Retail has always been competitive. But the advent of technology and the disruption caused by online companies has made it even more challenging for traditional retailers to attract customers and drive consistent revenue and growth. COVID-19 has introduced additional complexity as companies who didn’t have an online presence had to move online. Many are still investing in health and safety measures for their employees while managing supply chain bottlenecks. These developments have also created pressure on employees to work in conditions that put their physical and emotional health at risk. This pressure has been a key driver behind what Texas A&M University Professor Anthony Klotz has termed “the great resignation.” In the U.S. alone, 24 million people in 2021 quit their jobs between April and September. The tightening labor market has become more favorable for employees, allowing them to be more discriminating in which jobs they take and giving them leverage in salary and benefits negotiation.
For retailers, this tight labor market is forcing them to completely rethink the employee experience. Much like customers who now expect a seamless, digital experience when shopping, retail associates expect and demand the same kind of digital experiences in their interactions with their employers. Currently, many associates must navigate disconnected and outdated systems just to view schedules, request days off, find company policies, or perform simple tasks. Locating products in the stores and finding order information for customers can take much longer than it should. These antiquated systems and processes make it harder for them to do their jobs. They also decrease employee engagement and satisfaction and increase turnover. To combat these challenges, retailers must invest in technology to reduce these sources of friction for their associates. Just as they have done for customers, retailers must improve the employee experience by investing in four key areas.
Many retailers still rely on paper schedules and outdated processes to manage employee shifts. Moving to systems that allow retailers to publish schedules digitally and push changes to employees proactively will enable employees to seamlessly request shift changes or fill open slots without having to call or email a manager. Employees will gain greater control and satisfaction over their schedules, and store leaders can better manage coverage for all shifts.
Product training and information
Associates often struggle to locate precise product information and availability, making it difficult for them to address customer needs promptly and effectively. By connecting inventory systems with employee devices, associates can spend less time looking for rudimentary information and more time addressing customer needs and providing thoughtful recommendations. This drives a better employee experience, increased sales, and improved customer satisfaction.
Seamless, secure connectivity
Retail associates must often move between the retail floor, the stock room, and the parking lot. Roaming across wide and open physical spaces can impede connectivity and expose devices to external threats. Retailers must ensure secure, seamless, high-quality connectivity across the entire store footprint, so employees have seamless, uninterrupted access to the digital resources they need. This ensures frictionless purchasing and the efficient delivery experience customers expect.
Employee health and safety
Unlike industries that have been able to shift a high percentage of their employees to remote or hybrid work, retail relies on employees who must be physically present to do their jobs. As a result, these companies must employ health and safety measures that enable them to monitor air quality, maintain space and room density limits, and quickly address health and safety alerts.
As the labor market has tightened, retailers have found it more difficult to attract and retain employees, putting their revenue and growth at risk. To address this challenge, companies must invest in technologies that deliver a modern, seamless, and secure employee experience that reduces administrative burden, improves the quality of customer interactions, and ensures their health and safety. Cisco’s comprehensive solutions for retail allow companies to drive a modern, consumer-like experience for their employees, enabling them to attract and retain the talent they need to deliver desired customer experiences and drive revenue and growth.