Shop for tomorrow’s workforce

Retail productivity

As retailers continue to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour and digital disruption, what can the workforce expect? We believe that it is no longer enough to compartmentalise retail businesses into units such as supply chain, merchandising, pricing, logistics and customer experience. Retailers need to rethink both their organisation and their workforce to survive in a new world where the rules of work have changed.

Executive summary

Retailers are facing challenges and opportunities caused by disruptive technologies. In order to succeed in this environment, we believe they need to act now to prepare for the business of the future.The world of work is changing. New technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) have emerged with the potential to automate many tasks which could transform retail in the next ten years, both by replacing jobs and augmenting the ability of the human workforce to perform certain tasks.

Shop for tomorrow’s workforce

Retailers need to look at the problem holistically. There is much to be gained by both increasing the productivity of the current workforce, and incorporating new types of contingent workers. Every retailer is looking at how they can make their existing workforce more productive, but only some are looking at using automation as a solution. Retailers’ profits are under pressure at a time when they need to incorporate a number of different sales channels and a growing number of fulfilment options. These pressures are leading to a greater focus on productivity, the workforce and the future role that technology could play in either replacing or augmenting human labour.

A tight labour market could increase competition for workers at a time when costs are already rising and productivity growth is beginning to slow. The move to an omnichannel model requires significant investment not only in e-commerce and communication platforms but also in back-office systems and ways of working. In many head offices it has created duplication of roles with similar or overlapping work carried out by different teams.

The ability to serve customer needs is therefore increasingly constrained by functional structures that create siloes and lack the flexibility to respond quickly to changes. Both technology and different approaches to teams (e.g. networked teams) can help to break down these organisational barriers so that employees can begin to transform the way that tasks are carried out.

We conclude by making our recommendations for reimagining retail in three key areas.

1. Work and the workforce

How much work and who/what will deliver it? Retailers cannot clearly define what the future workforce should look like until they have a comprehensive view of how work is currently being done. Only then can they decide the right balance of human and robot resources to deliver the service their customers require.

2. Performance and productivity

How will your workforce drive greater value? Retailers need to focus their investment and resources on three key capabilities to drive significant improvement in productivity across the business: the customer experience, the workforce experience and analytics.

3. Organisation and business model

How will you need to be structured in a digital world? There is an immediate need for retailers to begin to reorganise their businesses around a networked team structure, breaking down the existing functional silos and sharing insight across the business.

More information?

For more information please contact Victor Hoong via the contact details below.

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