—two areas often cited as “pain points” when they quit jobs.”


Avoid organizational costs associated with high turnover

As a grocer, you know that your staff grows and shrinks with the seasons, and that you need to hire extra people when the holidays come around. If you provide new devices for every employee that joins your staff, it’s likely that you’ll encounter times during the year where you have a surplus of devices that you’re still paying for, in addition to the data plan that you need to keep active in case you hire a new employee.


Cons of Bring Your Own Device Policies


The thought of having employees out on the store floor with their preferred devices elicits images of stockboys slacking off in favor of Snapchat and cashiers who take Instagram breaks when they could be helping a customer.

It’s a valid worry. Schools have been banning phones from their premises for the past few years after incessant distraction and disciplinary issues involving cell phones in the classroom. According to recent research from Social Psychology, your phone even distracts you if it’s nearby but you’re not using it.

The thought of distracted employees alone could be enough to convince you to pass on a BYOD policy – and that’s completely warranted.


Security concerns

Your IT Director may have a few bones to pick with you if you bring up the idea of a BYOD policy. While employee engagement and costs may be your chief concerns, it’s likely that they’ll have a litany of security issues to add to your list.

Along with having access to the information that they need to do their jobs well, employees will be using their personal devices to access secure data, which can raise major red flags, yet many companies don’t take the time to create formal regulations, leaving room for hacking and other forms of security breaches.

According to Intrinsic Technology, In the U.K., one-quarter (25%) of retailers allow employees to use personal devices on company networks without a formal policy in place. What’s worse, Sapho reports that ⅔ of employees have not activated even the most basic security features on their devices.

Personal devices can also be lost or stolen, and when companies don’t take proactive measures with their BYOD policy, those devices can be used to hack a company database remotely.


Lack of training and resources

Let’s be frank: adding a BYOD policy to your company’s handbook just adds one more thing to your already full plate. You know that a program this large doesn’t come without extra training, time away from the floor and away from paying customers, and extra financial resources. 

Unfortunately, many companies don’t take the time or the energy to make sure BYOD is done right. 80% of all BYOD is unmanaged due to lack of resources which puts security at risk, and 77% of employees have received no education as to the risks of using their own devices at work

It can be easy to try to skip the hard parts and start reaping the benefits right away, but when companies don’t take the time to ensure BYOD was implemented properly, they don’t see as great of an impact from the policy.


Overworked corporate networks

If you have one private server that each of your employees would connect to with their devices while they’re at work, you may find that your network becomes runs slower. Employees rely on fast internet speeds when interacting with a customer, so an overworked network could actually slow down their response time and leave the customer feeling frustrated.


Technical difficulties

When an employee’s phone breaks, is it up to the employer to provide a stipend to repair it? Do employees with older phones that lack new features and have short battery lives feel penalized by the BYOD policy? Is it the employee’s job to make sure that their phone is fully-charged before their shift, or do stores provide them with opportunities to charge their devices? 

Technical difficulties will arise when you let employees use their personal devices on the job. Before you activate your BYOD policy, it’s your job to create procedures that lay out how employees and managers should react to these unexpected roadblocks.