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Retail Tech Show Recap: Driving Retail Employee Engagement and Retention with Modern Workforce Management

May 19, 2022

Survey Results: How Businesses Are Addressing Negative Employee Experience
Steve Tonks

Steve Tonks

Senior Vice President EMEA at WorkForce Software

The retail industry has more use for modern workforce management technology than many others. While the same functions for running a shop are mostly unchanged for centuries (schedule hours, opening/closing for the day, checking stock, etc.), the vast interconnected networks of suppliers, transport, and hierarchy of corporate structures for chain stores are incredibly complex. For the actual in-store worker, a small cog set into this massive machinery, it can be very easy to get lost in the mix. That’s where digital employee engagement solutions can come into play to keep these valued team members connected to their employer in a way that makes sense, keeps operations running smoothly, and leaves workers feeling appreciated and part of the team.

I recently attended the Retail Technology Show in London, UK and had the pleasure of leading a presentation along with Freelance Technology & Business Journalist, Oliver Pickup, entitled “Driving Retail Employee Engagement and Retention Through New Innovations In Modern Workforce Management”. Here is a recap on topics we discussed.

The retail industry is currently in a state of flux. Employees are suddenly faced with new remote options for work, and many are taking their chances in new industries. Many cite their reasons to leave as viewing standard retail working practices as difficult and cumbersome when compared to others.

There is a disconnect between management and employees and it is only getting worse. Almost half (48%) of frontline retail workers have moved away from the sector altogether in the past year.1 A large number chose to move due to a perceived disconnect with management and their company as a whole. While other industries have been able to implement new technological capabilities to help support their workers, retail employees have been left wanting. The result has been a massive amount of staff churn, as workers depart for less taxing, more modern occupations.

Retail desperately needs to address and support these workers if they wish to prevent them from seeking new opportunities. Desk workers can easily work from home with a laptop computer and stable wi-fi connection, but that’s only a small percentage of the workforce. In fact, 80% of the global workforce is deskless and doesn’t have access to remote flexibility. 2.7 billion workers worldwide are deskless. Despite this overwhelming majority, only 1% of workforce management software has been invested to empower deskless workers.

The resulting depletion of workers has been dubbed “The Great Resignation”. But when the conditions are considered: part-time work, lack of promotion, hectic scheduling, night/weekend/holiday work, poor communication with managers…is it any wonder workers are leaving? This is not so much a Great “Resignation” as a Great “Reprioritization”, as workers rightfully saw the conditions they were expected to work under and chose less stressful, better equipped industries.

Our best option is to seek out these new support technologies, and drive retail employee engagement and retention through new innovations in modern workforce management.


Worker diversity is one factor that needs further consideration. Going by age alone, this is the first time we’ve had five distinct generations all working together at once. (Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z) These five different generations have different expectations. The three youngest are all digital natives who grew up with personal communication technology via computers and smart phones. The two older generations have largely adapted to this new technology in ways previous generations have stubbornly avoided. Nearly all of these workers are carrying supercomputers in their pockets via personal devices, and yet their employers are not using this magnificent tool to improve their positions. If these employees are using these devices every day to organize every facet of their lives, why is their occupation noticeably absent?

Employees want to have a voice and be heard. Employers need to establish communications channels to gather feedback, reach out and have an open dialogue with their employees. Modern workforce management has multiple capabilities that can assist in this, including employee surveys, troubleshooting, in-the-moment training, upskilling, and much more.

The statistics show there are pervasive and outdated notions still separating workers from management that need to be corrected. The old perception of a singular team as “Us vs. Them” is harmful to overall business and accomplishes little more than fabricating a thin veneer of superiority that leaves workers miserable and ready to flee at the first opportunity. 46% of UK retail frontline workers say they don’t feel appreciated.1 55% of frontline workers feel that people working in HQ get more perks.1 In retail there’s still a lot of command-and-control leadership, an odd feeling of feudalism that somehow persists in a digital age.

Communication is the key to solving these issues. By keeping employees in the loop, requesting their feedback, and conferring with them on issues, the old “top-down” mindset is transformed into a team mentality. Organizations should behave as organisms do, with each cell, organ, and infrastructure providing their contribution to the whole. With every worker working towards a common goal, they remain engaged, confident, and secure in their positions.

Any successful company will understand that their employees are their most important asset. As businesses find themselves competing for talent just as much as customers, workers should garner the same concern in retaining them for your organization. This is a great opportunity to reengage your workforce and make them enthusiastic to work for you.


Are you ready to optimize your workforce? Curious how modern workforce management would impact your business? Read our Retail Industry Insights page and find out what WorkForce Software can do for you.


1 Workplace from Meta; “Deskless Not Voiceless”

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