Dave Nemeth
Dave Nemeth

Time to address the needs of retail store staff

by Dave Nemeth. Retailers need to redefine their workforce models and explore new ways to serve the consumer and keep staff happy.

by Dave Nemeth. There have recently been some major shifts in the way people work, with many companies having realised that working from the office is no longer a necessity. If there is one thing which Covid has taught, is that productivity can occur without the need for staff to spend their days in an office. Further benefits include no time being wasted through sitting in traffic commuting. This in many cases can mean up to two hours being saved, allowing staff to have more personal time. This is a shift that will remain as many companies reap the benefits of lower rentals and have therefore been able to reduce their real estate costs dramatically.

This new way of working has, overall, offered people more flexibility in the way they work, as well as giving them more time with their families. Whereas this new work trend may be great for office employees, unfortunately the benefits do not extend to those who work in the retail or hospitality industries. As Accenture reports, to keep up with the pace of change, retailers need to redefine their workforce models and explore new ways to serve the consumer more effectively and efficiently.

Quality of work life

As is the case in most industries, retailers have realised the need to embrace technology and upskill staff in a variety of ways in order to meet new demands and expectations. However, there is one area which definitely seems to be lacking, and that is the role of front of house or store staff. We know that even though online sales have increased dramatically, brick and mortar stores are never going to disappear. The problem is that the technology, and new ways of working have had little effect in changing the lives of those who have customer facing roles.

This is an issue which has to be addressed as most retailers are open 365 days a year, with shopping hours in many sectors being longer than they were a decade ago. It is not unusual for store staff to start work at 7am and only finish off 12 hours later. These hours can be even longer for those working in the hospitality and restaurant sector. With weekends being notably the busiest times for these industries, then days off are generally taken during the week. The result of this is that these employees have even less time to spend with their children and families who follow the normal schedule of life.

There is no simple answer to this dilemma. Service levels, especially those where dealing with customers face to face are concerned, can make or break any business. Most complaints which retailers receive, relate to bad levels of service or inattentive staff. We have all complained at one stage or another when faced with poor instore service levels or unfriendly staff. What we haven’t done is taken the time to realise just how different the personal circumstances often are for those who occupy these roles. The reality is that many live a substantial distance from their place of employment, and most are dependent on public transport, generally taxis. Many have to get up at ridiculously early hours to get to work on time, and only arrive home when their children are getting ready for bed. This doesn’t leave much time to assist with homework or other daily issues, which most of us have to attend to.

Needs analysis

This is an area which needs to be addressed if retailers want to create a healthy working culture and achieve the service levels that are expected from consumers. Training and upskilling of staff will not prove effective if the quality of work life is ignored. This is something which cannot be reserved solely for those in head office or management positions. It is important to note through the findings of much research, that employees want a lot more from their job than just earning a decent salary. Increased productivity and the creation of a great company culture is only achieved by fulfilling a host of other needs. These include recognition, having a sense of purpose, being a part of the decision making and, obviously, having adequate time off.

There certainly is no easy quick fix to this issue, but it is something that requires a lot more thought and involvement from within the retail industry – particularly as other industries give up their offices in favour of remote work models or move to four-day work weeks. As consumers, we also need to be a little more empathic.


 Main image credit: Pexels.com.


Retailing Africa’s retail analyst and columnist, Dave Nemeth is the founder of Trend Forward; and a design thinker, innovator, business re-designer, trend analyst, keynote speaker and writer.



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