Your Store Associates Have Higher Expectations Than Ever Before. Meet Them Where They Are with Intelligent Retail Solutions.

Retail workers are increasingly difficult to hire and retain. Technology can go a long way to attract the best workers and keep them engaged.

A home improvement store associate uses a Zebra TC52ax mobile computer to scan mulch bags
by Kevin Tapscott
November 16, 2021

No matter how automated retail chains become, they will always depend on front-line employees. Store associates will always be a part of the shopping process, whether they’re greeting shoppers, consulting on the floor, replenishing stock, or cleaning the store. But as their workload increases due to the introduction of curbside pickup, online fulfillment, and other high-priority initiatives, these employees are placed under more pressure.

Front-line employees have faced the challenges that COVID-19 presented within retail stores, such as adhering to safety regulations and managing changing customer expectations. They have had to juggle the competing responsibilities that have come from their shifting work and home lives, such as managing distance learning for their children or care for immunocompromised relatives. And now, with a major holiday season approaching, they’ll be asked to do even more, such as managing a high volume of product returns and implementing a wide array of new promotions in stores.

Your employees clearly want something in return for this extra effort, something to accommodate the changing nature of their work and the shifts in the pandemic. Without this extra support, they’re likely to face burnout and fatigue, which will certainly disrupt retail operations, interfere with the execution of major tasks and initiatives, and lead to a decline in the customer experience. During a busy holiday season, this can be absolutely disastrous.

What Do Associates Want and Expect from Their Employers?

As much as possible, employees (parents and caregivers especially) need to have their scheduling needs and preferences met to effectively manage their shifting responsibilities at home. However, traditional processes for scheduling and communication are obstacles. Using spreadsheets or disparate systems to cobble together schedules for employees is burdensome for managers and employees alike. These clumsy processes tend to rely on erroneous data and take a great deal of time to generate schedules. They also make it more likely that managers will fail to account for employee preferences, leading to inconsistent and inaccurate schedules that require numerous last-minute changes and ultimately dissatisfy employees.

This frustrating process can also lead to burnout and employee turnover. When there are callouts or associates want to swap shifts, store managers must manually juggle this information, all of which they’re getting in person, over the phone and via email. Having to keep track of this and edit these schedules manually leads managers to make more mistakes, which can deteriorate their relationship with their employees.

Today’s front-line employees, especially those in younger generations, have also grown accustomed to using their mobile phones to accomplish many of their daily tasks. From paying bills to checking their bank accounts, talking with friends to sending photos to their families, people constantly rely on their phones, making them a necessity in every workplace today. It feels unnatural to communicate any other way. They expect to be able to talk with one another, receive tasks and communications, and check their schedules with a mobile device. Forcing them to use outdated methods to accomplish these functions will make them feel constantly inconvenienced and frustrated.

Meeting Associate Expectations with Intelligent Retail Solutions

Fortunately, retailers don’t have to rely on these outdated approaches. There are proven and powerful enterprise-strength, mobile-first solutions that support the experiences today’s associates want to have in your stores. Such systems should be capable of supporting:

  • Accurate, compliant, data-based scheduling: With an intelligent workforce management solution, you’re able to effectively deploy your associates when and where they can have the highest impact. The system should be able to take in historical data, including atypical data generated during major disruptions, and create precise labor forecasts. Using those forecasts, managers can generate fully optimized labor schedules in minutes, which are then shared with associates as far in advance as possible. This ensures your associates have schedules that automatically factor in all the preferences that matter most to them. In doing so, employees don’t have to wait until the last minute for their schedules, and they don’t have to worry about getting schedules that conflict with other responsibilities. This peace of mind plays a large role in fostering higher employee engagement, making them for effective during their shifts and lowering turnover rates
  • Mobile access to real-time execution solutions: Real-time task management and communication solutions provide employees with one single interface that contains a prioritized list of their daily tasks, ensuring they always know where to be and what work to accomplish. With the ability to access this information on their mobile devices, and with real-time alerts providing them with new tasks and updates, employees no longer have to fight the confusion of not knowing what to do. Plus, they can send and receive messages in real time clarifying any confusion they have, asking for help from other associates or managers. With this functionality, you can empower a more collaborative work environment, one where training and guidance can happen in the moment. All of this makes it substantially easier for them to do their jobs and communicate with their colleagues, and it ensures they’re consistently aligned with store managers’ expectations.
  • Flexible scheduling capabilities: With employee self-service solutions, employees can modify work schedules according to their own needs within corporate and store guidelines. They can also check their schedules, adjust availability, request leave or advertise shifts, all on their mobile devices. This solution also provides managers with one location to manage employee requests, where they can approve or deny requests at the press of a button. This gives employees more control over their schedules, as well as the flexibility they need to handle any changes in their home life that affect their lives at work.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to meet the expectations of your front-line employees, visit our website or contact our team. We would be glad to discuss the challenges your employees are facing and what we can do to help empower your staff. 

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Kevin Tapscott
Kevin Tapscott is Vice President of Solution Consulting for the Americas at Reflexis, which is now part of Zebra Technologies. He leads a team of retail operations experts who help retailers simplify their operations and optimize their labor with intelligent task management and workforce management software solutions.
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