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A 2013 research study of the 50 happiest companies in the US, conducted by CareerBliss.com, didn’t feature a single retail company. A 2016 survey by Korn Ferry warned against the rising retail turnover rates at 65%, the highest rate since the Great Recession. A study by Manpower Group revealed that 74% of retail associates check job listings while on the clock at their current job. And only last year, LinkedIn reported a massive drop in the number of people who identified themselves as retail associates. How can empowering employees make an impact, you ask?

From personal conversations with retailers, I know how much the overall job satisfaction and employee engagement affects a person’s desire to remain working at the current job. I also know how little of both retailers find among their staff.

Many of our clients have told me tales of struggling with apathy among associates. Some of them even admit to having employees who find no joy in work. Unfortunately, such a situation affects more than staff retention.

As Eric Feinberg of ForeSee outlined at the 2016 National Retail Foundation’s conference:

“Employee engagement is a critical link to better customer experience. The main factors that influence retail employee engagement are receiving recognition from supervisors […] And not surprisingly, one of the three main elements that impact customer satisfaction is the service they receive from store employees.” (source)

But how does the retail culture crisis manifest itself on the retail floor, specifically? Let’s take a closer look.

5 Ways Culture Suffers on the Retail Floor

  1. Lack of accountability promotes the feeling of distrust among associates. What’s more, when no one is responsible, opportunities for theft and shrink occur.
  2. Limited access rights to goods, particularly for the high-value products retailers. It’s common for the store manager to keep the only set of retail cabinet keys. Organizing access to goods this way reduces the potential for internal theft, for sure. However, it forces employees to track the manager every time a customer wants to access these high-value products.
  3. Limited training affects the associates’ ability to perform specific tasks. At the same time, high turnover rates often come as a result of a lack of relevant training opportunities and their frequency.
  4. Lack of tools to help staff perform many job functions more effectively. The issue is particularly critical for today’s, often younger workforce used to utilizing tools and digital devices in their work.
  5. Task overload prevent employees from focusing on supporting customers. Pressures at retail such as high competition and tight margins have forced retailers to push more tasks down to associates, rather than use vendors or specialists.

Sadly, as more retailers realize these problems, only a few recognize the power the right technology plays in overcoming them.

How Empowering Employees Through Technology Improves the Retail Culture

Employee empowerment gives staff the power to deal with customer demands in-the-moment, and act on their initiative. Companies also instill a feeling of trust in their staff and communicate its belief in their competence. But it also holds them responsible and accountable for the outcomes of their actions.

A critical factor in empowering employees is giving associates the skills and authority, but also, the necessary resources.

That’s where technology can help.

Giving every associate access to the high-value product with low cost, trackable, and customizable RFID keys, for example,

  • Empowers them to assist customers immediately
  • Eliminates many frustrations associated with having to track down the manager every time they need access.

Even the simple act of handing over the access rights to goods will restore trust between associates and management all while eliminating the cost of rekeying locks and eradicating other problems that result from key sharing.

Employee mobile apps help associates execute tasks effectively and with less effort, leading to them working smarter, rather than harder, and finding more joy from the experience.

Such apps could also provide on-demand information and training, allowing employees to access the necessary help when needed and more.

The success of such empowerment relies on having the right technology. 

Many vendors bill their technologies and apps as smart all while most of them lack instant reporting capability. Although helpful in other instances, apps without real-time information leave management to deal with issues only after the fact.

IoT tools such as the MTI Connect™ Platform, on the other hand, provide instantaneous, real-time communication, bringing hardware, software and the people together to provide an incredible experience for both customers and your staff.

Here are just some examples of how:

  • IoT technologies like RFID locks and keys can empower employees and unlock access controls to help support customer experiences.
  • Smart products that communicate in real-time can better inform employees on what tasks need attention and what they need to do. This results in increased employee productivity. Closing tasks quicker which can improve both employee and customer satisfaction.
  • Cloud-based tools such as applications on employee or corporate mobile devices can enable retail associates to see more, do more, and accomplish more in less time.
  • Such applications also provide opportunities to deliver training and learning opportunities to employees even for a distributed retail workforce.
  • Cloud-based technologies provide retailers instant, real-time visibility to what’s happening on the sales floor and the powerful data and metrics to influence culture and behavior when it matters most.

Are you wondering how to leverage technology by empowering employees to improve the customer experience? Find out more about MTI Connect.

Authored by Matt Vallone

About Matt Vallone

Matt is a senior leader with over 15 years of experience focused on developing hardware and software, leading strategy, business development, and managing teams.  Matt has helped establish products and market fit for businesses launching new technology initiatives for retail.