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How to futurize your retail and hospitality workforce

How to futurize your retail and hospitality workforce

Author: John Orr 

Source: Retail Dive 

In my last piece, I wrote about harmonized human capital management (HCM) – an ideology that focuses on the holistic associate experience, the function of organizational culture, and the effective use of HR data. New research found in Ceridian’s Pay Experience Report reveals an associate’s experience with compensation and payroll directly impacts how they view their organization.

Nailing your associate’s pay experience is a key marker for HR leaders in managing associate engagement and retention – but what are the next steps? What actions can retail and hospitality organizations take to be considered best-in-class employers?

Here are four key areas for these organizations to keep in mind when preparing their workforces for the future:

1. Rethink your retention strategy

For retailers to thrive, they should assess and know what their associates’ needs, wants, and desires are when it comes to their associate experience. Don’t forget, you are dealing with potentially five different generations of associates, each having its own core values.

Take a look at some industry research: the average turnover rate for all U.S. industries sits at around 15 percent, but in the retail industry it sits at slightly above 60 percent, according to the National Retail Federation. A survey by Korn Ferry found that of all retail positions, part-time hourly store associates have the highest turnover rate, sitting at 81% in 2018. And a 2018 MIT Tech Review found that there is 150% turnover rate in the fast food industry.

One thing is clear from all these figures: the retailers and hospitality organizations of tomorrow need to prioritize and create an effective retention strategy. Many employers can look at the numbers and think that the high turnover is inevitable, but there are things that can be done to successfully address retentionlike fostering an associate’s career longevity and by identifying those who have the traits and characteristics that make for a career with your organization.

2. Pay attention to your associates beyond routine check-ins

This starts from the moment an associate is hired and must remain a priority for their entire stay with the organization. Like any job, associates are looking for great benefits, training, and learning opportunities. As well, with a multi-generational workforce, each associate will have specific core values and communication preferences that need to be met.

Traditionalists are currently in their 70s and 80s and have a strong sense of institutional loyalty. They prefer in-person interaction and formal written communications rather than electronic media to get tasks done. 

Baby boomers are in their late 50s and 60s, and value working from the office and put a premium on office "face time." Like traditionalists, they often prefer written communication and one-on-one meetings in the workplace.

Generation X members, who are in their 40s and 50s, value family time and work-life balance. While still hardworking, they see the benefits of diversity, flexible schedules, and relaxed work requirements. 

Gen Y members — also known as millennials — are in their 20s and 30s. Millennials seek out challenges, are very goal-focused, and desire meaningful careers. They prefer to communicate via electronic media and enjoy working from home but tout being connected 24/7 based on their access to and use of technology. 

Gen Z members, with the oldest members being only 23 years old, value flexibility and their personal freedom but are also seeking to find the foundations of their careers as well as financial stability. They tend to value more formal in-person interactions.

Based on these varying needs of the multi-generational workforce, employers need to invest time, energy, and resources into implementing effective communication and training programs that will enable all workers to envision a future at your company.

3. Transformational people management from the top

Like every industry, the retail landscape is evolving rapidly – from the emergence of the gig economy to constantly changing consumer demands. What can organizations do to ensure their staff are able to keep pace, and more pressingly, how do employers ensure they are properly equipped with the right workforce for the future? The answer is by investing in transformational people management through harmonized systems and culture to support it.

According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 50% of associates leave their jobs because of their managers. As well, managers account for as much as 70% of variance in associate engagement scores, according to Gallup’s State of the American Manager report. The second reason is that the associates are not getting enough hours or working too much.

Effectively investing in your workforce must start with proper work-life balance, open communication, predictability and fairness, training, and upskilling of your people. By emphasizing the importance of people management and the systems that support engagement and care, your consumer-facing associates will extend that provision of care to your customers. It is more than likely that this will decrease your turnover rates, boost your associate engagement metrics, and improve productivity and overall profitability.  

The more a manager and the organization are engaged with their associates, the more productive and happier an associate can be. With the right tools in place, a well-informed manager can invest in the growth of associates and help them map out their future at an organization by providing customized associate learning recommendations. Empower managers to be leaders who create a rewarding work environment for their people. Technology can help them rally their teams around organizational goals, develop associates’ performance, and further enable their people with self-service functionality.

4. Embracing disruptive technologies

Given all the ways retailers and hospitality organizations can better equip themselves for the future of work, what is the most effective and efficient way to implement these tactics? The adoption of disruptive technologies.

A comprehensive HCM platform with workforce and talent management, benefits, HR and payroll functionalities can help automate processes that previously took employers away from focusing on relationships and organizational goals. With lofty ambitions of successfully retaining and managing a workforce that’s sustainable and well-equipped for the future, the implementation of these types of technologies can help streamline these objectives, and therefore enhance business results.

Mobile access for things like scheduling, pay information, benefits, communications, and learning and development creates an open environment with ease of use for associates, also better allowing them to focus on their task at hand: being a customer-focused relationship builder. By giving your associates the freedom and flexibility to access their information in real-time, you’ll end up with a more trusting, happier people-based organization.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are on the rise in the retail and hospitality sectors. It is now possible to leverage these modern technologies to make it easy and convenient for associates to make schedule changes or request time off through voice or chat commands using virtual assistants and AI.

Another example of how automation and artificial intelligence can help support retail and hospitality associates is Dayforce Benefits Decision Support. Think about the young people who work in hospitality and retail and envision them trying to choose which benefits program is best suited for them; this can be daunting. Earlier this year, Dayforce added AI to decision support for benefits, assisting users to choose the best coverage for them based on a few interactions and questions – and giving them a suggestion. This can help the end-user with engagement and can help the associate continue to streamline processes.

These types of innovations improve communication and continue to make it easier for employers and managers to run stores and the associates that are working in them.


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