In today’s challenging economic landscape, retail brands and businesses face an uphill battle to increase brand value and maximise revenue across their stores. With the current cost of living, inflationary pressures, and economic uncertainties, it’s crucial to adopt an innovative approach that leverages data-driven insights, behavioural science, and psychological theory. These strategies are the key to addressing business challenges and fostering a collaborative and results-driven culture.

Helping teams work better together

For many businesses, the barrier to success can be found within existing team dynamics. Identifying areas of communication breakdown, improving collaboration and eliminating tension between employees will minimise internal conflicts and allow your business to focus on enhancing its commercial achievements.

For a large fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, an ineffective team dynamic was having a major impact on their ability to develop successful products and scale their brand commercially. Through careful insights and data analysis, we identified the critical issue; an excessive cultural emphasis on being “too nice” that hindered commercial success.

This particular company had a culture where employees were hesitant to speak up or cause friction with their colleagues, leading to inefficiencies in new product development projects. Due to a team culture where employees were indecisive, avoided risk, and lacked confidence to speak their mind, long delays and low customer acceptance became the norm.

To help realign their culture, we ran a series of psychological safety sessions that examined behaviour and implemented a culture change program to make it acceptable to challenge decisions and navigate complex choices.

By creating a safe environment for people to voice their concerns and ask key questions at critical stages, the client began to foster a culture of openness and embraced failures as valuable learning experiences. New product development time-to-market decreased by an impressive 12 months, while customer acceptance soared by 44%.

This not only drove higher revenues but also improved customer satisfaction, positioning the company as a leader in its industry. The data showed that in order for employees to work to their full potential, the workplace must make them feel comfortable and respected.

Humanising your employee’s experience

In a world where technology is being used to streamline and improve day-to-day operations more than ever before, it’s important that brands don’t completely dehumanise their employee experience. When employees feel replaced or undervalued due to a focus on performance-led innovation, this can cause a slew of knock-on effects such as lower employee engagement, increased absenteeism, and a decrease in productivity.

In the process of uncovering the limitations of a large grocery retailer, We Are Unity found that their warehouse and distribution centre operations, while highly sophisticated from a data and operations standpoint, lacked employee-centric design. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had integrated processes that reduced human contact as much as possible to avoid supply-chain issues from COVID outbreaks. While this was done with employee safety and commercial viability in mind, our research and insights found that the dehumanisation of workplace roles ultimately compromised the well-being and mental health of their employees.

While the client intended to improve efficiency and avoid costly issues, they ended up paying for employee inefficiency and increased absenteeism. The issue here is that the employee experience was pushed to the bottom of the priority list, resulting in a psychologically unsafe workplace and the pitfalls that come with it.

Creating psychologically safe workplaces

A psychologically safe workplace is one where employees feel empowered and encouraged to voice their concerns and feel valued for their role in the organisation. A workplace that doesn’t prioritise the emotional safety and well-being of its team will ultimately find that the cost of its unhealthy culture is at odds with cost-saving measures and opportunities to grow.

Through interventions focused on building leadership capability and improving psychological safety across the supply chain, the client was able to achieve remarkable results. Simple and inexpensive changes, such as initiating team huddles every morning and checking in on colleagues’ well-being, had a profound impact on the effectiveness of their work and, by extension, the company’s commercial success.

This example of client success demonstrates the power of using data to inform your strategy in the workplace. In order to understand what your brand needs to thrive, you must delve deeper into the behaviour and psychology that drives your team.

Gerald Pitter is chief financial officer at We Are Unity.