Big Lots: Keeping employees engaged & connected with comms

Keeping employees engaged connected with comms
Picture of David Quilty
David Quilty

Retailers are facing monumental challenges in the wake of the pandemic and Great Resignation. Big Lots, a nationwide retail chain based out of Columbus, OH, is leading the way by investing in the digital employee experience to create deeper connections with employees. 

We are a small team. We are scrappy. Look, we’re a discount retailer, right? So we know how to get things done on a budget.

 – Jeremy Ball, VP of Internal Comms, Philanthropy and Events at Big Lots

For an episode of Culture, Comms & Cocktails, Chuck Gose, Head of Community and Industry Insights Firstup, spoke with Jeremy Ball, VP of Internal Comms, Philanthropy and Events at Big Lots about how the communications team rose to the challenge of keeping Big Lots employees in the loop through the pandemic, how they are encouraging good mental health, and how they connect their people to their strategy. 

Featured in this podcast, you will hear about:

  • Exactly what makes the communications team at Big Lots so effective at keeping employees across multiple locations and roles informed, inspired, and involved through leadership messages, the company intranet, and Big Lots University, its internal talent development team. 
  • Why prioritization of employees’ mental health is so important for the company, how they made sure there were resources available for anybody who may be struggling, understanding the nuances of–and supporting–the three key groups within the Big Lots family, along with tips for practicing good mental health.
  • How Jeremy’s partners in the marketing and HR departments help build campaigns to keep employees informed about job openings and referral bonuses, encouraging employees to assist with the company’s recruitment needs by sharing job openings with their networks. At a time when companies are waging a fierce war for talent, potential job applicants pay close attention to what employees are saying on social media. One recent study found that 84 percent of job-seekers say company reputation is important when deciding where to apply!

“Our goal is to help make recruiters out of [our employees] that say, Hey, tell your friends and family, if you enjoy working for us, tell more people to come and join us. And so that’s been a very positive thing for us because this becomes a tool for not only building a community that exists but bringing new people to the fold.”

—Jeremy Ball
  • How content pieces, comments, and interactions from leaders and employees are encouraged on Big Lots’ digital employee experience platform The Beat (powered by Firstup). Jeremy shares his experience of moving to two-way, digital communications, crediting his leaders for embracing their role as content creators and understanding the value of associate communication to shape the conversation about topics like diversity, equality, and inclusion.
  • The inspiring, impressive philanthropic achievements the Big Lots team has invested in children’s charities as a way of giving back to the community, including the creation of a Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Big Lots behavioral health program.

“The old way of communicating was just to put up a poster, share a flyer, send a message, post something on the internet and just share it. And we know that that’s not how people consume information these days, right? It’s now done in shorter clips of time. It’s done in smaller bites of information. People want to like, and comment and love and forward and tag someone to say, Hey, did you see this? And so the value of that human nature is really what we’ve harnessed”

—Jeremy Ball

Be sure to watch or listen to the entire podcast to hear how Big Lots have successfully implemented its communications strategy, pandemic communications, and prioritization of employees’ mental health at their organization.

The world’s largest employers use Firstup to make the digital employee experience work for every worker—whether they’re in the field, on the front line, or behind a desk. Learn more:

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