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How retailers can harness EX tech to safeguard employees from workplace stress

By Sandra Moran, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at WorkForce Software

June 18 2023 - The summer season is officially here, and for many of us, this time of year is a chance to slow down and take a break from the pressures of work. However, for frontline retail staff, the seasonal shopping surge is often one of the busiest and most stressful periods of the year, leaving many workers feeling overworked, underappreciated and burned out.

While British retailers are hoping for increased summer sales, according to the latest analysis from the British Retail Consortium, we cannot ignore that">more than half of retail workers experience workplace stress, while one-fifth feel exhausted at the end of every working day.

The business case for improving the employee experience (EX) is clear, from reducing staff turnover rates to enhancing productivity and increasing profitability. This is more important than ever amid staff shortages and low UK consumer confidence levels, which rose in May but remain gloomy.

So, how can businesses leverage technology, and what EX technologies should they prioritise, to improve the employee experience for frontline retail staff?

Capitalising on workforce management systems

Retail shift workers want to experience the same benefits of flexibility as their corporate counterparts - ultimately, they want a say in their schedules to balance their personal life with their professional one.

One way to achieve this is through modern workforce management systems that prioritise flexibility. This technology provides deskless workers with the opportunity to have more control over their schedules so they can coordinate personal and/or work obligations themselves, submit time-off requests, and even have easy access to shift swapping. This technology can also consider requested start/end times to match personal schedules, giving staff foresight of their schedule, so they can plan for their free time.

For retail employees, having easy access to information also means they won’t have to waste time after their shift looking around the break room for printouts of work-related updates to see the following week’s work schedule; they can just check their phone as they are walking to their car or once they get home.

A modern workforce management solution would also align company requirements with employee data, such as personal leave, availability hours, and skill level, helping businesses to manage optimal staffing outcomes while providing more flexibility and better work-life balance to reduce fatigue for shift workers.

Opening the lines of communication

Crucially, such technologies also offer a means of real-time communication, enabling both employees and managers to quickly adapt to changing schedules. This allows management to more effectively balance employee desires and operational needs while complying with regulations and company policy.

Enhanced real-time communications will also ensure that employees stay up to date on important company announcements and training, saving them from having to stay after their shifts to sort through updates or attend training on their time off. In addition, by allowing staff to set their availability, workforce management technologies give companies a wider range of candidates who are willing to work - and talent they might not have found otherwise - which is critical amid ongoing labour shortages.

Most importantly, real-time comms tools provide employees with instant access to information they need to stay productive, making this information easily accessible through mobile devices. Additionally, management will ensure that proactive improvement plans are informed by real-time feedback loops, based on insights from frontline retail staff who know what customers are asking for and the barriers to delivery.

The breakdown late last year of Southwest Airlines offers a stark example of how important it is for companies to invest in systems that enable rapid communications to support agility - and the potentially devasting impact on your brand and bottom line if you don’t.

Leveraging tech to protect employee wellbeing

Aside from streamlining administrative tasks and enhancing internal comms, modern workforce management technologies can also go a long way in helping employers to monitor employee wellbeing.

For example, fatigue management systems can monitor hours worked, tasks performed, breaks taken, and time off scheduled to flag employees that may be at risk of burnout. This can then automatically send real-time notifications to managers, helping them to stay informed on potential employee wellness issues in a more efficient way. The alternative is wasting hours sieving through data just to find out who needs their support.

Modern workforce management solutions have emerged as the single greatest enabler for companies to transform their employee experience. Data-driven intelligence is now vital for effective decision-making and monitoring burnout to better protect the wellbeing of staff. More broadly, such capabilities will increase employee performance to drive better business outcomes. Most importantly, it will enable retail businesses to tap into the power of their people and treat them as the valuable resources they are.



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