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Revitalising retail: Transforming tomorrow’s workforce

Revitalising retail: Transforming tomorrow’s workforce

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It’s a familiar scene across retail stores: whether customer demand is high or low, the need to match workforce staff and skills to demand is ubiquitous. Managers have to make the time and build the expertise to recruit properly. The variation in trade and staff turnover means this process will always be repeated many times across the year, diverting precious time away from delivering the customer experience you aim for.

Why is recruitment in the retail sector a problem?

It’s often about training

Recruiting in the retail sector is decentralised. Store Management teams are often doing the recruiting. Without specialist training and supported processes, managers can find themselves in a vicious circle which impacts their own productivity, and that of the operation they’re leading.

Recruiting to fill the greatest need

Roles and working times are often re-recruited without being reviewed. When a staff member leaves, it’s usually clear if those working hours will be needed, but whether or not that role and skills are the most important gaps in the staffing of the store is rarely appraised. It’s good practice to review the hours to be worked, the job description, and the skills requirement to ensure the best possible person is recruited to provide the best possible addition to the team.

When recruiting for peak periods in retail, the candidate pool is more limited, so there are challenges to make the temporary positions appeal to potential candidates.

Candidates are also your customers

Ensuring that candidates are well-treated, even when being rejected, is really important. This means giving further time and attention to the recruitment process, even when a decision has been made. While increased utilisation of AI has successfully driven efficiencies, it also risks removing the human factor. A balance must be achieved to ensure a good experience, whether the candidate is successful or not. 

Only two-thirds of employees are in the same organisation from one year to the next

The struggles faced by retailers to attract and retain talent is undoubtedly impacting business productivity, operational and service performance. First impressions are crucial – the CIPD benchmark indicates as many as 10% of retail employees leave within the first three months. Extend this to twelve months, and it leaps to nearly 20%. Managers want to provide a good onboarding experience, but without the tools or a realistic best practice, the enthusiasm of new hires can quickly fade, and they’ll vote with their feet.

Peak period recruitment is often a challenge

There is clearly an increased need for staff at various times of the year – during festive periods, summer holidays, and big promotional events. Managing these short bursts of peak workload is difficult to achieve without the right foundation of resource, availability and skill. The Office for National Statistics reported a 4.4% unemployment rate in June 2024, and while UK retail vacancies have declined to 109,000, fiercely competitive wage rises provide big incentives. Retailers must look beyond financial reward, to increase their attractiveness and improve retention.

Flexible working is here to stay…but how do you make it work?

New technologies, legislation and trials have paved the way for greater flexibility in today’s workforce and ways of working. This year sees the introduction of the right to request flexible working from day one (in the UK), but are retailers truly ready to embrace this? Fairness, equality and transparency are crucial principles where flexibility is concerned, and every system, tool and process needs to align to these values.

Whilst unemployment is so low (4.4%), the Economist reports that many employees would like to work more hours than they currently do. If expected working hours or shift patterns are advertised along with the job advert, this will make it much easier for those in the gig economy to decide whether they would be able to fulfil the requirements of the role alongside their other work.

Retailers are increasingly turning to offering more hours to their existing employees and recruiting fewer temporary staff members.  This approach has multiple benefits.

  • An enormous cost and effectiveness benefit is that team members already know the role – inductions do not need to be held and resources are not diverted to a further recruitment process.
  • Team members being included in the decision of changes to their hours improves their job satisfaction and attitude to work.
  • Customer satisfaction will not decline as the additional hours are covered by fully trained staff members.

Engaged employees create better customer experiences.

When employees understand that their experience is aligned with the desired customer experience, they’ll instinctively start contributing to it through their own actions and decisions. The parallels between employee and customer experience must be drawn to facilitate continuous improvement.

What we know for sure at SWL…maintaining service and operational challenges all year round, and especially at peak, is a real challenge for every retail business. SWL’s Retail Resource Alignment & Labour Matching solution is the perfect solution to increase workforce resilience, map demand with resources and predict risks and opportunities. With intelligible action planning, Store Management is equipped to make data-led decisions which improve the experience of both their employees, and their customers.

Get in touch with us to find out more.

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