Sebastien Sepierre, MD EMEA at Fourth, says that retailers must turn to digital workforce management solutions if they wish to retain and attract staff
The retail industry has experienced its most turbulent period in the past 25 years. COVID forced businesses to evolve and adapt to survive the subsequent impact on sales and their workers. Now retailers are looking for a lifeline to help fast-track their recovery.
With high street footfall making a comeback, retailers face the significant challenge of recruiting new staff. Employee experience must be high on retail leaders list of priorities and this includes much-needed improvements to modernise their workforce management strategy.
Tech solutions for retail challenges
Every industry will benefit from greater digitalisation and retail is no different. In fact, almost two thirds (64%) of retail leaders are currently exploring new technology solutions, with eight in ten retailers (79%) planning to implement more tech before the end of 2021. The priorities are evenly split between implementing more in-store technology, such as self checkouts (37%), and investing in technology that automates HR and operational processes (37%). This is a signal that retail leaders are taking heed of the difficulties they – and more importantly their staff – faced during the pandemic.
Retailers must be smart about what they choose to invest over the next 6 to 12 months. Data suggests that consumers are likely to hold onto the trends they’ve acquired throughout the pandemic, this means an overwhelming shift towards eCommerce but also a higher expectation of great customer service when consumers do decide to come in-store.
From an employer’s standpoint, this means scheduling and deploying staff to suit demand, a greater investment in training, and alignment of the in-store and online customer experience.
Blending physical retail and eCommerce
This is where digital transformation and investment in technology can help high street retailers, eCommerce brands, and hybrid businesses, with our data highlighting that retail leaders believe both eCommerce (38%) and workforce management technology (38%) are the most critical tech solutions for their business in 2021.
So, which workforce technology should retailers prioritise to ensure their teams are managed effectively across the in-store and online elements of retail businesses?
- Earned Wage Access (EWA): One of the greatest barriers to staff retention in retail, even pre-dating the pandemic, is the lack of financial security offered to its workers. Working paycheck to paycheck is outdated and leaves workers in a state of constant flux. EWA is the game-changer for this, providing instant access to the wages earned from previously worked hours during the month gives the employee greater financial independence.
- Data-driven scheduling: Smarter scheduling and improved productivity is key to minimising unnecessary expenditure as well as ensuring employees are less likely to have a bad shift. Workforce tech has evolved to let employers optimise data for more advanced scheduling including peak times, productivity, weather forecasts, local and national events, and more. A modern scheduling system allows workers to flag their availability (and last-minute pandemic-related changes), helping managers make better staffing decisions that accomodate for flux in customer service demand during peak times.
- Instant communication: With roughly one-third of retail jobs held by those under 25 years old, the retail workforce is quickly becoming one that has grown up and adapted to a life with greater technological influence, including instant messaging. Retailers that invest in technology that allows for instant messaging are able to stay on top of all company news, keep employees updated on incentives and new policies, and ultimately employees will appreciate improved communication and greater transparency with their employer following months of uncertainty.
It’s imperative that retailers focus on employee engagement, and increase overall productivity within the business while streamlining costs. Greater use of modern workforce management technology will help retailers appeal to both new recruits and new customers, whilst steering their ships out of COVID waters and future-proofing their business.