October 4, 2022

5 Important Strategies to Improve the Wellbeing of Retail Employees

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Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • How Retailers Can improve Staff Wellbeing
  • Increase Communication with Digital Workplace Technology
  • Offload Repetitive Tasks with Autonomous Solutions
  • Focus on Employee Health & Safety
  • Find Ways to Show Appreciation
  • Keep Your Store Adequately Staffed
  • Conclusion

Retail workers face all kinds of challenges. Whether dealing with the public (which can be incredibly taxing) to managing the store opening, closing, and cleaning lists, to handling the changing “shopping” landscape, there is a lot going on.

On top of that, retail workers traditionally are not compensated well, and retailers struggle to provide a clear path for career growth opportunities for staff.

Much of this was at play before and while the “Great Resignation” took place during 2021 and into 2022, and retailers continue to struggle with retaining and bringing on employees.

Some of the top noted reasons that retail employees have left their jobs are:

  • Retail burnout- many retail employees site being burned out. Unpredictable and long working hours, unfulfilling and taxing tasks, and always having to wear a smile, can lead to stress and exhaustion.
  • Poor treatment-From both management and customers, retail employees regularly note being treated poorly, often having to deal with rude and unfriendly customers.
  • Lack of career growth- the retail industry has long struggled with providing its workers with a career path. This leads to part-time employees that are not as invested in the company because there is not a clear investment in the workers.
  • Wages-retailers often pay employees minimum or lower wages and with no clear career path, the road to a decent raise is bumpy, to say the least.

The financial losses related to absenteeism, turnover, unfilled roles, and sick employees alone should be cause enough for concern. But then to realize the financial losses related to unhappy customers because there are no employees to help and the burden becomes even more sizable.

How Retailers Can Improve Staff Wellbeing

The “great resignation” and a better understanding of what retail employees need and want presents an opportunity for retailers to rethink and revitalize how they treat and employ retail workers.

The old strategies no longer work and to remain successful, new strategies are needed.

Here are some tips!

1-Increase Communication with Digital Workplace Technology

We have seen the benefits that technology has brought to consumers. Hybrid shopping experiences (those that take place online and in store, or in some similar variation) are increasingly popular.

The way consumers shop has completely changed thanks to innovative technologies that make it easier, safer, and quite literally a part of all we do (thanks to social shopping).

Retail employees are next in line for reaping the benefits of modern technologies and devices.

According to building a better employee experience can be done by increasing communication from corporate level to the store level.

Digital workplace technologies, like real-time software tools or apps, provide a way for employees to have easier access to more information regarding career growth opportunities across the company.

In addition, these technologies help increase communication regarding training and other similar opportunities that help employees to feel included and valued.

“Coresight research revealed that 82% of respondents whose organizations have adopted digital workplace applications and increased employee engagement indicated improvement in sales conversion since the introduction of the new technology, likely as a result of better communications, training, and store execution.”

2-Offload Repetitive Tasks with Autonomous Solutions

Taking the burden of repetitive tasks off the check list is another great way to utilize your existing staff in ways that are more in line with their unique skills and talents, as well as allowing them to focus on work that requires more human dexterity and knowledge.

This alone can help elevate the role of retail employees, giving them a greater sense of importance.

Floor cleaning for example can be repetitive and time-consuming. While it is extremely important that retailers keep up with cleaning, autonomous solutions are available.

Cobi 18 is designed to work in real-life complex environments like retail stores. While the cobot cleans the floors, staff can focus on other important work.

The additional benefits of both digital workplace technologies and autonomous solutions are that they are IoT equipped—meaning the data can be tracked and saved through cloud-like technology.

In addition to improving the roles of customer-facing employees, these solutions can also lead to operational cost savings benefits:

“79% also enjoyed reduced operational costs, using digital workplace technology to eliminate the need for costly store visits and audits by management. In addition, by giving staff digital checklists and brand guideline instructions via mobile apps, they saw improved merchandising/brand compliance across stores and restaurants, with the positive effect of better customer experience and ultimately, more sales.”

retail worker gets ready to deploy Cobi 18 to clean the floors

3-Focus on Employee Health & Safety

One of the biggest take-aways from the pandemic is that the health and safety of retail workers is an issue and an area of concern for workers.

Finding ways to keep staff safe and feeling supported can go a long way in reassuring them they are valued and that their health is important.

Retailers can support the wellbeing of their staff by focusing on overall health. Some ways to do this are:

  • Supply necessary PPE—this can be gloves, masks, hand sanitizer
  • Mandating multiple breaks throughout the day—provide a quiet and clean area for de-stressing
  • Provide vacation time & make sure employees use it—giving employees time away from the job is essential to help avoid burnout
  • Provide healthcare benefits—While Starbucks is part of the food and hospitality industry, they are an example of a company that has taken employee wellbeing into consideration. Eligible partners, as they call their employees, have access to all kinds of benefits—and this is for part-time and full-time employees (working above a certain number of hours). This can help alleviate stress and show employees that their health is important.
  • Provide room for talking about stress on the job—working with the public in a fast-paced environment can have its challenging days. Finding ways to discuss situations that arise and to deal with them appropriately can go a long way towards helping employees leave work at work and deal with stress more responsibly.

4-Find Ways to Show Appreciation

Showing appreciation for your employees can happen in a variety of ways. Since wage compensation continues to be a sore spot, reviewing your compensation plan and making sure you are in line with other retailers is an effective way to start. Your team will appreciate knowing you are providing a competitive wage.

Other ways to show appreciation are providing free meals, goal-related incentives or bonuses, or additional time off.

Coming up with creative ways to make the workplace fun and focused on appreciation can go a long way toward the health of your staff.

5-Keep Your Store Adequately Staffed

This may seem easier said than done but according to Harvard Business Review:

"Research has found that high work demands — for instance, long hours or pressure to work very hard or fast — can take a substantial toll on employee health and well-being. In fact, numerous studies find that high demands coupled with low control create health risks, including higher rates of symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.”

Since retail work can be all the above at times, it is important to make sure you have enough staff on hand to help respond to increases in customer traffic, balance the workload, and help keep a general positive vibe in the store.

Customer traffic can be unpredictable at times but there are scheduling tools that track traffic trends and these can be used to build out a balanced schedule.

Conclusion

Retail workers do important work, much of which is caring for and helping customers. Making sure they are compensated fairly, treated with respect, and supported is essential for both healthy staff and a successful retail business.

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