Retail | Transforming talent beyond tomorrow
Retail | Transforming talent beyond tomorrow
Global retail specialist Smollan, representing some of the world’s most loved FMCG and commerce brands, looks at the changing world of work as the retail industry evolves following rapid digitization. Seen as both a threat and an opportunity – what the workforce of the future looks like and what retailers need to do to upskill them, is a critical consideration.

Many future fit companies scanning well beyond the horizon and pushing for innovation are thoughtfully curating hybrid work environments, a work style that enables employees to blend working from different locations with the focus on building teams that are adaptable, resilient, and conditioned to continually learning. Resulting in the need for teams to be reskilled, policies put in place and technologies and programs provided for a more agile workforce able to maximize performance.

Investing in new skills, ways of working and workplace organisation, resulting in the nature of retail work – where it’s done and by whom, must be systematically reviewed, reimagined, and reinvented in order to remain relevant and sustainable. It’s not just about changing technology, but more importantly about changing people.

For retailers, it will be key to attract people with the right skills with this ingrained ability to be agile, responsive, and flexible as the industry adapts and transforms. That said, with Millennials and Gen Z making up around half of the global workforce, according to – this next generation of retail workers in turn, expect employers to give them the proper training to enable them to differentiate themselves through their product acumen and knowledge of the company. It creates a personal investment in the product being sold, as well as the company as a whole.

Strategy advisors Oliver Wyman suggests that rapid digitization has huge talent implications for the retail industry with technological advances altering consumer preferences and behaviours, changing everything from supply chains to customer journeys. The scale of transformation requires a new type of workforce equipped to translate digital data into actionable operations as learning practices are restructured to allow for learning. In so doing, moving workforce issues beyond traditional worries about succession and retention. So to, the pandemic has changed the course of retail forever as a seismic shift forced retailers to adopt new ways of thinking, such as – a diverse workforce is a better one; digital fluency is required by all and obsessing about customers makes one more resilient (Retail Week, May 2021).

Taking a closer look at the in-store experience for example, as highlighted in a recent Cap GeminiFuture of the Retail Workforce’ article, a major shift is seen from the traditional sales role of finding a product, selecting a product and then checking-out – to more theme-based concepts, fulfilment centres and pop-up stores. Today’s niche services will be tomorrows standard so the need to embrace a culture of innovation and experimentation, where the ability to learn quickly will take an individual forward, is seen as a critical workforce consideration for retailers.

These formats according to an EKN article will require new capabilities for in-store employees – making sure they are empowered with up-to-date, automated, and digital sales, service, and operational tools. This includes capabilities that can help the workforce augment their productivity, such as store workforce training on mobile devices and using wearable devices for real-time store task messaging. Another key capability is to allow the store workforce easy access to customers buying history and loyalty information. Along with the ability to find traction around quick customer check-outs via mobile point-of-sale, live tools for store-head office collaboration and guided selling tools and dashboards via digital or smart TV’s. pointed out that continued investment in employee training and monitoring performance benchmarks will be key to retaining devoted brand advocates especially true when it to comes to in-person stores.

PwC in their ‘Four Worlds of Work for 2030’ report have mapped distinct worlds that are each different but impacted by megatrends and automation. In short, it suggests four possible scenarios for retailers to consider. They see a yellow world where humans come first and community businesses prosper; a red world, where innovation rules in the race to give consumers what they want; a green world, made up of companies who are all about sustainability, climate etc and a blue world, where corporate is king with capitalism over social responsibility.

Based on this ‘mapped world’ analysis and organisational strategies that align with one of the four scenarios, adaptability in organisations, individuals and society will be essential for navigating the changes that lie ahead. Predicting the exact skills that will be needed even five years from now is certainly challenging but the adaptability they speak of will allow workers and businesses to be ready for a shift in each of the worlds envisaged. They go on to suggest that much of the responsibility will be on the individual – not only to adapt to change but willing to acquire new skills and experiences to try new tasks, re-think and retrain mid-career. With 74% of respondents surveyed stating that they are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future, organisations in turn must help ease the route to training and retraining to help people help themselves, along with building on the critical valued skills of leadership, creativity, and innovation.

The report concludes that the starting point matters as much as the destination where the best response may mean radical change, or perhaps just a few steps from where one is today. Retail strategies will need to be a combination of obvious, ‘no regrets’ actions and the occasional, educated leap of faith.

From an individual workstyle perspective, anyone who is ready to learn and develop skills that fit the requirements of new ways of working will always be relevant in a changing world.