Last month, Alchemy Systems, a training and communications provider for the food and retail industries, acquired Wisetail, a learning and engagement platform for restaurants, retailers and franchises. The acquisition, according to Alchemy Systems CEO Jeff Eastman, represents a new symbiotic relationship that expands Alchemy’s market reach and product offerings.
Alchemy and Wisetail, Eastman says, have a “common vision about employee engagement.” Training is no longer “just about taking a course and then you’re done … We think that it involves 24/7 communication, and we think that there’s a lot of two-way communication that needs to take place … for an engaged workforce.”
Ali Knapp, president of Wisetail, agrees, saying that Wisetail’s LMS integrates communication with learning, so employees at client organizations use it daily both to consume content and communicate. “We create the tool that’s going to be a one-stop shop for all employees,” she says.
That’s especially important in the industries Alchemy and Wisetail serve, where turnover is high and there are both hourly and managerial employees. Hourly employees often don’t have a lot of time for training, Knapp says, so it needs to be mobile-friendly and available in bite-sized pieces so employees can learn on their phones between shifts. The constant flux of new employees means onboarding must be fast, so using technology is important to automate as much training and communication as possible.
Eastman says Wisetail’s clients have a lot of millennial employees. According to a recent white paper by Wisetail, this demographic wants shared values, a clear development path, recognition for good work, transparency and trust, and an authentically fun environment. Wisetail’s approach to helping clients develop this type of culture includes customizing each client’s LMS “to look and feel like” its own brand. With the addition of Alchemy’s content, the companies are hoping clients will now have a one-stop shop.
Earlier this month, Branch Messenger announced that it closed $10 million in funding, including a $6.8 million Series A funding round, for its frontline worker self-service platform. Branch Messenger’s free app has been downloaded by employees at companies like Target, McDonald’s and Walgreens to communicate with other employees and request schedule changes. Managers, meanwhile, can approve schedule changes, send messages to employees, and train and onboard workers. Bots learn from conversations between managers and employees to answer workers’ questions, and managers can use the app to send photos and reminders to employees on their performance.
Frontline workers don’t necessarily have access to a computer, so supporting their work using mobile devices is critical. “Once an employer recognizes how technology can influence the frontline worker, that’s when they can begin to have a holistic view of their business,” says Atif Siddiqi, founder and CEO of Branch Messenger. What’s more, enabling employees to communicate easily and instantly can support social learning. That type of learning is a key to sharing just-in-time information and supporting employee engagement, which is particularly low among frontline workers.
Technology is changing every industry, and the food and retail industries are no different. While there are particular challenges for training frontline workers in these industries, there are also particular opportunities. Using technology, training organizations in these industries can ensure that employees are communicating, learning, and engaging with their employers and each other more effectively than ever before.