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Study: Here’s how retailers are responding to changing employee needs

Retailers face evolving requirements for frontline success.

Retailers are adapting to the changing needs of the modern workforce in different ways— and some more than others.

In response to recent disruptions, surveyed retailer executives are allowing employees to swap schedules (46%) and offering more flexible scheduling (44%), according to a retailer survey conducted by RSR Research and sponsored by Manhattan Associates and Workforce Software. The executives are also

employing more part-time workers and fewer full-time associates, increasing pay scale (38%), and increasing employee incentives to stay (35%).

When RSR Research examined the results of “retail winners” (respondents with comparable store/channel sales growth above the industry average) compared to all other respondents it found that the high-performers showed a greater willingness to adapt.  The winners were much more likely than all other respondents to offer more flexible scheduling (61% vs. 33%), increase pay scale (48% vs. 31%), and increase incentives (42% vs. 31%). Interestingly, winners said they have hired more contract workers at a lower rate (21%) than other respondents (37%).

Also, 58% of the winners strongly agree their employee pay and benefits are excellent and retention is above average, compared to 39% of all other respondents.

Similar discrepancies between winners and all other respondents exist in strongly agreeing that employees have a lot of schedule flexibility (55% vs. 31%), consistently meeting or exceeding business performance targets (55% vs. 22%), using consumer-grade technologies to maximize employee productivity and engagement (48% vs. 29%), and employees feeling valued and engaged (48% vs. 31%).

Additional findings of “Has the Era of the Empowered Workforce Finally Arrived?” survey are below.

• Among all respondents, the top three business challenges driving them to improve how they manage their sales workforce are difficulty in finding, training and training good employees (59%), consumer price sensitivity constraining margins and discretionary spend (57%), and consumers demanding a different store experience than they currently provide (35%).

• The top three operational challenges for all respondents in managing the sales workforce are consumers wanting more access to informed staff than they can provide (45%), consumers wanting more self-service options (41%), and a three-way tie among needing to execute better on customer service basics, the time and expense of training employees to become good brand ambassador, and customers having more access to product information than they can provide in stores (38% each).

• The top three most important things surveyed retail executives ask their employees to do are assist customers to find the products they are looking for (48%), maintain merchandise on the sales floor (43%), and act as customer service agents (35%),

On the associate side, according to a recent SafetyCulture-sponsored YouGov survey of American, British and Australian frontline workers in hospitality, retail, manufacturing, and logistics - four in 10 respondents feel management is "out of touch" with their role based on the communications they receive from headquarters.

Other interesting findings of this survey include:

  • Almost one-third (32%) of respondents don't have time to read or act on headquarters communications, and three in 10 respondents said internal communications get in the way of performing their role and tasks.
  • More than four in 10 respondents agree the communications they receive from headquarters are often not engaging (43%) and irrelevant (42%).
  • Almost half of the surveyed frontline workers (49%) said they couldn't "put a face to the name" of most headquarters team members they communicate with.
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