The Retail industry has a seriously big challenge on its hands. Attracting and retaining workers.

After two years of disruption, and worries about health and job security, many retail workers have decided to take advantage of a wide-open job market by finding new roles elsewhere.

Consider that the number of global active retail job openings has grown by 174% year on year, it’s no wonder attracting employees is one of the big issues keeping retail leaders awake at night.

The response? A recent Accenture
survey found the vast majority of retailers are focused on improving worker benefits, investing in supporting tech, increasing salaries, and reducing transactional activities to try to make retail work more engaging.

These are all valuable strategies. And yet the one third of retail executives believe worker morale remains low. And almost nine in every ten are worried about turnover. Clearly, a more fundamental rethink is needed.

That starts with a recognition that the dynamic between employee and employer has shifted. Potential retail employees aren’t only motivated by the benefits package on offer. They want something more fundamental: a relationship based on purpose, personal fulfilment, individual agency and trust.

One way to enable that is to create what’s called an “omni-connected” workplace. This means creating an environment where workers feel more connected to each other, their leaders and their work.

An omni-connected workplace is one in which people feel they can bring their whole selves to work in a culture of safety and equality. Where they have confidence that their voices will be heard. And where they’re able to learn, develop, take on new challenges, and advance their careers.

Right now, only one in eight retail employees feels omni-connected at work, but the good news is that there are several things retail leaders can do now to change that.

The first is about leadership.


An omni-connected workplace calls on retail leaders to display empathy, transparency and trustworthiness with all parts of the workforce, ensuring everyone feels safe and respected and able to share their voice.

Leaders finding new ways to listen and learn from the workforce is a key part of this. That might include les conventional channels such as workplace social communities, reverse mentorship, and leadership roundtables.

Senior leaders should also look to reorient management practices around employee satisfaction and experience, for example by incentivizing managers to measure and improve these indicators.

The second key step is about nurturing a set of cultural norms that emphasize purpose and authenticity.

Retailers must help their workers understand how each individual contribution plays a part in delivering the company’s greater purpose. They must also recognize that a strong brand culture is co-created with employees, not imposed on them.

Investing in learning is another way to show the workforce the business is serious about its purpose. Digital tech has opened a host of new avenues for nurturing employee development.

Italy’s Amplifon, for example, created an interactive Netflix
-like platform for guiding employees through its learning catalogue, including automated personal recommendations. The result? The number of completed courses rose by 455%.

The third step is to scale up new flexible ways of working.

This is about more than just having the option to work from home. It’s about workers feeling they have the autonomy to manage their own time and maximize their own productivity. It’s about having the right technology platforms in place to allow workers to collaborate in digital spaces and co-ordinate with each other’s schedules effectively.

The front-line retail workforce illustrates the challenge of making flexible working work for all. These vital employees have less choice in work location. But there are other ways to provide flexibility, such as allowing them pick up shifts that fit better around their non-working lives.

The final step reflects the crucial role of technology.

As retailers look ahead to the digitally enabled retail store of tomorrow and the evolution of more flexible and integrated store networks, they’ll need a workforce that is purposeful, upskilled, diverse and adaptable.

Key to this will be empowering workers with modern workforce platforms, communication tools, automation, and data insight solutions (supported by modern cloud and edge infrastructure).

These will enable workers in all parts of the business to work more efficiently and effectively, with the autonomy to explore new solutions and new uses of data to optimize their work at the point of need.

Together, these four steps can create lasting positive outcomes for employees and the business alike—meeting retail leaders’ goals for growth, speed and sustainability and employees’ needs for flexibility, equity and greater meaning at work.

It’s why investing in omni-connected experiences should be a priority for any retail leader that wants to tackle the workforce shortage — and sleep better at night.


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