According to Bloomberg , employee turnover in the retail sector is 5% per month, making retail one of the industries with the lowest retention rates. Employees’ reasons for leaving are diverse and interconnected – from dissatisfaction with payment and management to monotony of daily tasks.
Let’s zoom in on one of the main reasons for high churn in retail – lack of workplace flexibility and how retailers can counter it with the help of guided workflows.
How can flexibility improve retention?
According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management, "employees who have the opportunity to make use of workplace flexibility show increased commitment and engagement and improved performance — outcomes that ultimately help their employers." What is more, 41 % of employees stay in their current employment based largely on workplace flexibility .
The wider the range of flexible scheduling options retailers can offer, the higher the chances of employee retention are.
Such options include:
Taking into consideration employees’ preferences for specific days, shifts or hours.
Giving employees the opportunity to request time off in advance of creating the weekly schedule.
Enabling employees to organise their schedule coverage and shift swapping.
Allowing employees to work at multiple store locations based on geographic convenience.
To make workplace flexibility work, retailers need a workforce that can readily perform a variety of front and back of store tasks with equal ease at any outlet. The obvious approach would be to increase the number of hires and/or provide extensive training so there is never shortage of trained staff. However, this approach can be lengthy and costly, and many retailers are trying to achieve more with less when it comes to workforce productivity. To quantify the cost, finding, hiring and training a new cashier and allowing for lower productivity during the onboarding period is estimated to cost retailers between $2,286 and $4,313 .
Technology may provide the answers to workforce flexibility. Can the job of a store associate be as flexible as an Uber driver's? In theory, Uber drivers could work in Manchester one week and in Berlin the next, reaching maximum productivity straight away without the need for extensive training (to acquire the 'knowledge' in each city takes black cab drivers many years of work). Tools like Waze will even equip drivers with an omniscient knowledge to hack rush hour traffic.
Could retailers "uberise" their workforce ?
The first capability required is an intelligent workforce management (WFM) system to clear the supply of workers with the demand for task execution in stores on a continuous basis. With the plethora of WFM vendors investing in AI R&D, and the exponentially increasing volumes of data generated by retail systems (POS, CRM, ERP, e-commerce, order inventory management, labour scheduling), it won't be long before some of the marketing talk around intelligent, activity based scheduling becomes a reality on the shop floor.
Once the move towards a more on-demand workforce gets under way, retailers will need to make sure that their staff are equipped to perform the full variety of tasks required. Whether for opening checks, replenishment, in store picking or click and collect fulfilment, staff can be provided with real-time, in-context digital guidance which enables them to perform any task, anywhere.
Store associates can then view these tasks on their mobile devices, organised in an intelligent, data-driven to-do list which focuses their efforts on the highest priority activities and provides tailored guidance at the point of action. For example, when Jane is working at the high street outlet of a large supermarket, she will receive a reminder on her mobile device to check the on-shelf-availability of salad boxes – best-selling SKUs for this location - before sales peak at 12:30pm. In the case of an out of stock, she can follow step by step guidance on picking up stock from the back of store and replenishing the shelves.
On a day when Jane’s chosen to work in the outlet close to her daughter’s school, she might get a recall alert for out of date yoghurts and an easy-to-follow breakdown of the standard operating procedure. In another instance, the guided workflow can take Jane through a monthly cycle count of soft drinks to ensure that there are no discrepancies between the inventory listed and the physical count of stock.
By enabling store associates to work at any chosen location and perform a broader variety of tasks, guided workflows also address another key cause high employee turnover in retail – the monotony of daily tasks. Instead of spending an entire day at the cash desk, or purely re-stocking shelves, store associates have the point-of-action guidance to perform any front or back of store task, always following the best practices.
In addition to the retention and productivity gains, retailers can benefit from easily re-designing and communicating in-store execution processes, pushing them on store associates' mobile devices for continuous improvement of in-store execution.
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Knowing and managing your company’s employee turnover rate is essential if you want to stay in business for the long haul. While every company deals with turnover to some extent, if too many employees are leaving voluntarily, this can cause serious problems. You can learn more about the impact of employee turnover rate and how to reduce it here: Employee Turnover Rate: How to Calculate and Minimize It