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Using technology to build gen next retail talent

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In this era of digital evolution, it is essential for retail leaders, human resources and professionals to realize the impact of the fast paced and evolving digitization in their workplaces. Not just today but also in the future. To serve a digitally-empowered consumer, retail associates need to be trained to develop a digital mindset as well.

When mobile phones came into existence, employees, especially in the service industry were given strict instructions to lock their phones away while on duty. Today however, the staff is told to keep their smartphones on.

When asked about this transition, Director Employee and Customer Engagement, Enrich Salons, Sachin Kamat said, “We are all in this experience era, and the key thing that will make a break, is being able to adapt. Earlier we told all our people in the service business to focus on your customer, and keep their phones aside, while at work. Now the very same people are going to use those phones to check in when they reach their workplace instead of the bio-metric check in. They are going to be on the chat messenger with their customers, giving opinions and a whole lot of things there.”

Digital Technology to Track Salaries, Leave

With 200 outlets employing 15,000 people, Group HR President, Landmark Group, B Venkatramana talks about the correct use of digital technology at the workplace.

“I think it is about the mindset. Retail itself as an industry or career option today is still not established. People don’t see it in long term, so attrition levels are very high. How do we keep them in terms of making sure that they provide the right customer experience, especially for those customers who walk into our stores? We are also getting into Omnichannel, shortly we would be launching our Omnichannel business which is of course a challenge. We have technologically upgraded in terms of an organisation from an employee point of view.”

“We have moved away from attendance on excel sheets, monitoring staff, and a payroll system which was very different earlier. We now have bio-metric system integrated to payrolls. We also make sure that most of our employees on self service portal now on Internet should have mobile application. We are moving into cloud-based apps, so primarily we are looking at how we can move all employee related necessities online. This helps us in keeping track of leave and the staff too does not lose pay.”

Apart from payrolls, companies have also taken to mobile technology for training purposes.

Venkatramana says, “Today if you look at training methodology, the old classroom training has all gone. Nobody has the patience to sit in classroom. So we are looking at gamification and many other such theatre methodologies that we can bring in and make it more interesting for them. For that we have to make sure that it is on their phone and system.”

Recruiting Retailers, Not Coders

Leading brick-and-mortar companies like Future Group function very differently from e-commerce sites like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Infibeam and Paytm. Here, people dependency is lower as compared to in physical stores, where employees directly face customers. In an online firm, work runs on algorithms, a lot of coding is involved. The two main recruitment and retention challenges that HR personnel face is: how does one explain to an employee that s/he works in retail and is not a coder? How does one ensure that the salary scale of same level employees in online firms and brick-and-mortar stores remain the same?

Omnichannel Retail

Chief People Office, nuFuture Digital (Future Group), MVS Murthy says, “We are juxtaposed between moving our current technology and offering it at a new level. We have recently on-boarded a group CIO and one of the tasks charted for him is to take us to the next level of IT delivery. This is what consumers and clients both expect from us. So in terms of our aspiration, we are aiming to be the best Omnichannel retailer in the country.”

“Omnichannel is the buzzword. It brings in its own share or element of talent in its management with respect to skilled man-force or talent that you have around,” he adds.

While talking about technologically modernising stores, Murthy says, “It has to have a good balance between the backend and the HO team in conceptualizing strategy, products and product management. We need to ensure there is oneness in how employees take to technology to ensure smooth functioning.”

Social Media For Recruitment

Today, almost every brand has a heavy social media presence. Consumers, clients – they are all on social media and a simple Google search can reveal a lot about both individuals as well as companies. So how can one leverage social media for recruitment?

CEO JCB Salons, Samir Srivastav, says, “We actually work with clients in Europe, so some amount of recruitment also happens from European countries. We heavily rely on social media for our international recruitment, especially for hiring international artistes who want to come to India. Whatever information is input in the social world always leaves a digital footprint. We have recruited successfully from across the world using social media.”

For seekers, social media reliably offers a platform to tap into their networks for searching jobs, inform their friends and to promote their skills in a way that is visible to potential employers. On the other hand, the public nature of these platforms also put a job seeker in trouble that something they say on social media could be used against them while applying for another job.

Social media and recruiting is top of mind for many companies and their HR managers. On one hand some employers are blocking social media at work, whereas others are creating social media employee guidelines. Most of them find it useful for employee engagement and employee management. At the end of the day, social media serves as a useful component for hiring, only if it is used properly. In a similar note, social media platforms like Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook can also be useful tools for recruiting and hiring.

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