Volatile retail climate calls for agile HR processes

The decision by Sainsbury’s to axe 2000 back-office jobs as part of a restructuring exercise earlier this year, highlighted the need for retail businesses to have robust HR systems that can streamline processes and agilely respond to change.

At a time when retailers are facing a perfect storm of changing shopping habits, price pressures from discounted retailers,  rising costs caused by inflation and a weaker pound, which they are unable to pass on to hard up shoppers whose wages have stagnated, failure to address the current challenges can have long-lasting damaging consequences.

Industry figures continue to paint a pretty bleak picture for the retail sector, with data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showing a continued decline in footfall and spending in October.

Retailers would have pinned their hopes on a strong sales performance for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, however early figures suggest otherwise, with High Street footfall down 4.2pc on last year, as consumers continue to curb their spending. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/11/26/black-friday-fails-lift-gloom-high-streets-footfall-dives/

The reality is that retailers can no longer afford to stand still and, like Sainsbury’s, must be ready to accelerate change if they are to meet future challenges and stay competitive, whether attempting to take advantage of peak sales periods by upscaling their workforce or reduce operating costs.

The problem is that most are unable to respond fast enough with necessary structural and operational changes because their HR systems lack the agility required.

To navigate the turbulent landscape and cope with seasonal fluctuations to staffing levels, retailers must fully harness their HR technology to ensure their people processes are efficient and organisational charts fluid.

The recruitment process must be fast and use social media channels to help target the right kind of candidates, on boarding and off-boarding streamlined, talent management personalised to create a fully connected and engaged workforce, staffing levels optimised through effective workforce planning and agency costs closely monitored.

With the peak Christmas period on the horizon bringing significant staffing challenges, it is important for retailers to see how their current HR processes stack up so that strategic plans can be put in place to support any subsequent peaks.

Only by taking control of HR infrastructure and development of their systems can retailers deliver the efficiencies required to respond positively to the evolving market and build a talented and engaged workforce that’s not only fit for the future but delivers exceptional customer experience.

Don’t be left behind!