When it comes to their workforce, retailers face two main challenges: finding new and effective ways to manage rising labor costs; and attracting and retaining the right employees. The good news is this two-part problem has a one-part answer. Since stores look to increase productivity to improve their profits, striking the right balance between the two will ensure labor costs are contained and employees are empowered to succeed. In retail, more hours worked does not always equate to better productivity and more sales on the floor. Similarly, aggressive employers that push their teams to achieve lofty goals often leads to burn out and reduced retention. Retailers recognize their longer tenured associates are better salespeople. So, how do you retain them and make them the most productive in the most cost-effective manner?

Emerging technologies powered by a digital workplace are enabling new, more effective ways of working. Collectively known as employee engagement tools, these technologies drive employee productivity by improving how associates create, update, and manage schedules. They enable better communication flow, acting as interactive hubs between corporate offices, store managers and associates on the floor. They also provide easy access to training tools and content to help ensure the implementation of best practices across the organization.

Motivated and engaged employees stay at their jobs longer and promote a more consistent brand message to customers. Quantum Workplace’s Employee Engagement Trends Report found that organizations with engaged employees have, on average, 24% lower turnover, a 20% increase in sales, 10% higher customer metrics, and 28% less shrinkage.

What a digital workplace looks like
While the concept of a digital workplace is not new – corporate salary workers have been working within a digital environment for well over ten years now – advances in applications for hourly workers are bringing new ways to manage tasks, schedules, training and communications. So, what does the digital workplace look like on the store floor? Let’s take a look at a few examples:

  1. Scheduling – Jane is a part-time, hourly associate at a large box retailer who is scheduled to work a four-hour shift in the evening. Sometime during the morning, she receives a notification on her phone via her employer’s digital workplace application that a three-hour shift immediately preceding hers is available. Jane, who is saving for a new car, can use the additional hours and money and takes the shift.
  1. Communications and task management – Laura is a full-time hourly employee at a store of a large grocery chain. While on the floor she receives a message from her manager that one of their suppliers is running a special product promotion. The message includes instructions on where in the store to create new shelf space along with a PDF of merchandising specs. Laura is not only able to complete this non-routine task quickly and correctly, she requires little supervision so her manager can spend time on various other activities.
  1. Easy access to training – Bob is a part-time hourly associate who works for a midsized electronics retailer. Upon arriving at the store for his scheduled five-hour shift, he receives a notification on his phone that a new product is being launched by one of the retailer’s top suppliers. Bob is asked to watch a short, four-minute product overview video. Once Bob logs into his employer’s digital workplace application he watches the video and is asked to take a short quiz to test his knowledge on the new product. The results are immediately sent to his manager who then knows that Bob has taken the required training and successfully passed the product quiz.

An efficiently run digital workplace, laid-out in the example scenarios above, must take on an employee-centric approach and provide easy access to people and information. It should allow your staff to share, automate, and find real-time information from any device.

The fact is, engaged staff are more dedicated to a company’s vision and overall goals. Mobile devices and web-based collaboration applications, afforded by a digital workplace, allow employees to work smarter and faster, which translates to a more productive workforce. Plus, it allows an employer to retain and attract good talent. A global study by Steelcase and Ipsos showed that 88% of employees who feel they have control over where and how they work are more engaged and fulfilled in their job. Giving employees the opportunity to share knowledge, receive training, attain rewards and manage their own schedules creates an environment where employees feel valued and empowered to succeed.

Getting on the right path
The digital workplace is the organizational foundation by which employee engagement and the overall employee experience can be developed.

By driving a better employee experience, through digital workplace technologies that motivate and engage workers, employers will increase loyalty, improve productivity and raise the retention rate. More engaged employees equate to better service, which leads to happier customers and increased sales.

To give insight into how to improve the overall work experience of your employees we’ll be taking you through a multi-part blog series. Check back soon for Part 2 of our series where we’ll take a deeper look into the benefits of adopting an employee engagement strategy and what it means to your organization.