Wawa, the iconic East Coast chain of 24-hour convenience stores, has a widely dispersed workforce spread throughout 800 locations. It's a monumental challenge for the company to engage with a workforce consisting mostly of hourly, shift-work employees who have a tenuous connection with the corporate home office. Often, these employees don’t even have company email addresses. So, leadership was reduced to communicating with store employees through their shift managers or printed materials, such as breakroom posters.
This haphazard, inconsistent method of communication presented a huge problem. Frontline workers, of course, have the most contact with the public. They can make or break relationships with customers. The company needed a better way to provide employees with timely, relevant information so they could feel more confident about understanding company initiatives, more inspired about their jobs, and create a great in-store experience for everyone who walks through the front door.
Also, Wawa is committed to making employees the best ambassadors for the company. But there also was the realization that their advocacy needed to be earned by first making them feel like valued members of the organization through transparent communication.
Wawa determined that the solution to better communication throughout the organization could be found in the pockets of employees – their mobile devices. Today, people use smartphones as the remote controls for their daily lives as they access interesting and useful information. Wawa wanted to replicate that experience on the job.
A communication platform with a well-designed mobile application could deliver content directly to employees in the manner that they prefer. This would keep employees informed while also enabling them to return quickly to their fast-paced jobs of helping customers.
Finally, Wawa prides itself on creating a fun work culture. The company wanted to give employees the ability to share approved content with their social networks that highlights the great work environment.
Within the first month 33% of Wawa employees registered for the platform.
The branded platform called “The Honker,” which reflects the company’s goose theme, gives Wawa the ability to effectively engage a widely dispersed workforce that includes those hourly shift-workers. The company delivers information to employees such as new sales programs and essential safety announcements. It uses surveys to get the pulse of employees on various topics. The CEO regularly records short, breezy videos to connect with employees. Also, the two-way communication provided by The Honker allows store employees to notify the corporate home office of any issues – allowing Wawa to solve problems quickly.
Employees are more productive and work more efficiently. But just as crucial for Wawa, frontline workers feel like they’re part of a broader community beyond their individual stores.
The platform instantly was a big hit. Within the first month, one-third of the workforce (more than 10,000 workers) registered for the platform. About 75 percent were using the mobile app – confirming the company’s belief that workers were hungering for a mobile communication option. After about 10 months, 15,000 employees were enrolled. Workers have been eager to share group photos on the platform of the store shift teams. Once approved, those photos can be shared on social media, which extends the reach of marketing efforts that highlight how the company is an enjoyable place to work.
As one employee commented on the platform: “This is actually a pretty cool, innovative idea. Way to go Wawa!”