In Part 1 of this blog post, we discussed the changing demographics of the retail workforce. Now, we turn our attention to how the work your employees are doing – from their hours to the duties asked of them – is changing too.

How Work Is Changing

Hiring

  • Unemployment is at historic lows and finding candidates to hire is becoming more and more challenging.
  • After a surge of full-time jobs being turned into part-time jobs during the 2009 recession, the pendulum is starting to swing back a bit. Nonetheless, many employers are still preferring to keep as many of their hourly workers on a part-time basis as possible, enjoying the ability to adjust hours based on need.
  • Most workers still need full-time hours, but not always the same hours. Some may want to work evenings and weekends to accommodate schooling, or days to accommodate childcare needs. Because of this, hourly workers often juggle multiple jobs to get enough hours to cover their expenses and want employers to be flexible and accommodating of their complex scheduling. Employers who can’t accommodate those needs will find themselves with higher-than-average turnover.

Employee Engagement and Learning

  • Employees no longer want to sit on the sidelines! They want to be more engaged with decisions that affect them in real-time and they want to engage in this discussion on their terms, from their devices.
  • Employees don’t find it effective to learn by reading binders or sitting in training sessions, nor do employers have the extra hours to allow them to train that way. Employees want training to arrive in real-time and in small amounts – when they need it and wherever they are when a new challenge or process arrives. Employers will have to adapt to meet the more modern training needs of a multi-generational workforce.

New and Advanced Technologies

  • Employees as well as consumers expect companies to leverage new and advanced technologies.
  • In the near future, AI and robots will do some of the work formerly done by employees. While some tasks may become automated, new tasks and skills will be required for employees to work alongside these new technologies. Savvy employers will commit to training and educating their employees now, helping them transition into new tasks and roles.

Communication

  • The tools that employees use to communicate with their managers and each other is changing radically. Thus, the tools that companies will be using to communicate with their employees must follow suit.
  • Workplace formality is rapidly falling by the wayside. Even in traditional organizational structures, lines of communication are opening up between front-line staff and the c-suite, with first-name basis conversations taking place on social media and on internal communication channels.

How Employers Can Not Only Adapt, But Thrive

It’s clear that to stay competitive and reduce turnover, organizations need to change the way they manage their workforce, and they need to start now if they haven’t already. The challenge is knowing where to start.

Our recommendation is to get out of the boardroom and into the field. Roll up your sleeves and become intimately acquainted with the real people on your organization’s front line. Ask them about how they currently check their schedules, swap shifts, and communicate with their manager. Then, get your managers’ versions of those same stories.

Only with that critical information in hand can you begin to build out a strategy for engaging your workers. From there, it’s about creating a vision for the future, and mapping out the tactics and initiatives that will get you there.

Be sure to ask yourself the following questions during this process:

  • What flexibility do you need to build in to meeting staffing needs?
    • Consider pooling employees across locations and jobs. If your organization has multiple branches or outlets within a reasonably sized geographical area, you may be able to offer employees as many hours as they wish, as long as they don’t mind going to different locations.
    • Some organizations are successfully experimenting with “coopetition” – teaming up with other, unrelated businesses in the immediate area (in a shopping mall, for example), to pool employees. Retailers with sister companies in a nearby location could do this quite effectively, as their systems might be more compatible.
    • Staffing companies may be a way to meet broader hiring needs, with the company helping both you and the employee navigate scheduling demands.
  • How can your organization best meet the needs of a multi-generational workforce?
    • To begin, it’s vital to have clear communication with HR, front-line management, and staff, to properly assess employee needs and demographics.
    • From there, develop and implement the necessary processes and policies to support the needs of your multi-generational workforce.
    • Don’t allow your planning to be paralyzed by tradition. Flexible scheduling may be untested in your workplace, but “we’ve always done it that way” is not going to serve any organization well these days.
  • What technologies and solutions will your employees expect you to offer them?
    • Evaluate the extensibility of your current technologies and their ability to support the changing workforce.
    • Explore ways to meet employees where they are. Instead of implementing systems that require access to a desktop computer, consider mobile WFM solutions that make it easy and convenient for employees to engage in communications, training, shift changes, and so on.

If all of this seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. There will be significant and never-before-seen changes to how your organization will operate in the years to come, and the stakes are indeed very high. But you’re not facing this challenge alone.

Axsium has helped organizations around the world define and execute on smart and effective strategies for adapting to the changing workforce, and we can’t wait to put our knowledge, skills, and experience to work for your organization, helping you not only survive the changes to today’s workforce, but thrive.

Regards,

Michael Spataro

mspataro@axsiumgroup.com