The retail industry has been shaken and stirred by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Retailers and their employees have been facing numerous challenges as a result.
The retail workforce is on a shrinking spree. Workers are being encouraged to don new hats and take on multiple roles on the shop floor.
Glassdoor, a leading recruitment site, has seen a nearly 25% decrease in listings in retail industry jobs as of June 2020.
Supermarkets have witnessed a drop in vacancies as well.
While retailers like Walmart have actually hired more temporary workers, J.C. Penny and Macy’s have resorted to letting go of staff in order to stay afloat.
Despite the uncertainty in the retail market, demand for jobs related to e-commerce and warehousing has risen in the last few months.
Forecasting sales patterns has become a challenge for business owners and large retailers. This is because of the unforeseen nature of the situation
This unprecedented crisis has disrupted the business ecosystem such that past trends can no longer be mathematically projected to predict future outcomes.
Business owners are unable to make proper decisions when it comes to staffing budgets, inventory and recruitment.
Things are not all bleak in this sunrise sector though.
With back to school and holiday seasons around the corner, consumer spending is projected to grow.
The crisis has also opened employers’ eyes to the fact that productivity is a direct result of good wages and job stability.
This realization has led to salary hikes and better leave policies for retail employees.
The focus now is mostly on optimizing inventory, re-thinking prizing and trying to bring in curbside pickup and other “contactless” safety measures.
With retailers focussed in all these directions, employee communications have been put on the back burner.
Employee communications has taken a back seat especially when it is needed the most.
The in-store experience is new and unprecedented, even for employees.
The scenario has called for added measures to be taken in creating a safe environment.
Contactless retail in the form of self-scanning and scan-and-go is fast becoming a norm across retail outlets..
These measures might involve new tools, technologies and processes. A basic training might have to be provided to retail workers in this regard.
The presence of safety measures, COVID policies and weary customers AND workers requires that employers up their communications game.
Workers need to be engaged and motivated more often than not.
New protocol and policy has to be communicated to the entire workforce with feedback based assurance that every individual has read and processed the protocols.
Two way channels of communication are imperative in order to address worker concerns and grievances on a timely basis.
To stay on top of operations, most businesses have been prudent with reaching out to customers, but not so much with employee comms.
Retailers have a lot of worker related concerns at the moment – furloughed employees, new roles and strategies like curbside pickup and so on.
You want to ensure employees are on-board with company regulations and their individual tasks.
There’s only one way to deal with the situation – relentless employee engagement!
Employees need to be taught how to safeguard their well being.
They also need assurance and hope for the future.
Engaging retail staff with timely leadership messages is a good step in the right direction.
It helps to send out regular and lengthy messages from leaders such as CEOs, MDs or their equivalent.
Video communication is more effective in this case as it is personable and more reassuring in times of crisis.
Video content is also easy to assimilate and can be consumed by a large cross-section of people.
Another option is to list out common FAQs and send it out as company wide messages through multiple channels like email, intranets and mobile comms platforms.
It might be necessary to recruit people for timely sanitization of the workplace or shop floor.
Minimum wage or hourly workers might have to be brought in for this purpose.
These workers should be given access to the company comms tool, and a brief training on the same.
Send out regular health surveys and daily feedback surveys to keep your workforce safe. Employee well-being should be the top priority!
Scheduling, shift rosters and other logistical details might have to be reworked and communicated accordingly.
Best practices to maintain safety such as hand washing and sanitizing, social distancing and so on have to be periodically engrained through crisp and routine messages.
Social media and email campaigns to communicate with customers can be used for employees as well.
Additionally, the company website can be updated with crucial information like reopening dates and other store policies.
Moreover, putting out messages that are personable and compassionate shows employees and visitors that you genuinely care!
E-mail is still a powerful communication medium
Send emails to single points of contact (SPOC) like managers and team leads who will be able to relay these messages to their teams and subordinates.
Digital communication channels like intranets and employee apps are the most ideal way to reach out to frontline retail workers on the shop floor.
Use a mobile communication tool to create two way communication channels between the retail worker and their employer.
‘Tis the season to be (kinda) Jolly!
Adding to the already abundant array of issues in retail is the up and coming holiday season.
The holiday shopping rush might be more subdued this year around.
Even if brick-and-mortar operations are on hold, online stores need to staff up with workers to pack and ship products.
The spike in demand of a seasonal nature demands only temporary staff to be brought on board.
It’s important to hire these seasonal workers as soon as possible, before the competition laps them up.
You could also switch your hourly and part time workers to full time for the season.
You can source candidates through agencies or look for college students looking to make some extra cash during the holidays.
Irrespective of how you find your seasonal workers, some level of training is mandatory.
Customer service is key during the holiday season, and most of your new found staff members are likely to be first timers in the retail industry.
It helps to develop sound training modules for workflow, scheduling practices and technology, safety measures (COVID related), shop floor rules and customer service behaviors.
Training related communication should be simple, crisp and covers all the bases.
Checklists are great tools during events like these.
Businesses could convert training lessons into simple checklists that workers can understand and follow easily.
Checklists also minimize errors and increase process efficiency.
Digital checklists go a step further by giving supervisors options to evaluate task progress in real-time.
You can use scheduling apps to set shifts and worker schedules too.
Notifying and preparing staff for important, high volume dates is extremely helpful.
Historically, there is evidence of a spike in retail sales just before Christmas.
Being aware of when customers are likely to splurge on a specific category of products helps businesses prep employees and create schedules and shifts accordingly.
Ultimately, worker safety is of utmost priority during these trying times.
At no point in time should businesses take chances or compromise on the safety of their employees.
Be it full-time staff, supervisors, or temporary seasonal workers – the onus of ensuring that all of them are trained and aware of best practices and safety protocols are on the employer.
Experts are predicting a second wave during the fall season.
Therefore, businesses should be all the more vigilant to worker health and safety while managing the surge in demand during the upcoming holiday season!
If you’d like to know how Groupe.io can help you engage your retail workers during the Holiday season, schedule a demo or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!