Three Ways To Win Against the Labor Shortage Using Data and Analytics
by Eva Sciulli
829,000. That’s the number of unfilled retail jobs in the United States, according to The U.S. Bureau of Labor’s May 2023 findings. As any retailer operating in this environment knows, this deficit negatively impacts the customer experience and threatens the bottom line. Training new employees or investing in technologies like self-checkout kiosks or electronic shelf labels require less manual oversight can address these shortages, but both are costly.
To protect profits and customer satisfaction, retailers must learn to effectively provide ongoing training, motivate existing employees, and reward exceptional employees. Luckily, retailers can achieve these goals through AI-based insights that examine employee records and automatically determine the best ways to support the individual growth of all employees, new and established.
Create Targeted Training Models
While it’s costly and time consuming to recruit, onboard, and train new employees, providing ongoing professional development is an essential function to retaining existing staff. This is especially important given that retail associates are often trained on many different tasks, which may vary based on seasons, inventory levels, promotions, and more. With so many moving parts, it’s common for employees to make mistakes that go unnoticed by managers.
For example, a cashier may handle buy-one-get-one-free deals by scanning one item and putting the second item in the bag unscanned. When this mistake is repeated consistently, inventory counts will become increasingly inaccurate, leading to shrink.
In such a situation, retailers can rely on AI to identify common mistakes and prevent unnecessary losses. A training module can be automatically recommended for a single employee, or to the wider team if the mistake is happening across the organization. Being able to pinpoint issues also helps control training costs by focusing the training on only those who need it.
To identify who’s ready for the next step in their careers, AI tools analyze employee behavior and send managers recommendations for upskill trainings for these exceptional employees. For instance, an employee that’s earning strong customer service reviews on the store floor might be ready for a promotion or a more challenging role like servicing the returns counter.
Generate Retail Employee Incentive Programs
Likewise, goal setting is a common motivational tool for employees, but it can be difficult for retail managers to dedicate time to monitor and reward employees for their successes. To ease the time burden, AI-driven incentive programs can provide a fair, concrete set of goals for an employee to work towards.
For example, managers can set up digital contests that automatically track loyalty card or credit card applications, or customer surveys or reviews stemming from each employee. By giving employees the chance to compare their performance with each other and be rewarded, engagement and motivation will increase across the organization.
Maintain an Engaged and Skilled Workforce
Retailers must invest in the tools that keep their stores from holding too many of those 829,000 open retail positions. By using AI models to train, upskill, and motivate employees, retailers will experience less turnover and higher levels of employee satisfaction. In turn, these benefits will trickle down to the customer experience to improve their profits and reputation, alike.