The 2022 holiday season is expected to be fraught with challenges, from ongoing supply chain issues and rising costs to growing workforce pressures. To break down exactly what the challenges are and how to address them amid the rapidly approaching holiday season, Accenture surveyed 150 US retail executives and compared the results to consumer expectations.
Some of the toughest challenges retailers are facing this season are in the workforce, with issues hiring, retention and wage inflation. Ninety-nine percent of retail executives surveyed said their organization has taken additional actions to address the workforce challenge, with 57 percent describing the actions as “extraordinary.”
A closer look showed that for 36 percent, the main challenge was attracting candidates, and 48 percent also said that interviewing and moving candidates through the hiring process was not fast enough. Other challenges were the training of new employees (43 percent), the demand for higher wages (47 percent), fluctuation (42 percent) and the further training of existing colleagues (38 percent).
“In recent years, retailers have faced a labor market where a surge in people moving between jobs has increased costs and impacted levels of customer service,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director at Accenture, which heads retail industrial group worldwide. “With active retail job openings growing 174 percent annually around the world, retailers are realizing that the dynamic between workers and employers has changed and that efforts to focus on improving hiring processes, raising salaries and adjusting workforces are becoming more important Contracts are only part of the equation. It’s a big challenge, but forward-thinking retailers can use this as an opportunity to make changes that will contribute to their long-term growth while ensuring a truly diverse, engaged and adaptable workforce.”
In particular, the results of the company’s consumer survey on the impact of the labor shortage definitely got noticed: a third of consumers reported longer wait times when shopping in-store, and almost 28 percent said they encountered less helpful or less knowledgeable employees.
Not surprisingly, these experiences have the potential for negative consequences for retailers. A majority (86 percent) of consumers said they would rather shop from one retailer than another if the staff were more knowledgeable and offered help or advice, while another 82 percent said attentive and friendly staff would boost their business too would win from another retailer.
Actions retail executives said they were taking to address labor law challenges included redesigning training and recruiting processes (51 percent), offering retention bonuses to existing employees (42 percent), and offering bonuses to employees new employees for new employees (41 percent).
These investments have been noticed by companies like Amazon, which recently announced increases in wages for frontline workers and greater access to career advancement and development programs. Target also announced plans to hire up to 100,000 seasonal workers in stores and supply chains nationwide, while Walmart shared plans to hire about 40,000 workers at its U.S. store and hire 1,500 drivers to ensure Walmart’s private fleet is ready for delivery during the peak season is.
“As retailers gear up for the holiday season — and beyond — they need to think beyond monetary incentives to attract and retain retail employees,” said Lori Zumwinkle, senior managing director at Accenture, which leads the retail industry group in North America. “A growing number of employees are not only motivated by the benefits package offered, they are looking for something more fundamental such as flexibility, more satisfaction and meaning in the job.”
In the future, according to Standish and Zumwinkle, digital technologies will also play a major role, not only in attracting and training employees, but also in offering more interesting and rewarding jobs.
“Investments in artificial intelligence, for example, can help retail workers spot trends and make decisions faster, and robotics can automate highly manual tasks so frontline workers can spend more time interacting with consumers,” said Standish. “And as employees gain more retail knowledge and technical expertise, they have the opportunity to take on roles like data-driven marketers or brand ambassadors.”
One example of this is Walmart’s launch of a workplace app that leverages technologies like machine learning, augmented reality, camera vision, and AI to help employees simplify daily tasks, serve customers, and plan life outside of work.
“Innovative retailers are turning to technology to engage and empower employees who are increasingly tech-savvy,” said Zumwinkle. “By using virtual reality and AR to provide immersive training and development, or employees with mobile apps for employees to manage their shifts and see their schedules, use a voice-activated personal assistant to answer common questions such as: . B. where specific items are located throughout the store and finally use the app to scan merchandise in the back room.”