The New Reality of Retail: How Employee Training and Engagement Will Have to Evolve

Retailers have taken hit after hit in this coronavirus climate. And as easy as it is to suggest that they need to learn how to “roll with the punches,” the reality is some punches are much harder to withstand than others. Those punches in which brick and mortar stores have to shutter, in which customers are no longer allowed to shop inside, and employees are getting laid off left and right, needless to say, not that easy to “roll with.” In the retail realm, employee training will need to evolve.

So what will the new “retail reality” be once things go back to some semblance of normal, or at least today’s version of normal…Experts contend that among other challenges faced by retail-based companies, they are going to have to learn to adapt to the short term consumer behaviors brought about because of COVID-19 such that are likely to evolve into permanent ones. They’re going to have to adopt more innovative retail employee training and engagement initiatives and strategies moving forward so as to be optimally prepared for future crises. Not to mention, most retail businesses will have no choice but to segue to an eCommerce mindset, and for those who weren’t quite there yet, this could be a major hurdle. Below are a few of the key changes that retail companies will need to be prepared to implement in a post pandemic environment.

Retail Employee Training for New Potential Realities

Goes without saying that no one saw this coming, and yet here we are. Traditional methods of training employees simply aren’t going to cut it any longer. Not only do retail employee training techniques need to be highly scalable but they need to be individualized. What we have seen and what we are continuing to see is that employees tend to feel scattered and consequently isolated given current circumstances—more personal L&D approaches have enabled many companies to maintain a positive morale during this difficult period even with numerous employees working remotely.

Platforms that allow managers and leaders to enhance retail employee training and engagement opportunities through the delivery of daily tasks, just-in-time training and personal recognition and rewards have helped so many firms during COVID-19 and such learning experiences will continue to do so in the months ahead. Especially when it comes to the world of retail, according to a recent Gallup study, those companies who are able to create an individualized “learning journey” for their employees stand a better chance of ultimately being successful.

Beyond this, given the habits and behaviors of todays’ workers, on-the-go learning is going to have to be made more of a priority. Employees being able to access content and training modules from any device, anywhere, at any time will only serve to enhance the personalized aspect of L&D all the more. 

Establishing Well Being Programs for Employees

This crisis really has companies thinking beyond just retail employee training and engagement as they become more invested in the overall health and well-being of their team members. During this pandemic, there have been numerous challenges for workers to contend with that have without question taken a toll on their mental and emotional health. Everything from childcare issues, to fear regarding onsite work, to insecurity regarding the future of their job have served to unsteady numerous employees across the nation. And going back to work—whatever that may look like—could prove just as troubling for some.

This is why integrating a centralized platform through which companies can conduct surveys, gather vital information on their teams, provide timely information and motivation to improve well being, and even host collective online events such as e-marathons for example, is going to be critical to the company culture and future of work in general.

The Customer Experience: The Online Reality

Obviously, eCommerce is going to grow following the coronavirus. Hesitant to come into stores, still somewhat fearful about invisible dangers and germs, customers will be more inclined to take their purchases online. According to a recent survey, digital grocery sales in the month of March rose over 210% from that same period a year prior. We’ve already seen what is going to happen, and retailers need to brace for this transition to digital. The key will be creating an optimal and thus highly competitive online experience for shoppers.

The best eCommerce experiences start with a team that communicates efficiently and therefore understands what is going on in terms of how to best approach customer service. Again, integrating a platform that not only addresses crucial retail employee training and engagement issues but that offers a comprehensive approach to company-wide communication will make a huge difference. Retailers need to stay on top of customer issues, immediately address any hiccups and be able to provide seamless shopping opportunities; employees cannot be left in the dark—they need to be an essential part of the plan: offline and online.

Contingency Planning for a Time of Crisis

Many of the problems that retailers in particular have encountered during this time are largely the result of unpreparedness. How many businesses can say that they were ready for whatever this global pandemic had to throw at them…probably not very many. That said, moving forward, retail based businesses are going to be dealing with a new reality as they ask themselves: what do we need to do right now to be ready for the next catastrophic world event?

Among those areas of change many foresee for the retail industry: more online transactions and thus more employees shifting to remote work. Also, when it does come to in-person transactions, odds are there will likely be an increased demand for touchless options as well as more curbside services. Additionally, retailers will probably find that more practically speaking they are going to have to beef up their sanitation efforts, provide protective coverings and cleaning solutions for customers and employees alike, as well as revisit inventory as far as what might be in greater demand in the coming months.

Retail will survive this—it’s just going to look a bit different now. Which is why having the necessary technology in place to streamline communications, ensure more effective management/employee connections and also more dynamic customer connections is so important to the future of retail businesses moving forward. At Rallyware we are here to help managers and their teams transition to this new reality. Schedule your demo today to see how we can assist you in the weeks and months to come.