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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Weigh In: How can I manage staff communication across multiple shifts?

Article-Weigh In: How can I manage staff communication across multiple shifts?

Employee Communication
Scrap the memos and get ready to huddle up! Natural Foods Merchandiser talks with experts about effective retail staff communication.

It’s an age-old conundrum for natural products retailers: making sure all employees, from the early-morning kitchen preppers to the closing cashiers, are on the same page. Conveying information can be especially challenging in today’s landscape, as your millennial employees may tune into text messaging while other team members want all face-to-face, no electronic, communication. Certainly, store operations and cultures vary, so what works best for one retailer might not be effective for another. But these three experts offer up some great communication methods to try.


Have supervisors shuffle shifts. It’s very important that supervisors work every shift so they can fully understand the real needs of their departments at various times. Talking through protocols and programs with the night crew or the morning team goes only so far. It’s only when a supervisor actually works different shifts that he or she gets the full picture of what those employees face.

Scrap memos. In my experience, memos just don’t work. They are one-sided and cold and feel like you’re force-feeding information. It’s so much better when everyone can get together, talk it out and completely understand why something is important. Plus, talking in person lets the supervisor giving the directive know right away if an employee doesn’t understand it and why.

Practice top-down communication. Good, open, honest communication starts at the top—with the owners—and trickles down from there. Owner engagement fosters the whole environment of open dialogue throughout the store. Our owners attend our monthly staff meetings. This lets employees in on where we’re going as a store and also encourages them to participate in directional decisions.

–Joe Hoyt, director of operations at GreenAcres Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma


Human Resources Consultant

Huddle up. Try 10- to 15-minute stand-up meetings, or “huddles,” held at the same time every day, maybe at shift change so you get some critical mass of staff. Give short snippets of info relevant to each day and cover larger items over a few days to make sure everybody gets the info. Hold huddles in an accessible location so staff is at the ready should the person manning the floor need help.

Keep a logbook. I still see so much value in the old-fashioned logbook and have yet to find an electronic replacement for this tool. Keep a big notebook in each department to write stuff down in and pass around. Have staff know to read it at the start of each shift. Employee surveys tell me that in departments that maintain logbooks, communication is inevitably better.

Give employees email addresses. Email can be a great way to communicate—but you have to set clear expectations and hold staff accountable. Because some employees rarely go online, or they don’t want work-related emails sent to their personal accounts, give everyone an email address tied to your store and have them check their inbox each day they work. If possible, have a computer at the store.

–Melanie Reid, human resources consultant at CDS Consulting Co-op in Savage, Minnesota


Retail Consultant

Pick a method and stick to it. You need to have one way in which you transmit important information—and be consistent with it. Otherwise, if you sometimes send emails to discuss pressing issues and other times call meetings, employees won’t have a real understanding of what’s truly important and what really needs attention. Consistency will help your staff know what they need to dial into.

Have regular paid staff meetings. Whether it’s monthly, bimonthly or quarterly, have mandatory all-staff gatherings to introduce new products, discuss operational challenges, introduce new methods, etc. Also make them fun—recognize awesome employees or hand out prizes—to break up the tedious parts. But pay employees for this time.

Hold staff accountable. Make sure employees are receiving and understanding messages delivered outside of face-to-face communication. For example, if you use a bulletin board to convey info, keep a legal pad by the time clock and have employees initial it once they’ve read the day’s messages. If they don’t understand something, they should talk to a manager right away.

Bill Crawford, director of retail and custom publishing at New Hope

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