The retail industry is among those most impacted by the societal changes the pandemic has created. Retailers have been catapulted into an era that's heavily reliant upon online shopping and curbside pickup. Under the current circumstances, up to 64 percent of consumers have reported that they don’t feel comfortable engaging in routine activities outside of the home, and they expect their COVID-related shopping habits will likely outlast the pandemic itself.
For retailers, these ripple effects in consumer behavior have exacerbated existing challenges in the industry. To address these issues and prepare for the new normal, streamlining effective operations and communication across employees will be critical.
Improving Onboarding and Training
Certain retailers, like grocers, have experienced an increased demand for staffing during the pandemic. To be better equipped to keep operations up and running under the additional demands of safety regulations and new services like curbside pickup, companies must modernize their onboarding processes.
Older methods such as paper handbooks and group training sessions are no longer efficient, especially during hiring spikes. Digital-first training allows management at both the store and corporate levels to ensure every new employee is promptly provided with all of the necessary training materials, scheduling procedures and handbooks, quickly and without oversight.
In the long term, an informed and confident employee will be better equipped to sell products and deliver quality customer service, especially with most consumers doing research online before walking into a store. By empowering new employees with knowledge at the outset, retailers can ensure their teams are better prepared to navigate the ongoing changes the post-COVID transition will bring.
Giving employees ready access to documentation, new policies and up-to-date workflows can help retailers avoid putting employees into a position where they must either seek out the nearest paper handbook, locate a manager, or make an uninformed judgment call. Using mobile communications can allow employees to reference training materials onsite.
With an internal communications structure already in place, employees can also use mobile technology to contact managers directly, in a secure digital environment, whenever necessary. This type of quick communication saves the time and energy it might take to radio for a manager or locate a supervisor on foot.
Emphasizing Employee Recognition
During a busy workday or company transition, the work of individual retail associates can go unnoticed. For employees, that lack of recognition can be demotivating.
While common initiatives like employee-of-the-month boards can work well, those methods often overlook the day-to-day accomplishments of individual team members and are an infrequent means of showing employees that management values their contributions.
By creating recognition initiatives in a digital space, retailers can deliver more frequent, accurate recognition. Armed with instant messaging or push notifications, supervisors can offer immediate praise for individual accomplishments in a place where the entire team can see them, encouraging others to join in celebrating daily wins and fostering improved morale.
Delivery of Critical Information
A modern communications structure that incorporates digital updates and instant communication is critical in allowing managers to keep a distributed workforce informed, particularly in case of emergencies or safety-related concerns. Other more operational changes such as stock issues or day-to-day internal challenges can be most efficiently delivered through a direct notification to the team of associates onsite.
Employees themselves are, conversely, an excellent source of consumer information. To ensure upper management is aware of any problems, trends or concerns on the sales floor, companies can leverage mobile technology to gather continuous feedback from their associates. This type of data can inform actionable, companywide updates that improve sales and overall experience.
The transition to a new normal will also demand immediate updates regarding safety, policy and company news, and will continue to place extra demands on managers and their retail teams. By modernizing internal processes and improving communication, retailers can enable a smooth transition and set their teams up for success as we approach the next normal in retail management.
Cristian Grossmann is the founder and CEO of Beekeeper, an employee communications app for mobile workplace collaboration.
Prior to founding Beekeeper, Cris worked for Accenture on high profile international projects in the field of IT Strategy for the financial and public sectors. Cris studied Chemical Engineering and got his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, both at ETH Zurich. Before moving to beautiful Zurich, Cris was born and raised in an entrepreneurial Swiss-Mexican family in Mexico City.