It’s no secret. Retail stores are transforming or closing at an unprecedented pace. The entire shopping experience has been forever altered.
One of the major changes has been the adoption of technology, both ecommerce and in the store. Retailers recognize the importance of using technology to improve shopping experiences, provide greater convenience, streamline supply chains, simplify distribution, and execute merchandising tasks.
The other day I read a story about Walmart adding “inventory replenishment robots” to 50 locations. Moves like that will make a real impact on both the company and the people it employs. While they’re expected to improve productivity but not affect headcount, the truth is that at some point, robots and/or other automated technology will replace positions typically held by human beings.
Just look at the rise in self-checkout lanes these days.
Artificial intelligence and robots are expected to provide some great benefits for retailers, but not every company will move in that direction...at least not anytime soon. Sure, robots could handle routine merchandising tasks. But associates are still critical to helping shoppers. So in the meantime, it’s up to retail management to get the most from their store associates.
Getting value from the start
The first steps to ensure that your associates are bringing value to your floors is to hire the best talent, train them the right way, and equip them so their jobs are easy (and maybe even fun!).
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked to associates who aren’t motivated to really contribute to a great shopping experience. Why? They haven’t been adequately trained or they lack confidence in what they’re doing or they simply don’t care.
Some of that is due to a poor onboarding experience. If you’re seeing a lack of motivated employees in your stores, ask yourself: Did we choose the right individuals? Do we have a great training program in place? What tools are we providing when we send them out on the floor?
Keeping them happy
After you’ve got them trained and empowered to do great things on the floor, the next way to extract major value from associates is to make sure they are content on the job. Granted, you’re not likely going to make every individual completely happy, but you want to make every effort to put satisfied workers on the floor. The best way to do this is build a culture with the values you hold in high esteem. People want to belong; so make them feel like they belong to a community of people who value delivering perfect shopping experiences.
Being successful at maintaining a happy workforce takes a combination of managers who are good with people and technology solutions to make their jobs easier. Nobody wants to struggle with tasks or get bogged down with end-of-day manual reporting. There are great solutions, including ESP, that enable store associates to complete merchandising projects easily and report issues and daily work results...in real time...without a great deal of effort; as well as those (also offered by ESP) to keep them trained, motivated, and educated on your culture and its values.
By focusing on satisfying store associates, retail shops are likely to see more customer engagement and better retail execution. Without awesome tools and a supportive management team that wants to keep associates happy, retailers competing with robot-enabled stores won’t have an advantage.
Knowing what is going on
Your managers have to keep track of conditions on the floor daily, even hourly. So are your management teams locked into every project running? I’m not asking from purely a store management perspective...I’m asking because the better your managers run operations, the more satisfied employees will be.
If your associates lack confidence that managers are clued into what is happening on the floor, they are more likely to have low morale. Consequently, their job performance will suffer, basket size will shrink, and your stores will be shuttered...you know the drill. To combat this, tight workforce management controls—enabled by mobile technology—help to maintain team morale and inspire confidence in management.
So, as robots, AI, and other advanced technology become more prevalent in the retailing industry, shops that don’t adopt early will need to compete by employing associates who are empowered, energetic, and satisfied with their jobs. I encourage you to investigate and evaluate how your stores are getting the most value from the people you have on the front line.