As eager UK consumers return to full capacity in-store shopping, retailers are asking workers the same question customers hear: How can we help you? That’s because worker mental health and well-being has shot to the top of every retailer’s priority list, making the employee experience (EX) paramount to meeting customer needs.
Listen and Act on Employee Experiences
Essential workers who labored in grocery stores to make sure we could purchase food during the worst days of the pandemic are likely facing different stressors than furloughed employees who are returning to in-store fashion retail establishments. Frontline or not, every employee is struggling to navigate the post-pandemic retail workplace. The pressure is on companies to understand what employees are going through and provide the support they need in a rapidly changing environment. Many are using employee surveys like SAP Qualtrics Employee Engagement to pinpoint employee challenges and offer solutions.
“Listening programs allow retailers to stay connected with employees and act on survey feedback,” said Leila Romane, head of Human Experience Management at SAP UK and Ireland. “Grocery employees who have been working long hours under difficult circumstances, including confrontations with angry customers, might be approaching burnout and exhaustion. Non-essential workers returning to fashion stores might be excited, but also apprehensive about safely returning to in-person work.”
Personalized Appreciation Keeps Employees Engaged
While global in scope, the pandemic experience has been deeply individual. HR leaders and their business counterparts have found significant value in regular check-ins with employees, followed by action steps relevant to each worker’s stated concerns. Companies in every industry are offering extended leave options, as well as bonuses and other recognition rewards to keep people motivated. For example, SAP gave every employee worldwide a global mental health day, essentially an additional vacation day to switch off completely from work.
“Taking one day to acknowledge everyone’s contribution during what’s been an extremely challenging year is very powerful when it comes to the employee experience. It lets employees know the company cares about not just their work, but their lives as people,” said Ellie Lamey, head of Retail and Wholesale Distribution at SAP UK and Ireland. “The same applies to individually assessing what workers want. Companies can offer discounts on products or services like gym memberships, childcare, or healthcare wearables – whatever workers indicate they would find helpful for their mental well-being.”
Training and Development for a Stronger Future
Despite the unknowns around COVID-19, workers are definitely performing their jobs in a transformed workplace. Retailers are rethinking what updated skills employees need to carry out different responsibilities that may involve digital commerce innovations and other contactless protocols. Training and development also sends nervous employees a strong message that they have a solid future with the company.
“Retaining high-performers is important for retailers during this recovery period and long after,” said Romane. “Talent management platforms allow retailers to keep employees engaged with ongoing learning opportunities as the company evolves. They can make the most of the company’s benefits, and explore further growth using succession planning tools.”
Upskilling for Accelerated Digitalization
Upskilling is a must-have as omnichannel retail undergoes the next digital transformation to what some experts call multi-experience. Accelerated by the pandemic, retail digitalization meets customer demands in new ways. As retailers take a holistic view of operations, from sourcing through fulfillment, they also need to factor in the EX across each step, making sure workers have the technologies and support they need to meet customer demands.
For example, in a recent global survey from IDC, almost 60% of consumers said they would choose to shop elsewhere if a retailer did not provide BOPIS (Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store). Retailers need continuous training and development programs to make sure employees deliver on these fast-changing promises aligned to the corporate vision.
Employee Experience Drives Business Resilience
Addressing employee mental health and well-being can be particularly challenging in the retail industry, which tends to have a highly diverse worker population. Each person’s needs are dependent on their unique situation, whether young students, working parents, or long-time employees.
However, according to best-selling EX author Gethin Nadin, there’s a symbiotic relationship between organizational success and an employee’s engagement, experience, and well-being.
“A great experience at work improves your engagement, which ultimately improves your well-being,” he said. “We know from a huge amount of evidence across the world that there is a statistically significant correlation between those organizations that score high on employee well-being and engagement, and how they outperform in terms of profit and shareholder return.”
For the essential retail workers who never left their posts in the past 18 months or so, it was an EX they’ll never forget. Roiled by ongoing market-wide challenges, retailers are investing in employee experiences to build a more resilient future for every employee and the business.
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This was originally published on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.