How workforce technology enables retail growth

wsSupporting the people side of business … 

How workforce technology enables retail growth

The retail market in Asia is growing as consumer spending across the region increases. While that is good news for revenue growth, it puts pressure on retailers to find, hire and retain great employees to support that increased demand.

In 2016, retail sales across 11 countries in Asia totalled about US$6.6 trillion, compared to US$1.0 trillion in 2001, according to Deloitte’s AsiaPacific Economic Outlook, Q2 2017. Deloitte attributes this growth to growing prosperity and increased access to credit in many of those countries.

For example, between 2001 and 2016, real disposable personal income is estimated to have grown at an average annual rate of 11.5% in China, 7.5% in India, 6.6% in Vietnam and 5.7% in Malaysia, Deloitte reports. In China alone, approximately five million credit cards were issued in the third quarter of 2016, nearly three times as many seven years ago.

This growth has increased the competition for talent to support both in-store sales and online channels, and it is more important than ever for retailers to have effective strategies for hiring, onboarding, engaging and developing employees. But without the support of the right human resources (HR) technology, this goal may be challenging in Asia’s competitive labour markets.

Invest where it matters the most

The growth in retail spending is occurring across both traditional bricks-and-mortar stores and online. More than two in every five consumers in Asia-Pacific have made purchases through their mobile devices in the past three months, according to a recent MasterCard online survey.

China was one of the largest markets for growth, with online sales of goods and services growing by 26.2% in 2016 to US$750.5 billion, reports Deloitte. Accordingly, retailers are making big investments in technologies to support mobile payments, social media engagement, online customer support and more.

There is another area where technology can make a big difference in retail — supporting the people side of the business, where much of the retailer’s competitive advantage is directly delivered. To hire, onboard, develop and retain the right talent, retailers need to make the right investment in a human capital management (HCM) system.

2Hiring and onboarding

Competing for talent requires a strong speed-to-hire strategy that is supported by technology. This encompasses areas such as using historical data to identify successful hiring profiles, rapidly recruiting new candidates through Web-based systems, facilitating in-store self-service kiosks for hiring and easily rehiring seasonal workers from previous holiday sessions.

Technology enables business to quickly post new openings and lets employees easily refer former colleagues, friends and family members. In a competitive job market, the more time passes between when a candidate applies and the employer provides an offer, the more likely the candidate will be lost to a competitor.

Successful onboarding is also critical, reducing turnover and leading to happier, more productive employees. If done properly, onboarding ensures new hires feel welcome and helps them understand their job priorities and their company’s mission and culture.

It also efficiently handles the compliance and paperwork aspects of the hire and allows employees to begin contributing in their roles as quickly as possible. And little or none of this should happen on actual paper. Today’s employees expect their relationship with a company to begin and continue online, with the same streamlined experience they expect from their personal lives.

Onboarding should not be looked at as a one-size-fits-all approach. It entails personalising each new employee’s experience by providing them with information on other employees they should engage with, operating procedures and goals for their role.

Retailers are also wise to get employees started with online learning, whether that is an introduction to company culture or specific rolebased training and best practices. Better yet, if the company’s learning system supports user-generated video content, employees can share their tips for success that are automatically recommended to others by the system based on factors such as role, location or new-hire status.

Employee engagement and development

As a retailer’s employees settle into their new roles, it is important to make sure they remain engaged — a key factor in retention, especially with younger people. They can increase employee engagement with targeted communications that keeps their team motivated with goals, check-ins and recognition.

For example, retailers can conduct quick “pulse” surveys to test the sentiment of the workforce by asking a few questions through their mobile device to gauge their reactions to changes in management, procedures, shift patterns and more. And, if they are able to target and analyse their surveys by department, region or store, they can provide great insights into what is going well, or not, and allow retailers to quickly take corrective action or look for best practices to share across the organisation.

Retailers should have a performance framework in place that supports an ongoing dialogue between managers and employees. Providing access via mobile devices is even better, so employees can request or receive feedback anytime, anywhere.

When it comes to retaining top performers and encouraging their growth, a good career and development planning practice can empower retail associates and employees to explore internal opportunities at their organisations and recognise possibilities for movement. That includes understanding the skills and experience needed to succeed in desired roles and perhaps receiving the names of employees already in those roles who are open to talking about their career journeys.

Some may think that an investment in modern HR technology is a luxury for a retail workforce, but many of the moments that build customer satisfaction are delivered (or not) by frontline employees.

Make taking care of your employees a central part of your digital transformation plans. In turn, your employees will help you take care of your customers.

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