How Retailers Can Adjust to the ‘Gig Economy’
The "gig economy" has taken the traditional hourly workforce by storm.
2019 has been a landmark year for the gig economy, with Lyft and Uber going public, and Postmates expected to do so in the near future. And with the number of gig workers forecast to keep growing, the traditional hourly workplace faces daunting competition for talent.
According to the Gig Economy Data Hub, 30 percent of today’s workforce performs gig work. Many are choosing the flexibility of gigging over traditional hourly work as it allows employees to control their schedules through tech-enabled platforms. However, in the gig economy’s wake, many industries, such as retail, must scramble to fill and keep positions in stores.
As workers opt into the gig economy in increasing numbers, what can retailers do to compete for talent? Retail leaders can follow several digital workplace strategies to win over talent considering gig employment:
1. Democratize scheduling.
Scheduling is a notorious pain point felt by the hourly workforce and managers, with 62 percent of retail managers saying they’ve had employees quit due to scheduling conflicts. Through adopting a democratized shift management system accessible on mobile devices, workers have the autonomy to select work preferences and pick up open shifts that fit their schedules. By creating transparency in the scheduling process, retailers can provide the flexibility workers look for in the gig economy, fostering greater employee satisfaction and retention.
2. Simulate the gig experience.
Leaning on a tech-driven digital workplace solution allows for traditional employers to mimic the gig economy’s flexibility in more ways than one. For example, the gig economy is effective in catering to the preferences and needs of people committed to working part time. While retailers may not be able to replicate the exact no-strings-attached freedom of the gig economy, they can take steps to replicate its core ideas through elements such as customizing shift location if you have multiple stores in the same area.
From an employer’s point of view, flexible scheduling fills needs across a network of stores. This minimizes the need to overhire, reducing store overhead. By turning to a tech-enabled workforce solution, managers’ time is ultimately freed up from time-consuming shift coordination with their employees. As a result, managers can focus on value-driven tasks outside, driving an increase in revenue.
3. Implement a BYOD policy.
With turnover rates in retail already high compared to other industries, retailers should prioritize employee satisfaction. Research from WorkJam found that 61 percent of frustrated employees cite scheduling and communication pain points as reasons for leaving. And with 77 percent of Americans currently owning a smartphone, why not use their penchant for personal technology to your company’s advantage? The same study found that today's hourly workforce embraces the idea of implementing a bring your own device (BYOD) policy at work.
By adopting a BYOD policy, retailers can meet employees where they’re at, leveraging their comfort with personal devices to improve management and communication. Digital workplace platforms allow associates to access important information anywhere and anytime. A BYOD policy is also a huge selling point for the millennial workforce, 57 percent of which prefer using mobile devices to view content like schedules and training material.
Similar to how the gig economy capitalizes on smartphones for efficient communication, BYOD policies allow retailers to ensure reliable communication, including policy updates or notable company changes.
4. Create direct lines of communication.
Establishing clear channels of communication with employees will allow retailers to cultivate a strong working relationship. Keeping employees in the loop opens doors to higher staff engagement. Receiving frequent updates regarding company changes keeps workers interested and motivated to grow within the organization.
Adopting a digital workplace tool allows workers to communicate top-down and bottom-up through a centralized and secure hub, and ensure that feedback and task management is efficient. In turn, workers are more inclined to stick around. After all, we know that highly engaged teams see 59 percent less turnover. High retention rates yield lower hiring and onboarding costs, which is good news for a company’s bottom line.
Through the use of digital workplace tools, traditional retailers can get a leg up on the flexibility that the gig economy provides. With flexible scheduling practices, transparent policy changes and direct lines of communication, employers can not only put the power back into the hands of employees, but can do so while fostering a sense of community among associates — something gig work can never replicate.
Steven Kramer is the CEO and president of WorkJam, a global digital workplace solutions provider.
Related story: How Retailers Can Adapt to Minimum Wage Hikes