Transformation in the world of work: the trends retailers need to know

The world of work is being transformed by technology and increasing demands from employees for more…
Transformation in the world of work: the trends retailers need to know
The world of work is being transformed by technology and increasing demands from employees for…
Jeremy Booth
I’m an Alliances Manager at REPL who are a world-leading consultancy and technology group. Since its beginnings in 2007, the UK-headquartered firm, formed by a specialist team with highly-successful retail careers, has developed intimate partnerships with businesses to transform their people, products, supply chain, and customer experience to create and deliver long-lasting value.

How is Work Changing?

The world of work is being transformed by technology and increasing demands from employees for more flexibility and improved work-life balance. Advances in tech are allowing retailers to innovate and change the way they structure their workforce to enhance the employee experience and boost staff loyalty.

How are workforce models changing?

Some retailers are starting to adjust their workforce mix by hiring more full-time staff to improve the employee experience by providing more certainty over work schedules and offering training to help develop skills and build long-term careers with the organisation, helping reduce staff turnover.

By switching their employee mix to more full-time staff, retailers can amp up their employee-to-store ratios. Instead of hiring staff for one store, new recruits can be shared among different locations as business needs dictate, as well as training employees to take on a variety of positions throughout the day. That can help provide the additional hours full-time staff are looking for while also easing hiring pressures at individual stores.

For this strategy to be effective, organisations need to invest in the right technology platforms and digital tools to enable employees to work seamlessly across different stores, such as being able to log-on to store operation systems without hassle.

The gig economy offers workers flexibility

The rise of the gig economy has given people more control and flexibility over their work options, enabling them to take on jobs for multiple employers and allowing them to choose when they work, matching their working hours to their lifestyles. Gig workers are expected to make up between 35% and 40% of the workforce by 2025, up from 15% to 25% today, according to Gartner.

Retailers can tap into this more flexible workforce to help smooth fluctuations in staff availability and ramp up staffing levels as needed. Organisations can do this by creating a digital app that can enable gig workers to pick up shifts, check schedules or access necessary training for the role. Organisations should also consider partnering with other retailers to enable existing employees to pick up extra hours at partner companies if they want additional work.

This tech means retailers could also apply surge pricing models used by ride-hailing apps such as Uber by raising hourly rates for shifts that are typically harder to staff.

Retailers are searching for ‘hidden’ talent

Retailers need to take a more active approach to talent recruitment compared to past practices of passively waiting for potential employees to respond to job ads placed in-store or elsewhere. That means retailers need to take a strategic view of outreach by going to meet potential talent where they are.

By changing the way they source talent, organisations can target previously hidden talent pools, such as employees with disabilities or criminal records who are eager to work and possess or have the ability to develop the skills needed for the job.

Hiring has also been made easier by technology, which can help automate the recruitment process, improving efficiency and reducing the costs associated with taking on new staff. Retailers need to be wary of the limitations of this tech, however. Focusing on negative attributes to filter out applicants can lead to suitable candidates inadvertently being screened out, narrowing the pool of potential employees.

Human and machine can work together

Technology can help augment the in-store experience, not by replacing staff with robots, but by helping them do their jobs better by automating routine tasks. That can enable employees to spend more time interacting with customers, and for managers to train and develop their staff. Investing in modern communication tools can also help improve internal comms and keep teams connected.

Intelligent workforce management platforms can help organisations streamline operational processes and foster greater human-machine collaboration, allowing organisations to innovate and create new roles. Some 40% of retail executives believe most of their workforces will change roles due to technological advances.

That means retailers need to ensure their tech platforms are capable of adapting to evolving customer needs and employee expectations. In this age of automation, data analytics and in-store tech, traditional shop employees are increasingly transitioning from checkout assistants to brand ambassadors who can use that data to better personalise the customer experience.

Key takeaways

  • Some retailers are weighting their employee mix towards full-time workers to improve employee experiences, reduce job churn and manage staffing across multiple store locations.
  • Retailers can take advantage of the growing gig economy to provide flexible resourcing to store managers so they can respond faster to changes in staffing needs.
  • Adopting a proactive talent recruitment strategy can help retailers target previously hidden pools of workers, such as employees with disabilities or criminal records.
  • Integrating technology into the in-store experience can help automate routine tasks and enable employees to spend more time interacting with customers.

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