Guest Blog By Chris Wakely
With the retail industry poised for rapid growth over the next several years, HR teams need to accommodate and update policies in order to engage and retain both new and old employees. An added challenge is that millennials are inching their way to being the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, so many emerging trends are adapted to the needs and skills of these young workers. Let’s take a look at some HR trends in retail that are worth keeping up with.
The integration of mobile devices
As millennials begin to dominate the workforce, these young employees bring a comfort level with technology that isn’t always found in older generations. This provides plenty of opportunities for HR to adapt to the skill set of their employees. People are accustomed to being able to access information easily and instantly, so utilizing mobile is one way to make HR policies compatible with employees’ everyday lives.
Retail companies can take advantage of this by making benefits information available anytime and anywhere online or through specialized apps. These apps can range from reimbursement information, where they can claim back a variety of benefit expenses from an allowance, to checking how much vacation they have accrued and more. Employees can also use mobile during shifts to communicate without walking across the store through a messaging app.
Boosting incentive and rewards programs
Another growing trend in retail HR is the use of incentive and rewards programs to engage and motivate employees. Traditional programs, like commission structures and sales goals, can be used to motivate employees to succeed in sales and customer service. It is common practice to recognize employees with the highest sales numbers, but rewards can bring focus to other areas as well. Take ‘Employee of the Month’ one step further and offer a reward to the employee that received the most positive feedback!
Benefits and rewards packages for retail employees are also becoming commonplace in the retail industry, given that the number of full-time retail employees continues to grow. Offering benefits and rewards programs can have a tremendous impact on how valued an employee feels. Increase in salary is an obvious benefit, but offering health insurance or paid time off can be equally as impactful. These types of benefits are taking precedence over pay raises to many employees, according to a study by Monster Insights.
Getting creative with HR activities
Taking a non-traditional approach to HR can boost engagement at both the store and company-wide level. Take training programs, for example. First impressions can dictate how a person thinks about someone permanently, and that applies to the first day at a new job. Consider using entertaining training tactics to maintain interest and excitement. Gamification is a great way for employees to practice real-world situations before they have to experience them with customers. If your store has a confusing layout or elaborate stockroom, augmented reality can train employees to navigate the space. HR can also use gamification to evaluate an employee’s progress during the training period, with contests and puzzles testing their performance. Gamification engages employees by tapping into competitive nature, so it can motivate employees to continue improving.
A common thread: customization is key
What do all of these emerging trends have in common? They focus on customizing policies to fit the employees’ needs. Another opportunity to customize HR programs is by taking a “glocal” approach. In other words, retail companies should think globally but act locally by tailoring programs based on laws and regulations of each specific region. This “glocal” approach can be applied to company culture as well. It is important for retail employees to identify with the company as a whole, but individual store culture is arguably more important to employee happiness. This culture can be achieved through the previously mentioned rewards programs, or through games and team activities. Launching a team challenge within a store’s staff helps build positive team culture, and it creates a more enjoyable work environment overall.
As the retail industry grows rapidly, time and resources shouldn’t have to be dedicated to replacing high-turnover employees. Retailers can follow these HR trends to promote a happy and engaged workforce, resulting in higher employee retention and ultimately, a healthier business.
Chris Wakely is Senior Vice President at Thomsons Online Benefits