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Solving the skills shortage

By Retail Technology | Thursday February 24 2022 | UPDATED 24.02.22

It’s no secret that retail is suffering from a major skills shortage but can technology play a part in resolving the issue? WorkJam’s Mark Williams says yes

December and January are always tough times for retailers. Matching stock and staff numbers to demand is a careful balancing act, but winter 2021/22 is seeing a struggle of a different order. Due to the combined forces of Covid-19, Brexit, and IR35, the UK skills shortage is hitting every sector, with retail feeling the strain badly. There are undeniable hurdles to be jumped, but there are solutions to ease the way. Many of them can be found in technology.  

How can retailers use technology to ease the skills shortage?


Better recruitment

Recruitment eats away at both time and costs – the processing of initial applications, telephone screening processes, interviews, and training. Businesses must invest in uniforms, onboarding requirements, and safety procedures for new employees. Through integrating technology into the onboarding process, businesses can distribute training material, grant access to required documentation, and allow entry into business communication channels during an employee’s first few days on the job. Facilitating this through technology helps relieve pressure from managers, allowing them to instead focus on building better relationships with their employees while also providing newcomers with the knowledge to integrate smoothly into the workforce. New employees can be onboarded consistently, regardless of time or location, and start their new role with confidence. 


Improved scheduling 

Efficient scheduling is vital during staff shortages. Periods of under or overstaffing become more common, and it is important to note the increasing importance of flexibility, especially as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue. Without adequate scheduling systems and company-wide communication, last-minute changes (such as workers calling in sick) can disrupt even the best-planned rota. However, there are applications that allow employees to adjust their availability, broadcast available shifts, and shift-swap with colleagues without the need for intense managerial involvement. Employees can bid for preferred shifts and take on extra work without lengthy applications to change their regular schedule. These benefits lead to an overall more efficiently organised workforce. 


Increased employee satisfaction

Engagement often leads to loyalty, but it can be difficult to encourage your employees to adopt your company culture and understand their value, especially when you are busy and short-staffed. Technology can provide employees with a frontline digital workplace, delivering a personalised communication hub where they can stay up to date with relevant information, briefs, training, and health checks. These channels can also provide better communication and collaboration between employees and their managers, facilitating feedback and engagement. Overall, the implementation of this technology helps employees feel valued and appreciated, allowing businesses to offer the elasticity to support their needs, improving employee satisfaction and consequently reducing unnecessary employee turnover.


Training and development 

If you invest in your employees, they are far more likely to invest in your business. Training and development can sometimes be difficult to provide, particularly in a busy retail environment, but it is an important investment. Technology and the provision of digital learning spaces can empower employees to access the training they both want and need, providing them with the opportunity to learn and grow. By placing the potential for developmental growth in the hands of employees, businesses are encouraging an educated workforce to strive for improvement and promotion. A combination of third-party rewards and badges helps match an employee’s skill set to their role, demonstrating how training progression increases employee eligibility for certain positions. Upwards progression can be effectively tracked through the completion of certain tasks or training programs, helping businesses identify the ideal candidates for managerial jobs based purely on merit. 


With Covid-19 far from over, international skills and goods shortages well-publicised, and the UK facing additional strain from the loss of European workers and the new restrictions relating to the contract workforce, it seems unlikely that the pressure is going to ease on Britain’s retailers any time soon. However, by technological integration and digitisation, it is possible to improve the performance of your business and the satisfaction of your employees. 


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