Given the recent turbulence in Retail it’s difficult to imagine a company that is not looking at strategies and ways to improve on its decline. A big part of these strategies involves looking at ways to improve employee engagement.
Improving employee retention for example is a common topic in this sector, high staff turnover is somewhat expected in retail, and for some companies its considered to be a positive signal. Attrition can help cycle unmotivated, unproductive employees out of companies, and voluntary turnover from more driven employees often results with them finding the company that works for them.
However, some studies and statistics indicate that global turnover in this sector found retail had the second highest turnover rate of all industries at 13%, topping the worldwide average of 10% for turnover. 
Some of these statistics point to possible causes for these high numbers of turnover. A lack of professional development, inability to advance within role and company. Receiving limited to no training are common factors in this sector.
Hard to Reach
First line workers are at the heart of the retail experience but sadly they are often the forgotten employees when it comes to communication and collaboration technology.
They are considered too hard to reach compared to their office counterparts. It is quite common practice not to issue company email addresses for instance, which means they often miss out on important communications that relay key company information and goals.
This is a basic need that helps give meaning and objective to their daily work. It’s quite common for communications of this nature to be given second hand by their management. Who relay this information face-to-face, or via more traditional paper/notice boards. Given that first line workers are typically ignored by these communications, it’s often found that they know very little about what their company stands for and how it might differentiate from its competitors.
When it comes to matters of people management, research and real-world scenarios have shown repeatedly that the companies who rise above the competition are those that place value in employee engagement and consider the overall experience ensuring that all its employees are included.
Retailers need to examine how to best support their front-line workers, they must carefully consider all the factors that drive employee engagement. It’s essential that they feel considered and included. Empower these employees with the right tools that allow them to receive company communications and messaging, let them feel part of the company and connected to all.
The speed and coverage of communication needs to improve. Decisions need to be relayed to the stores immediately with live communication or within minutes with recorded communications. This speed in deployment can be an immense competitive advantage.
The importance of having an employee communication strategy for the modern retail environment really matters. However, it’s also key to get the right medium, the rise of video usage for employee communication cannot be stressed enough. Industry research finds viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.
Allowing your employees to see key messages from its executives and leaders on what is happening within the company is extremely powerful. They get to hear the passion and commitment first hand. This is the modern employee communications way. It goes a long way toward building your brand and meeting your goals.
It’s hard to point at any single factor for the issues faced by the Retail sector. However a key part of the future puts the first line workers front and center in the competition for consumer spend. The question now is who will best prepare their staff for this challenge. The answer starts with improving your employee experience.
The need for change
We are living in a world where the rate at which technology changes seems to be increasing exponentially. Combine this with a working population drawn from multiple-generations, with differing levels of digital dexterity and varying attitudes to change, and the result is a complex list of requirements that will need to be met when implementing any change.
It’s no wonder that organisations have a tough time getting all these factors to align, ensuring everybody is considered, and whether they have the right technology at the right time?
How organisations deal with these different elements will have a huge effect on how any change will be accepted by such a diverse user base and ultimately how effective your users will be.
Most organisations recognise the importance of user adoption and how it affects their change initiatives. Getting your users to welcome and use the latest software or technology is key to the success of any change project. However many organisations would confess to having limited success in their approaches to making this happen effectively.
Past initiatives have in the majority of cases treated the technology as the most important element of the change, which often resulted in a great solution which then faltered when user adoption levels were low. The user element of the change can often be given little airtime in the project and quite often gets squeezed if timescales or budgets are tight.
Failure to achieve user adoption is typically encountered during the middle or the end of your change life-cycle. The cause of this is likely to be rooted within your organisation or embedded within your original approach. Traditionally organisations have usually only factored in basic training or communications into their change initiatives. Whilst these are valid components, unless they consider the needs of your users they are likely to fall short during their latter execution. Expecting users to embrace your change and align to new working practices requires a significant effort to remove or avoid the change barriers inherent within your organisation.
Recognising the effect and importance of user adoption on your change initiative is just the first step on the journey. Identifying your user or organisation’s barriers is a key element to realising your investments and delivering successful change. Do this by making your users feel part of the process, ask them what they need and how they like to be communicated to, involve them along the way and build the project and outcomes with them in mind.
