Communication & technology are key in retail, says research

The top priority for both firstline workers and business managers is improving their customers’ experience, according to research.

In an online survey by Microsoft of more than 1,000 workers in four industry sectors including retail, firstline workers―the people who engage with customers directly―also rate growing their skill set and improving the culture in their workplace as very important.

While superior customer service and adapting to changing consumer demands are essential for success in retail, the research shows that 34 per cent of firstline workers are committed but not engaged in their current role.

Ian Heard, modern workplace lead at Microsoft Australia, says that employee engagement goes right to the heart of a business and does not just makes a business unique, but also successful.

“A workforce that is passionate, connected and engaged helps to drive innovation and propels the business forward,” he says.

“Retailers which create an engaged, connected and collaborative workforce will be better poised for success in the long-term.”

With the digital revolution, technology has become increasingly important in retail, however, 37 per cent of firstline workers claim they have limited access to the latest devices, with almost half (42 per cent) of the respondents saying the biggest impact of technology is it allows them to spend more time with their customers.

“In an age where digital has become more prominent, traditional methods are becoming far less effective with workers feeling frustrated and unmotivated by the disconnect experienced from management,” explains Heard.

For furniture retailer, Amart, the digital transformation has created quite a significant shift.

“Traditionally, we’ve communicated things to our store managers, and then expected them to communicate to their leadership team and to their team as well,” says Nick Shelton, general manager of people.

“And when that happens, you get a bit of a dilution of the message occurring, and the team members who are the receivers of that information are not always aware about what are we trying to achieve or what direction we’re heading in.

“Technology has allowed us to communicate with all of our teams simultaneously across the nation. We’ve experienced such a significant amount of growth, it was absolutely critical for us to be able to share the wonderful things about our culture with our new team members, and the communication platform has enabled us to do that.

“It’s enabled us to be able to share the great things that are about our organisation, but also allowed our team to communicate back up to us about how they’re experiencing certain systems and process and allow us to modify those as well.”