How the Digital Transformation of HR Can Impact Retailers

Emma Miller
Emma Miller
Guest Contributor

By modernizing their HR departments and strategies and tapping into the latest technologies, retailers can boost their workforce productivity, cut overhead costs, and keep their shoppers satisfied.

The retail landscape has undergone major changes during the past couple of years. Macy’s and Sears, two of the largest retailers in the United States, have closed a number of stores, and a great many malls have been shuttered in their entirety. Moreover, the future may get more challenging before it gets better other bricks-and-mortar retailers as it’s expected that somewhere between 20 percent and 25 percent of the U.S. malls will close or be repurposed within the next five years. At the same time, many retailers are switching to an omnichannel approach in order to meet customers’ needs, while e-commerce is becoming increasingly popular among consumers. If we bear in mind that turnover rates in the retail industry are among the highest, it’s clear that employers need to change and improve their human asset management strategies, and that’s exactly where HR, backed by the disruptive digital technologies, comes in.

Recruiting goes digital

One of the most critical mistakes retailers usually make is treating their employees as disposable commodities. This means that they’re more willing to hire independent contractors or part-time workers, mainly in order to avoid offering various employee benefits. Although this will initially save them some money, it’s a bad idea in the long run because they won’t be able to attract and keep the top talent. A shift from the gig economy means finding, training, and organizing the right candidates. Big data analytics paired with cloud-based hiring tools help HR managers cherry-pick the top applicants. But the trick is to attract, nurture, and keep them, so, listing a few cool benefits in your offer of employment letter will make you a desirable employer and reduce your turnover rate. Disruptive technologies can also be of great help when it comes to employee motivation and retention. Namely, there are sophisticated algorithms which can be used to predict when an employee intends to leave the company so that their manager can react in a timely manner and offer some incentives in order to encourage them to stay.  

Related: Staffing Your Stores eBook

Virtual agents

As of recently, chatbots have been introduced into HR, and this trend is here to stay. Namely, with the advancement of AI, natural language processing, and machine learning, chatbots have become more than just programs with a limited set of predefined phrases which pop up on a website giving answers to frequently asked questions. These new virtual HR agents can manage all that tedious and repetitive work, such as dealing with payroll transactions or doing the paperwork for leaves of absence or vacations. Needless to say, such a system used to require a large number of people for handling tons of administrative tasks. HR automation helps companies to cut overhead costs by reducing the number of administrative employees and boosting productivity at the same time. Even though this technology is still in its early stages, it shows great potential, especially if it’s integrated into HR platforms and used together with online collaboration tools such as Slack.

Improve customer experience

Customer experience is essential for building customer loyalty. Moreover, according to research, it will overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator. Various factors affect customer experience and having a well-trained workforce that understands the product they’re trying to sell and knows its features is among the most important ones. That’s why retailers need to speed up the onboarding process, train their staff, and make sure that their employees meet their customers’ expectations. In order to effectively and efficiently train their salesforce, employers can use and greatly benefit from advanced modules broken down into a number of short, easily consumable videos which can be watched during the working hours because they don’t require leaving the sales floor. Another factor that has a profound impact on customer experience and satisfaction is employee engagement. Using survey tools whose questions are aligned with your corporate values and culture, and analyzing them thoroughly can provide you with a valuable insight into your employees’ engagement and help you improve it by finding out what makes them tick.

Related: Every Shopper Deserves the Best Shopping Experience

Build your employer brand

Finding the best people for the job is a challenging task, and apart from using digital platforms in order to locate and hire them, you shouldn’t forget that they will look your company up on the internet, social media, and various other platforms too. This means that your HR team has to work on building your employer brand and promoting your company values and culture. Your website should be well-designed and professional, and it should feature the “We’re hiring” section where you’ll post job openings together with detailed descriptions, instructions, as well as online application forms. Aesthetically appealing websites are perceived as more trustworthy and credible, and the fact that potential candidates can find all the information they need quickly and apply for the job easily will present your company in a positive light.

Retailers need to modernize their HR departments and strategies and tap into the latest technologies in order to boost their workforce productivity, cut overhead costs, and keep their customers satisfied.

About the writer: Emma Miller is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a marketing degree she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant, industry related online publications and does a job of an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. Interested in marketing, startups and latest business trends.

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