Build a strategy
The secret to driving successful adoption is to have a strategy for it. Recognise that the views and perspectives of your users are essential to this. Incorporating their needs and challenges will ensure you get the outcome you designed. Remembering that your desired outcome will only be a success if you change your users’ behaviours. Do this by ensuring your adoption strategy considers how it will create meaningful and engaging content that is relevant and beneficial for your users. Assuming your users will see the benefits and make the leap by themselves is a sure path to failure. Put yourself in their shoes, consider how this will look from their perspective. How would you like to be informed and what would make you change your behaviour and adopt this new tool/process or practice?
Execute it well
You now have an adoption strategy that considers the right messages, content and benefits aligned to your business and its users. Whilst a great strategy is essential, poor execution can often devalue or comprise your well thought out principles. Make sure you have a plan to execute your strategy, consider how you will make it happen. Ensure your stakeholders and user champions are engaged, build relevant and engaging content. Treat it like a marketing campaign and build interest and awareness of your impending change. Ensure you have training and communications that not only inform your users as to what is coming but also brings to life what it means to them. Ask the questions: ‘How does this work for me?’; ‘Why do I need this?’ and ‘How does this benefit me?’
Getting your users engaged and embedded in your change programmes; and building relevant and engaging user adoption content that underpins your strategy will go a long way to making IT work for its users and delivering the value you desire.
Neil Cant is Solution Leader for End User Services & Digital Workplace at Computacenter.
Elements of Employee Experience
Ask anybody what Employee Experience is and you’re likely to get a different perspective nearly every time. Most organisations would probably be able to explain what they expect or want from Employee Experience, improved levels of employee engagement, enthusiasm, identity and involvement. However how do you relate that to what your employees need?
Employee experience can’t be defined as a single thing or entity. It’s an amalgamation of your employees’ encounters with your organisation over a period of time. The experience of an employee will differ from day to day. Some days they might have an extended commute to an office for a meeting and have to experience long traffic delays. Other times they will be working from a home office. But it could equally be working on a corporate device that is still running Windows 7 and legacy Office products and be heavily locked down, restricting their ability to work with both customers and colleagues.
Given the diversity of experiences your employees can encounter, you may consider this to be just too difficult to overcome. How can we change this? Whilst the strive to have a perfect experience for all your employees could be a step too far, most organisations can make significant headway to improve its employee satisfaction by considering some of the basic elements that make up its user experience.
It is important to understand the major elements at play and their effect on the employee experience; these are: Culture, Technology and Workspace.
These elements define how your employees interact and behave within an organisation and impact their overall experience of their workplace. Considering how these elements need to evolve is key to improving the employee experience
Embracing Employee Experience (EX)
Employee Experience is becoming the watchword for organisations seeking to improve their employee engagement. It borrows concepts and approaches from the customer experience mind-set and applies them to its own employees. This approach seeks to improve employee touch points, from attracting talent and on-boarding through to how the employee performs their job and how they get rewarded.
This all makes sense, and if organisations had the ability to start again I’m sure many would incorporate all of the best practices available to get the best employee experience. But most organisations have considerable debt to consider in this area and cannot always justify the call to action to improve all aspects of its employee’s experience. However be warned this is not a get out of jail free card, organisations will ultimately suffer in the long term if employee experience does not evolve.
Achieving a better employee experience starts with “Understanding”. Knowing what your current situation is and what your employees are thinking, gaining insights into how they work is an essential step to improving their experience. Identifying the areas of your business you would like to address, for instance: is your employee retention rate to high? Are your employee satisfaction scores to low?
In order to address EX organisations should consider a three step approach:
- ENGAGE with your employees and gain real world perspectives and data on how they are operating across the key EX dimensions. What is working for them and what is not? Listen to your employee’s views, gain insights and valued feedback.
- EMPOWER your employees by involving them in the solutions, apply an employee centric approach to the thinking. What works best for them? What experience would drive the right behaviours? Acknowledge any issues and work together on solutions to address them.
- ENRICH their experiences and increase their sense of meaning and belonging by working together to evolve the organisations culture, technology and working spaces by acting on the joint ideas and improvement initiatives.
These three steps should allow you to start to bridge the gap between what the actual employee experience is and what it needs to be. Now is the time to start this journey and engage with your employees and work together to empower them to drive the right experiences that will ultimately enrich their working lives.