Technology is the key for retaining retail and other frontline workers

Technology is the key for retaining retail and other frontline workers
September 4, 2022  |  BY

The COVID 19 pandemic changed society in ways we couldn’t have expected. We have new hobbies, we spend more time with our families, we order take-out more often, and millions of us now work from home.

“The Great Resignation” also caught us off-guard. That’s when thousands and thousands of people walked away from their jobs, leaving employers scrambling to find replacements – and often failing at the task.

Now retail, hospitality, and transportation companies – among other industry categories – realize they better focus more on retention than recruiting. And they’re increasingly using digital tools to entice people to stay.

Technology gives workers a voice and makes them feel valued. Plus, technology inherently creates a team atmosphere, which in turn motivates people to give even more to their jobs. It all adds up to increased retention, less turnover.

Specifically, employers could offer micro-leaning courses to help workers enhance their skills and boost career advancement opportunities. Recognition technology illuminates employee performance so management can more easily recognize (and reward) those who excel at their jobs.

Certain technologies that have been traditionally deployed for professional office workers can help retail workers as well – and in the process, motivate them to remain on the job. These tools include Microsoft Teams and Meta’s Workplace, which streamline workflow and communication. Workers get more done in a shorter amount of time, all while eliminating much of the frustration that can come from retail, hospitality, and transportation settings.

Imagine your staff being able to use, for example, instant messaging to improve information flow and communicate instantly with management to resolve issues with customers. Scheduling, onboarding, and payroll tools create even more efficiencies, making life easier for both the employees and the HR and finance people who manage those activities.

Retail, hospitality, and transportation work has historically been manual, and often involves some level of customer interaction. Given that framework, employers haven’t seen much of a business case to equip staff with mobile devices. But the societal shift means that everyone expects more efficiency – both the worker and customer. Digital tech keeps employees coming back to work. And because of smoother experiences, customers are more likely to do business with you again.

Considering these market forces, management of retail, hospitality, and transportation organizations must invest in more IT for their frontline workers. This is essential: According to Gartner, there are 2.7 billion frontline workers, which is more than twice the amount of office workers. However, the latter group receives the lion’s share – if not all – of a company’s technology buy.

Things must change. Deskless workers still rely mainly on paper-based processes. Would you rather have employees use cumbersome pen and paper or an efficient digital device? The gains in speed and customer satisfaction with technology are so obvious, it’s embarrassing to think that major companies still have workers using 20th century “technology.”

But there’s more to consider than metrics. Employees want to make an impact. They want to feel like they’re using their time wisely. But when they’re spending too much time filling out paperwork – when they know they could be more efficient with technology – they tend to lose interest and eventually become resentful. Thus the resignations.

There’s too much competition for talent these days. Companies can longer shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done thing around here.” Sure, employees leave for better pay and benefits, but they also move on because a competitor offers tools that will make their job – and their life – easier.

Retention is all about modernizing how people do their jobs. Keep in mind that the majority of frontline workers are young people who grew up with technology. A mobile device in their hands is a natural for them as was a television set for you. Remember who you’re dealing with. Otherwise they’ll forget you by next week when they start their new job.