Retrain, Refit, and Reinforce: The Future of Retail Employees in the Age of E-Commerce
While online shopping is growing in popularity, according to a 2018 NPR survey, 56 percent of consumers stated they appreciate the in-person experience over e-commerce. That means that today's in-person consumer is looking for a more bespoke buying experience, which puts pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers to provide the optimal in-store customer experience. This shift in focus has made hiring and retaining the right talent a critical piece to any retailer’s strategy for delivering the highly curated experiences required to compete today.
To continuously provide a top-notch retail experience that keeps customers returning to stores, retailers must have employees that are engaged and can deliver customized experiences. Without them, retailers can see significant losses. In fact, research has found that disengaged employees can cost a small retailer anywhere from $800,000 to $1,000,000.
With the stakes higher than ever, what can retailers do to create engaged teams and reduce employee turnover? Here are steps retailers can take to stay competitive in the age of e-commerce.
Invest in Ongoing Training Opportunities
Technology is reshaping the retail landscape, making it increasingly important to equip employees with the skills needed to embrace digital updates. Some retailers have started training employees on smartphone-based point-of-sale (POS) systems, which can allow salespeople to sell in multiple sections of a store, and even order an item online for a customer if a product isn't in stock. Training employees on cross-channel selling platforms can help associates spend less time at the register and more time creating personal shopping experiences for customers — which in turn will result in customers spending more time in-store and oftentimes purchasing more merchandise.
In addition to training employees to adopt digital tools in the workplace, it’s also important to train employees on interpersonal skills that boost customer service capabilities. Teaching employees about customer service techniques, sales best practices, and leadership skills can help advance their careers while simultaneously improving service offerings on the showroom floor. According to recent statistics, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147 percent. The same research found that companies that invest in employee experience are four times more profitable than those that do not. Therefore, putting in the time and effort to train employees on better interpersonal skills is not only a positive business investment, but also a positive for the employee’s career trajectory that helps boost employee morale and engagement. Taking care to provide an exceptional employee enrichment program will help retailers optimize the talent they have as well as retain top performers.
Redefine Employee Fit
Like the sales data collected in their POS systems, retailers should also collect employee data to create a talent strategy that drives business results. Retailers can use this data to diagnose a best fit for their associates and place them in roles where they’re most likely to succeed. Not all associates are meant for the showroom floor, but many are placed there due to non-data-driven hiring practices. If hiring managers can better understand the drives, needs and skills of their employees by collecting people data, they’re more likely to place them in positions they enjoy and can thrive in. Retailers have to ask themselves the following: Is there a person who was extremely organized, a great problem solver, and very detail-oriented, but is ultimately unsuccessful because they preferred to be alone with minimal interaction but were working in a sales or greeting position? This kind of mismatch can be uncovered with the right data. In that case, perhaps order fulfillment might have been a better option.
Through talent optimization, retail leaders who understand their employees can place workers in roles that enable them to deliver high-quality experiences for customers and best support their business.
Promote From Within
A good way for retailers to limit the amount of turnover is to promote from within the company. According to a recent employee engagement survey, employees that don’t believe they have growth and career development potential are much more likely to seek other employment. In contrast, an employee that feels the company invests in them will stay with longer. Retailers that support their associates and managers in this way are set up to succeed.
Don’t Leave it All on the Floor
One of the most important things that retailers can do is bring employees off the floor to share results, discuss improvements, and make them feel they're part of the solution. Given that the tendency is to keep employees on the floor so they can sell, retailers struggle with taking time away from selling to discuss material improvements. While these may seem like competing priorities, taking just 30 minutes to talk about best practices, wins and improvements discovered on the sales floor can make a world of difference for not only employee engagement but retailers’ bottom lines. In terms of structure, these quick debriefs can include everything from working on a post-survey committee and sharing feedback as a group with the manager to working on solutions and swapping sales tactics. Taking the time to show employees that their managers trust them and value their input will help workers feel connected to the business goals, give them a sense of purpose, and help retailers to uncover innovative solutions and approaches that will benefit the overall customer experience.
Remember, Employees Drive Success
Today’s retailers can deliver exceptional customer experiences by elevating their people strategy, diagnosing root causes of problems of employee disengagement and building teams that are set up to succeed. In the age of e-commerce, investing in employees is the key to success for retailers. They can do so by training their employees, ensuring they're placed in the right roles for success, and retaining top performers by promoting from within. By putting people at the forefront of their business strategy, retailers will keep pace in the age of e-commerce and continue to deliver the in-store experiences that keep customers coming back for more.
Dr. Greg Barnett is the senior vice president of science at The Predictive Index, the leader in talent optimization, where he oversees the execution of the company’s science agenda, including talent analytics, employee assessments, employee surveys, psychometrics, machine learning, natural language processing, and talent optimization data science.
Dr. Greg Barnett is the Senior Vice President of Science at The Predictive Index, the leader in talent optimization, where he oversees the execution of the company’s science agenda, including talent analytics, employee assessments, employee surveys, psychometrics, machine learning, natural language processing, and talent optimization data science.