Omnichannel. Mobile. Showrooming. Digital marketplace. Social media. Customer experience. Transparency. Global. Fulfillment options. Inventory accuracy and visibility. Transaction platforms. Big data. Loyalty. Security. RFID. Innovation.

Those of us in the retail industry – whether as retailers, consultants or solution providers – can’t go a day without at least a few of the above words and phrases creeping into our reading, conversations and thoughts. These are all used to define today’s retail world.

But too often a critical element is missing in this complex equation: store employee.

As connected and advanced as we are all becoming, the employees on the front lines of any retail operation are still the key ingredients that can make or break a customer experience. The impacts of a bad customer experience – whether due to improper training or communication, sub-optimal working conditions or schedules, or any other variety of factors – are no longer kept in a vacuum, but can be virally and immediately broadcast through digital social channels. Customers are now able to easily influence their social networks – and even strangers – through comments, reviews and blogs.

Your employees can have an equal amount of influence.

While much of today’s focus is on integrating retail channels with the consequential systemic and process changes, it is key that retailers keep a keen eye on the impacts this integration has on their store employees and the satisfaction these employees have with their jobs and your company. It is often noted that employee satisfaction is an indicator of job performance and turnover – meaning the more satisfied your employees are, the better they will perform and less likely they will be to seek a job elsewhere. And typically with high employee satisfaction comes better customer satisfaction.

The Parker Avery Group is focusing some of our new thought leadership and research on the changing role of store associates and labor in the store. The impact of omnichannel alone will be a huge driver of change in the retail workplace. However, there are additional factors that are also dramatically changing how retailers need to handle their employees, including:

• New government legislation (health care and minimum wage)
• The influence of millennials as well as older generations
• The extension and expansion of different cultures and languages
• Competition for employees in other industries and professions

Changes to accommodate these forces involve every aspect of employee management and relationships: recruiting and hiring; training and development; compensation, benefits and incentives; discipline and termination; feedback and company involvement.

Much of the work Parker Avery does involves the impacts of change on our clients, and how roles, responsibilities and entire organizational structures often need to morph to better support strategic objectives. It is fascinating to watch the push and pull of retailers as they strive to become omnichannel, yet acknowledge that their brick and mortar channels are still very key to delivering their value proposition.

In developing their new retail store models and organizations, some critical employee-related questions need to be answered:

• How are retailers changing their tactics for recruiting, hiring, training and developing employees so they are treated well and are incented to stay with the company?
• What benefits and incentives are important to store employees outside of compensation (wages)?
• Should compensation and commission structures be changed? If so, how?
• What is the retailers’ value proposition to the high-performing employee who has many job and career alternatives?
• Why should store employees be interested in the company’s strategy and vision?
• What is the “right” equation of part-time vs. full time employees?

The Parker Avery Group is about to embark on the first of our 2014 research studies, where we are seeking to answer these questions and more. We will be soliciting feedback from retailers who are involved in these strategic human resource and operational decisions. If you are a retailer who is interested in being part of this study, please contact tricia[dot]garrett[at]parkeravery[dot]com

Shop on.

– Tricia

Published On: February 20, 2014Categories: Change Management, Customer Experience, Store Operations, Tricia Chismer Gustin