Qualified candidates have been harder to find for retail roles in the months since Brexit, according to market research by the leading global software provider for the retail and hospitality sectors, Fourth. The data reveals that almost one-third (30%) of retail leaders have struggled to find the right candidates, impacting attractions-based (38%), clothing (35%), and automotive retailers (33%) the most. Smaller retailers (500-999 employees) are impacted more, with over two-fifths (42%) saying Brexit has made hiring harder, compared to 35% of larger retail businesses with over 5,000 employees.
The research comes as Fourth launches its new whitepaper: Post-pandemic retail: retail leaders’ plans and predictions for the industry, which explores what the future holds for physical retail stores and how retail businesses can best support their workforce. The whitepaper is built on insights from a survey of more than 250 UK retail leaders.
Retail leaders want to grow and engage their workforce
The Brexit talent shortage is a cause for concern among recently reopened retailers, with one in five (20%) retail leaders saying they plan to hire more employees in 2021. This figure jumps to almost half (47%) for larger retail brands. Retail employers are also looking to improve their hiring processes, with almost one-third (31%) planning to offer more employee benefits within their contracts.
Aside from Brexit concerns, retail leaders expect the hardest parts about hiring talent in 2021 to be: finding candidates that will stay in their role long-term, not just for now (35%); attracting candidates to apply for roles (33%); and hiring the best candidates before competitors do (31%), emphasising the challenges the pandemic has created in talent attrition and turnover across the sector. While for larger businesses, the top concern is offering competitive salaries (50%).
Staff want to feel safe and financially secure
The findings also revealed that worker safety will need to remain a priority for retail leaders as the sector reopens. Retail leaders reported that, during the pandemic, their employees have asked for mobile visibility and access to shifts with the ability to swap and change shifts (41%); access to training and upskilling materials (36%); and access to wages or furlough pay before pay day (35%). In retail businesses with 4,000-4,999 employees, access to company-provided PPE was the biggest request (60%), followed by more company communication regarding plans and safety measures (50%).
These requests are reflected in retailers’ top operational challenges too, which are communicating consistently with employees (27%), ensuring staff feel safe and comfortable coming to work (26%), and retaining their best employees by maximising staff engagement (25%).
Fourth has recognised these safety challenges among its own client base too, and in turn has developed an in-app survey for team members to declare they are well and able to work ahead of starting their shift. These submissions feed through to its scheduling solution, showing managers the team members who are well to work, who are not, and who haven’t completed the survey so that managers can confidently assign workers to shifts with less worry, while retail workers can know that their employers are invested in their wellbeing.
A challenge for retail employers
While retail employers have a clear desire to help their employees recover from the pandemic, these priorities don’t come without challenges. Retail leaders expect the hardest parts of workforce scheduling as the sector recovers from the pandemic to be managing payroll accurately around expected changes in shift patterns (37%); ensuring staff are comfortable coming to work and employee health is tracked (35%); and implementing and managing flexible furlough practices (31%). The latter will be a bigger challenge for smaller retailers, with 43% saying flexible furlough practices will be a top challenge.
Alongside this, over a quarter (26%) of retail leaders feel their main personnel challenge will be capacity planning to ensure the correct levels of staff are available to maximise sales and customer experience, while roughly one-in-five (19%) retail leaders consider maintaining and improving employee morale and mental health to be a key challenge..
Sebastien Sepierre, Managing Director – EMEA, Fourth, said: “Brexit has created ramifications for many businesses, and it’s clear that retailers are facing a combined challenge of a Brexit-induced talent shortage and the pandemic. The retail sector has had a lot of talent churn over the past year, and it’s vital that retail employers now engage employees and instil confidence in them that they will be supported as the sector begins to recover. Employers need data and insights to be able to do this, and workforce management technology that can help streamline admin-heavy processes like compliance, payroll, and recruitment. Only then will they attain a clear understanding of their retail employees’ evolving needs and achieve sustainable growth.”