Alongside the trend towards digital, customers are increasingly seeking to do business with purpose-driven brands, and their definition of purpose extends to the relationship with store team members. In a recent Accenture global survey, more than half of the 10,000 consumers we spoke to said they would not shop with retailers that had laid off staff or cut benefits, nor would they purchase from companies they don’t perceive as inclusive or diverse.
This sobering statistic, along with a general shortage of technically skilled talent in the market, means that retailers will have to ‘newskill’ and transition their workforce to a new model to be future-ready. This should occur alongside continuous automation, sophisticated partner strategies, and aggressive hiring for key technical roles.
Upskill your own digital workforce
Retailers should engage training partners that specialise in digital skills to help current team members re-skill in digital capabilities. This will avoid unnecessary hiring in a labour market where tech-skills shortages drive wages and churn in technical roles. Staff are ready for this. Of non-managers in the retail environment, more than half in our research are clear that they are not being used to their full potential.
Continuous learning programs like these should allow you to anticipate and fill emerging roles with people who already have an intimate knowledge of your company culture. They will also aid retention, with 98 per cent of workers saying they would recommend to others a company that enables continuous learning.
Roles you should train staff for include: digital designers, who use consumer data to drive customer decision-making across online touchpoints; supply-chain planners, who use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to produce more precise and complex scenario models; data-driven marketers, who can take your brand’s mission and message to digital audiences; and consumer-centric merchants, who have the data tools to create hyper-local, personalised product offerings that are specific to a consumer’s location, demographic, and digital footprint.
Retailers are already down the road of workforce reskilling. Woolworths is training more than 60,000 people across multiple divisions in digital, data, machine learning, virtual reality, and robotics in Australia.
Ruthlessly assess your opportunities to automate
To newskill and transition, you must eliminate some existing workloads. This means automation. All highly manual tasks – whether digital or physical – should be viewed as candidates for automation. Where a process can be automated to allow the person who performs it to be redeployed to more innovative, higher-value work, do it.
This is not just about putting robots in factories or deploying bots to provide routine advice and support. Technical work itself – like digital marketing and data analysis – should be subjected to the same ruthless assessment, as digital automation will drive faster transformation and deliver a competitive edge.
Key digital hires will make the difference
You will not be able to fill every digital role by transitioning existing employees. Particularly for senior roles requiring technical proficiency and high-level experience, it will be necessary to go to market, and competition will be fierce.
Retailers should carefully identify which capabilities should be hired, which should be obtained from partners, and which can be trained. For those roles that are non-negotiable hires, be prepared to bid fearlessly and pursue tirelessly to secure the right candidate in today’s ultra-competitive job market.
Invest in partnerships that will set you up for the long term
As the above guidelines show, choosing the right partners is crucial to your strategy for creating the workforce of tomorrow. The right advice will allow you to make clear decisions about structural changes to the business that will determine how and where the work of digital, data, and automation specialists will occur.
A partnership strategy will also allow you to obtain expert guidance in newskilling workers, along with a more objective and consultative approach to embedding workforce diversity and equity. Finally, it will allow you to obtain the benefit of some of the most specialised, difficult to obtain technical skills without having to participate in an inflated labour market.
The right approach to retail workforce transition will vary in its specifics according to company, market segment, and category. What is common to all retailers is the urgency of the task. With digital skills already in high demand and the imperatives of a changing market upon us sooner than any could have imagined, creating the retail workforce of tomorrow must start not today but yesterday.