Get creative to reach and engage the frontline




Huw Morgan

For the next installment of our employee engagement events, we invited client Lidl to share insight on their latest ‘Big On’ campaign

In our retail-focused engagement event this week, co-hosted with Lidl’s internal comms officer, Ed Marsh, we addressed some of the most common barriers to effectively informing and engaging the frontline with strategic initiatives.

Inspired by verbatim insight we’ve gathered from frontline colleagues across our engagement campaigns, we’ve highlighted some of those challenges and potential approaches below…

“They don’t know what it’s like for us on the shop floor”

There is a common perception from the frontline that senior leaders – often based in shiny head offices many miles from the shop floor – have little knowledge or empathy of the daily challenges faced by frontline teams.

One way of addressing this challenge is to give your employees a voice and show you’re listening. Employee voice is one of the four levers of employee engagement and people appreciate having a channel dedicated to airing and sharing their views.

Listening to your people helps you to better understand how they’re feeling and, because of their close relationship with the customer, they often have the insight and expertise to give you great ideas about how to improve the customer experience or operation.

A great example of employee voice in action was the Arthur Webb Challenge Cup campaign we worked on with Nationwide. The campaign creatively harnessed the pioneering spirit of a former leader of the Building Society to encourage employees to step forward with ideas to drive efficiency today. As well as winning six internal comms awards, employee initiatives generated by the campaign drove £2million of savings for the Society in just six months.

The link between informed and engaged frontline colleagues and a positive customer experience is well known.
However, to inform and engage your people, first you need to reach them. And the colleagues with arguably the closest relationship with your customers are often the most difficult audience to reach.


“Communications get lost in the daily noise on the shopfloor”

Frontline employees are busy. They’re busy dealing with customers, with stock issues, and with hourly operational challenges. So it’s not surprising a common complaint is that strategic communications can get missed or lost in the noise.
You have to be creative to be seen and heard by frontline employees amid the noise and bustle of the shop floor. This means being creative with the use of channels and content to ensure people are, at the very least, aware of the message.

To build awareness and anticipation among store and warehouse employees in the run up to the launch of its new ‘Big on’ brand campaign, we worked with Lidl to create a week’s worth of playful teaser assets like table-top countdown calendars, quizzes and posters for lifts and toilet doors to ensure employees saved the date to find out more. The result was Lidl’s most read news story of the year and a major upsurge in engagement from store and warehouse employees.

“So, what does this mean to me and my job?”

This is the question frontline colleagues often process when reading strategic communications and failure to help them answer it in a clear, coherent way can be a real barrier to understanding and engagement.

This is why it’s absolutely crucial that you present communications in a language and tone that they can identify and engage with. It means keeping it simple, getting to the point and avoiding the use of jargon.
It will also be helpful to equip and empower store managers and supervisors to add local context for frontline teams by providing them with simple comms toolkits and key message sheets that can support briefings and conversations.

“We care for the customer. Who cares about us?”

Your frontline employees are closer to your customers than anyone else, so they’re more aware than anyone of the need to ‘put the customer first’. But there’s it’s not unusual for the people most directly responsible for the customer experience will feel a little neglected them when it comes to feeling informed and engaged around business initiatives and strategies.

The most successful employee engagement campaigns put real employees at their heart

They frame comms in the language of the employee to help build understaning

They use images and videos featuring colleagues to make the campaign relevant and build belief 

They recognise employees with stories that build advocacy

A great example of this in action was a campaign we worked on with Transport for London, which focused on improving bus driver customer service by encapsulating different real life scenarios that bus drivers faced every day.

With a clear understanding of the very specific engagement barriers and preferences of its audience in mind, TFL took the time to show bus drivers what good customer service looked like with people, characters and situations they could identify with. The campaign showed real empathy and understanding of the audience’s daily frontline challenges and used them as a platform for engagement.
Whether you’re trying to reach bus drivers or baristas, consistently informing a busy, customer-focused, time-poor frontline can be a challenge, but with a little insight, planning and creativity, you can make great things happen.

If you would like help with your employee engagement, please contact Holly Dedman to arrange a meeting with the team.

To register for future events at Good Relations check out our events page

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