How can the right technology solutions help solve staffing challenges?
Retailers have come under excruciating pressure as inflation, supply chain issues and the recession threaten consumer spending, impacting their bottom line. As a result, many are looking to promotional sales periods as a way to push inventory to consumers, ensuring they receive some of the limited discretionary spending. With the back-to-school shopping season underway earlier than usual, and holiday shopping expected to start even earlier as well, retailers need to act quickly to ensure they don’t fall behind.
To keep up with changing demand, retailers are at a critical time when they need associates who are efficient, supported and connected to retailer goals. To do this, retailers, many of whom use outdated staffing technology, can quickly implement new solutions that will not only help retain talent during these critical months, but recruit them as well.
Increase ease of communication
Some retailers do not have a consistent workplace communication tool. They rely on paper schedules and time off requests sorted behind the scenes, handwritten suggestions and feedback from customers or management in boxes, and group text messages to coordinate shifts. However, using a common platform to synchronize efforts would lead to a faster onboarding process while reducing the time employees spend searching for answers to questions or requests.
With hybrid work schedules varying hours or requirements for on-site staff, the focus on automation and establishing seamless communications within the organization and with customers and partners has taken precedence. . Deploying the right communication solutions enables a hybrid workforce to participate in an increasingly wide range of care scenarios, including live support chats, video chats with store employees, person-to-person exchanges from stores and through automated response systems. Outside of customer service, employees are also feeling the benefits, as they can stay in touch more easily, which often results in a feeling of increased support from their employers. This is all profoundly easier with one retailer’s unified service/investment, and the benefits begin to pay off almost immediately.
Omnichannel experience to support staffing
Customers demand a seamless experience while using retailer apps or while in-store during their shopping journey. They want content in a format they’re comfortable with without interruption. When apps crash, when they take too long to load, or when they can’t compare products, consumers often abandon the retailer in favor of one that may be more convenient. Retailers must treat the employee experience as the customer experience. Young employees expect to use the same devices and apps at work as they do at home. If they encounter these similar issues, they will also be frustrated and will not consider a retailer as highly as potential competitors.
The omnichannel experience also extends deeper into the onboarding process. Instead of waiting for interviewees to arrive at a location, retailers can interview approximately 50 candidates per day through well-supported communication channels. From there, they can share documents and communicate in one place, improving the employee experience.
Security and Access
With hybrid work environments, secure remote access to retail IT systems becomes even more critical as staff use personal devices to perform work tasks. These devices have varying levels of security and are used on networks that are not controlled by the retail organization. As a result, retailers struggle to secure work devices on unsecured or unmanaged networks such as public hotspots and home networks.
This is a huge area of investment, not only for the benefit of retailers, but also for their staff. Many retailers are still not mobile-first because they use legacy systems that get in the way of their staff. Those who can promote convenience and security will be more aligned with potential hires and current employees. Securing critical business software and systems to prevent outages will reduce staff frustration and improve employee engagement.
As retailers navigate their most crucial selling times right now, between the holiday season and the economic pressure on their margins, it’s critical that their staff have the tools they need to operate efficiently and happily. While there are endless technology solutions retailers are investing in as they continue their digital transformation journey, retailers that meet the needs of their associates are better positioned to succeed. Technology solutions have the ability to increase employee engagement, which will dramatically improve sales, efficiency, and even help recruiting.
Kevin Yarnell is a senior retail and hospitality executive at Ciscoa company that provides innovative software-defined networking, cloud and security solutions.