The pandemic has brought to the forefront the rapid changes occurring within the retail industry. Shifts in customer behaviours and the pace of digital transformation have seen retailers adapt and innovate to accommodate the 3 million people employed within this sector.
Corndel was delighted to host a roundtable discussion which provided fascinating and collaborative insights from some of the biggest grocers, fashion and homeware retailers. Voices included Talent and Development leads, Global Heads of Talent, and People Experience leaders.
The group of 12 senior professionals explored how, amid such change, retailers can rebuild an inclusive and agile workforce with the correct skills to excel in the digital age.
What are your talent development priorities for the post-Covid world?
The pre-pandemic landscape saw a need to solve the skills gap in areas such as technology, data and customer experience. While the same needs persist post-Covid, there is a greater focus on leadership skills. Key characteristics such as empathy, wellbeing and supporting individual safety and care have become essential priorities as a result of the crisis over the last year.
Moreover, the urgency to upskill people from traditional positions into future-proof roles such as robotics and artificial intelligence have become heightened over the last year. A recent report conducted by Retail Week informs that 75% of employees believe their jobs have become more complex since the start of the pandemic. To ensure that staff members can perform their roles successfully in the digital era, line managers should identify those within their teams who would benefit from an extension of skills and development.
What steps can you take to encourage data-driven behaviours throughout your business?
As with any industry, retailers are facing a data crisis. While there’s a need for more executives and senior leaders to use data effectively, it’s essential to build a population of data-literate employees from the board room to the shop floor. Strategically, companies want insights and across the organisation they have an abundance of data. However, retailers acknowledge that it is not being used effectively and consistently. Without these data-driven decisions, organisations are struggling to deliver on their strategies. For fashion retailers, in-store employees who work on the shop floor often experience a detachment towards data. However, the professionals around the table agreed that every business decision needs to be backed up with the facts and figures produced from the wealth of data that is available.
The solution? Challenge the way we think about the data at our disposal. Members of the panel discussed the power of data apprenticeships for encouraging data-driven behaviours. Through using L&D tools such as apprenticeships, it serves to build a population who are more data literate. Not only this, but it helps employees transition towards career changes as well as future-proofing their roles.
How are you using apprenticeship levy funds to tackle strategic goals around equality, diversity and inclusion?
For many retailers, the apprenticeship levy is a successful mechanism for achieving equality, diversity and inclusion within their organisations. From adapting the external recruitment process to nurturing under-represented groups within the business, apprenticeships offer retailers the opportunity to ensure talent is evenly distributed. The levy, then, acts as a process of formalising the traditional HR function of seeking to develop staff, whilst guaranteeing a diverse workforce.
The levy is also an effective way of upholding the culture of social mobility amongst retailers. The retail sector thrives when it comes to empowering people across the class spectrum to fulfil their goals. Its secret to success? It welcomes people irrespective of background, where the playing field of development opportunity is levelled.
Despite the pandemic widening this social mobility gap, Rishi Sunak announced within the Spring Budget that there would be a cash incentive of £3000 for all apprentices that they bring on until September 2021. This push from the Treasury, alongside the apprenticeship levy, means that retailers have the tools at their disposal to develop people across their business.
Thank you to our host, Clare Carpenter, and to all those who took the time to attend our roundtable and to contribute so openly.
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