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How to re-engage your workforce - Retail focus

In times of significant change, with huge challenges put upon the retail sector in recent years, it's no wonder some companies and employees are ending up burnt out and disengaged. Now is the time to recognise this change and put steps in place to reengage the workforce, supporting the development of a resilient team. Resilience, often an overlooked quality, is essential in ensuring employees can cope (and thrive) when times are tough.


Retail L&D


In our recent report, A Guide to Building a Resilient Workforce in the Retail Sector, we explored the learning challenges affecting the retail sector and set concrete steps for developing resilient employees and teams.


The impact of the ‘Covid years’ on the workforce


The much-discussed ‘great resignation’ phenomenon of 2021 highlighted a wave of employees leaving their jobs in record numbers. For some, this was due to a change in circumstances (from full-time to part-time or vice versa) with a huge shift in priorities felt across industries during the Covid years. For others, companies and roles had changed so much as a result of changing consumer demands, it was time to look for a new role elsewhere. Whatever the reason, this change has been felt across industries, with a recent survey of 6,000 workers by recruitment firm Randstad UK finding that 69% were confident about moving to a new role in the next few months.


With a third of our lives spent at work, when this is thrown into chaos as happened in 2020, every part of our lives is impacted. Over the past few years, working hours changed as did workplaces as storefronts for the most part shut up shop, transitioning to online sales or click and collect models. Staffing requirements changed, which resulted in staff layoffs and fluctuating hours, all putting a huge amount of pressure on those at every level of retail. 


Changing shopping habits has resulted in new demands


During lockdowns, changing restrictions meant that day to day roles shifted completely with often a complete halt in face-to-face retail. Restrictions on non-essential shopping introduced with the first lockdown in March 2020 immediately changed shopping habits. 


However, as shops closed and retail, in general, was declining, online sales were booming, with a 60% increase in the months following the first pandemic lockdown. According to Internet Retailer, 85% of shoppers agreed that the pandemic had changed their shopping habits, with a huge uplift in e-commerce. This change to point of sale was reflected in changing requirements of customer service and communications, with increased demand for quicker, better support. 


As requirements change, staff knowledge and experience has to keep up, which presents a significant challenge when people have to adapt incredibly quickly. Finding ways to reengage your workforce relies on upskilling and  reskilling teams to ensure they have confidence in their role and work and have a degree of control over their work-life and the impact they can have.


Investing in talent is key to re-engaging employees


Traditionally, the retail sector has always lent itself to a high staff turnover however this was exacerbated during the pandemic. Improving staff retention is a win-win situation, as employees are engaged, not looking elsewhere, and HR resources can be spent in L&D rather than on constant recruitment.


A key benefit of reengaging your workforce is embracing the talent you worked hard to find and onboard in the first place. We invest significantly in hiring top talent but tend to pay less attention to maintaining high levels of engagement after staff are settled in. High levels of employee engagement result in a higher quality of work, a clear benefit for companies of any size. 


Establishing and keeping hold of an engaged workforce relies on having a successful learning culture, where employees are empowered to see their development at a company as a process. A learning culture embraces creativity, innovation and forward-thinking, and allows employees to fulfil their full potential, a key aspect of building a resilient workforce


How to create a learning culture


Employers can establish a learning culture by putting employees front and centre, and listening to requirements. As working environments in the retail sector have shifted from store-fronts and offices to online, with remote and hybrid options, the requirements of employees have changed. A learning culture will embrace this change, offering opportunities for upskilling and reskilling in ways that will be accessible and most beneficial for employees is key. 


To embrace a learning culture it’s important to make learning an intrinsic part of the employee experience, setting expectations as early on as possible that employees are expected to continue learning and growing, with the support to hone their skills, regardless of role. Good line management with regular check-ins and reviews to ensure progress is a good way to keep a learning culture on track. It’s also key for businesses to lead from the front, with L&D leaders demonstrating a commitment to a learning culture by making time themselves for continued professional development. This culture supports investment in your teams, a huge step in re-engaging employees in a post-pandemic world.


Establishing a learning culture that sits at the heart of a business relies on having the tools to do so, therefore equipping teams with technology that lends itself to learning and development is invaluable. At Rise Up, we build technology that priorities impact, delivering on tailored requirements. In our recent report, we examined some case studies to demonstrate how our solutions have supported industry leaders to revolutionise their L&D functions, including global pizza chain Domino’s, and sports goods retailer Decathlon.


An engaged workforce embraces the future of retail

In times of change, an engaged workforce becomes a key stakeholder in the success of a business. When put under pressure, strong foundations built upon a culture of learning will support teams to reengage with their work and wider company goals.

When we are challenged and have to prioritise agility and efficiency, is it the most engaged employees that will be able to step up and demonstrate resilience. L&D leaders are the ones who can best create communities, listen to and support employees in a world of ever-changing requirements, and establish a culture that supports success.