Retail’s Labor Crisis: How Can Everyone Win?
When the pandemic hit, many brands were forced to limit store hours or close locations, often furloughing employees or eliminating jobs altogether. Now, as shoppers return and safety restrictions complicate the in-store experience, retailers are looking to hire once again — but this hasn’t been an easy task. According to CNBC, the number of available jobs was at a record high in June, with the highest quit rates among the hospitality and retail industries. Most recently, the August 2021 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics failed to offer any relief. Despite a 0.2 percent drop in unemployment in August, employment in retail still declined by 29,000 jobs.
This holiday season, retailers are desperate for more workers. CVS raised minimum wages to $15 and removed the education requirement from hiring requests, while Walmart will offer warehouse employees weekly bonuses if they stay through the holidays. Similarly, Amazon.com, Walmart, and Target are offering free college tuition for store associates. However, not every retailer can afford to increase wages or benefits, and even those that can are still hurting for employees. So, what can retailers do?
They can invest in technology that enables existing team members to be more efficient, better connected, and happier by equipping them with the tools they need to increase productivity without overworking them.
Invest in Efficiency
Without the right tools, less knowledgeable team members may be forced to abandon shoppers searching for an answer or may end up dragging them around the store until they find the help they need, leading to a negative customer experience. Communication technology can empower team members by enabling them to access the collective knowledge of the entire store by calling upon seasoned team members, managers, or even corporate leadership in seconds, without leaving the customer. With technology in place, staff members aren’t pulled away from theirs task to help another, as everyone can communicate with voice-powered technology, creating a more efficient workplace capable of doing more with less.
Furthermore, if a retailer makes new hires prior to the holiday rush, communication technology can simplify the onboarding process by providing support for the newest employees even after the training period ends. Instead of having to watch over new employees in case they get confused, voice-activated support can ensure help is never far away.
Recognize Hard Work
Keeping retail employees happy and motivated is critical to operating successful stores. With communication technology, team member shout-outs are easier than ever and don’t require calling a time-consuming meeting. Celebrating employee and store wins with in-ear announcements can motivate career development, while sharing daily top-seller lists can encourage friendly competition among sales associates.
Innovate With the Team
Front-line employees frequently possess valuable information about the company that can be used to improve store operations. Opening two-way lines of communication shows staff that leadership cares about them and is open to lightening their load.
However, retailers must ensure the technology is the right fit for the team and work with them throughout the implementation process to optimize usage of the new tool. A solution is only effective if the staff is open to the change and has the proper training to make the most of all the features. Incorporate the team’s feedback whenever possible to show support and increase efficiency.
Support Employees With Connectivity
When retailers invest in supporting their employees, the benefits are palpable. From stronger customer service to higher sales and increased loyalty, investing in technology and engaging associates is the right choice for retailers battling the labor crisis. With an interconnected workforce, retailers will succeed this holiday season and beyond, even when future disruption occurs.
Chris Todd is the CEO of Theatro, a company that provides a mobile communication platform that allows ALL frontline workers to stay connected with each other, experts, managers, and critical enterprise systems in real time.
Related story: Using Workforce Education to Attract and Keep Retail Employees in Today’s Labor Crisis
Chris is responsible for leading Theatro’s overall direction, strategy, and growth plans. Chris is a “roll up your sleeves” type leader who is passionate about the strategy of a business. Chris believes that most every idea can be a winner…it’s all about figuring out the strategy angles to drive success! As a co-founder, Chris has been instrumental in guiding Theatro from an early innovative concept into a fast-paced growth company.
Chris has 25+ years of experience in senior executive positions with small start-ups and large multinationals in a diverse array of industries, including software, networking and apps for leading hardware and software companies including Cisco Systems, AppTrigger, Metaswitch, Extreme Networks and Newbridge Networks. Chris graduated with a BBA from SMU.