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Why retailers need to become companies that care

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Any successful retail business depends on delivering great customer service, and that requires talented and motivated staff. But competition for the best people is fierce. Not only has staff turnover in the sector traditionally been high, but retailers increasingly require staff with a broader range of technical, financial and soft skills to meet customer and business needs today.

Many retailers recognise this and are taking positive steps to boost recruitment and retention. Just last week, new ONS statistics showed the retail industry paid £0.33 billion in bonuses in the last financial year, an encouraging sign that retailers are investing in staff incentives after a difficult post-recession period. Yet, while staff will always welcome a cash reward for their hard work, savvy employees increasingly want their employer to take a longer-term approach to wellbeing and reward.

So what can firms do to meet these expectations? We’ve worked with the CIPD and artisan coffee company Union Roasted to identify four ways that retailers can attract, retain and motivate their people.

Creating a caring culture

Working in the retail sector can be demanding, especially when hours can be unpredictable and customers can be tricky. But retail staff today expect much more from their employers when it comes to wellbeing at work. In fact, our research shows that 1 in 4 people working in the sector say they would consider leaving their job if they didn’t feel cared for by their employer, and a further 25% said not being well looked after would make them less likely to stay with an employer long-term. To address this, retailers need to create a caring culture that makes staff feel valued and looked after, whether that’s by taking a firm stance on the mistreatment of employees by customers or making sure staff feel comfortable to raise issues with managers .

Leadership and line management

Effective leadership is important when it comes to motivating employees, but this can be difficult in large retail businesses where there is often a physical divide between senior management in head office and frontline staff on the shop floor. As the link between the two line managers have a vital role to play, not least because a huge 84% of people working in the retail sector say that having a strong relationship with their line manager is particularly important to them, more than a competitive salary (83%). Retailers should invest in training and support to make sure line managers are equipped to fulfil this important function, maintain strong relationships with staff and deal with wellbeing issues should they arise.

Working practices

Retailers need to adapt working practices to account for the needs of a workforce that is increasingly diverse. According the BRC statistics, 62% of people working in retail are women and 13% are disabled workers. The sector also attracts a large number of parents looking to work

around childcare, and older workers looking for part time work as they approach semi-retirement. To get the best out of their people, retailers need to think about working responsively and in ways that fit both the needs of this diverse workforce and the business.

The retail sector already does a good job of offering part-time and flexible working, but should continue to think of innovative ways to adapt working practices. For example, some retailers offer “friends and family” contracts which enable employees from the same family or groups of friends to share and cover each other’s shifts. Ecommerce is also creating more opportunities for retail staff to work remotely rather than in store.

Employee benefits

Retailers that are truly committed to retaining and attracting top talent should ensure their strategy is underpinned by a comprehensive benefits strategy. This is a tangible way for employers to demonstrate they care for their staff, and helps them to stand out from competitors. For instance, Waitrose and John Lewis offer a benefits package which includes a generous annual bonus, staff discount and partnership opportunities.

It’s important to strike a balance between soft and hard benefits, whilst making sure packages meet the needs of employees today by providing financial security – for example, through Income Protection which provides a replacement salary if staff go off sick for six months or more.

With good customer service as important as ever, retailers must do everything they can to ensure they meet the discerning standards of today’s consumer. As a talented and motivated workforce is at the heart of good customer service, caring for your workforce should be a priority for companies looking to deliver the highest standards of customer service.

Published on Wednesday 01 October by Editorial Assistant

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