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HR Trends shaping retail in 2024

As we get into 2024, the dynamics of the retail landscape are set to witness a profound transformation, with HR at the forefront. This report dives… View Article


HR Trends shaping retail in 2024

As we get into 2024, the dynamics of the retail landscape are set to witness a profound transformation, with HR at the forefront. This report dives into the six key trends that will shape HR practices in the retail sector, offering a sneak peek into the strategies and innovations that will define the industry’s approach to talent management and employee well-being.

From championing workplace wellness to embracing artificial intelligence, these trends provide invaluable insights into the evolving nature of HR in the retail sphere.

Unwrapping the Future of HR: A Sneak Peek into 2024

1. Workplace wellness and wellbeing

The echoes of 2023’s concerning wellbeing statistics linger, prompting a call for action in 2024. The retail industry takes centre stage in championing employee wellbeing, evident in the UNTIL workplace wellbeing index. With a staggering 83% surge in the number of UK businesses responding to increased employee demands for enriched wellbeing packages, the retail sector’s allure to top-tier talent shines brighter than ever. From the index, the Co-op emerges as the retail leader, meeting all six index criteria. Beyond conventional benefits, Co-op‘s wellness commitment extends to a monthly ‘wellbeing Wednesday,’ creating a holistic support system for employees.

Dan Chappell, Co-Founder at UNTIL, emphasises the imperative shift towards prioritising corporate wellbeing, cautioning that companies not investing in foundational support may risk losing top talent. “Corporate well-being is still far behind where it needs to be. With increasing employee demands for health and wellness services/policies, corporate wellbeing can no longer be a tick box exercise.”

Chappell warns that companies unwilling to invest in foundational support for employee wellbeing may risk losing top talent unless they enhance their wellbeing benefits packages.

Another example of a retailer working hard and getting it right is Nike
Nike provides an excellent example of a successful work culture centred around wellbeing. They provide extensive mental health benefits, including 20 free therapy and coaching sessions for employees and their families through EAP, along with meditation and caregiving resources. Employees have access to Nike Sports Centres for fitness, and the company offers excellent healthcare benefits. Nike allows short leaves, including Summer Fridays and a Wellbeing Week in August, enabling employees to recharge and perform at their best.

Rising mental health absences in retail spark positive workplace shift

Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust noted: “Our health of retail report this year discovered half of retailers are now seeing a rise in absences due to mental health issues, with the high cost-of-living and a surge in abuse and retail crime contributing to deteriorating wellbeing across the sector. And we’re seeing this reflected in the calls coming through to the Retail Trust’s wellbeing helpline, the counselling sessions we’re delivering, and the more than £650,000 we gave out in financial aid in the last year alone.

“But at the same time, we also found a positive groundswell in mental health openness within retail workplaces across the UK, with more colleagues than ever now prepared to turn to employers for support.  And the more than 200 employers we’re working with are taking tremendous efforts to improve wellbeing in turn, by using data to better understand how their workforces are feeling, by delivering training and by empowering their people to protect mental, physical and financial health.

“This is because they understand that their future success is partly driven by the wellness and morale of their people. Those who continue to provide this kind of support and space for conversations about their mental health are more likely to be able to evolve at pace and in doing so enable their employees to do the same.”

2. Financial wellbeing

In the face of a relentless cost of living crisis, retailers acknowledge its profound impact of this crisis on their workforce. This is further evidenced by the Retail Trust report which reveals that 52% of retail workers grapple with rising living costs, leading to increased staff theft, mental health struggles, and confrontations with customers.

Emily Trant, Chief Impact Officer at Wagestream, predicts that in 2024, financial wellbeing programmes will become mainstream.

“A trend which will continue to dominate in the realm of HR is financial wellbeing. While in 2022 this looked like one-off grants, pay rises and vouchers, 2023 saw a growing appetite amongst retailers to introduce long-term support in the form of holistic financial wellbeing programmes. 2024 will see these schemes going mainstream, as increasing numbers of organisations opt to build these propositions around technology, to achieve higher adoption and better benefits ROI.

“Looking at financial wellbeing benefits specifically, in 2024, expect to see payroll savings programmes becoming a core pillar of employee wellbeing support. Recent trials in auto-enrolment savings programmes have demonstrated a significant rise in employee participation. 2024 could see these being rolled out more widely, as businesses choose to follow in the footsteps of the Co-operative Group and Bupa Care Services, both of which have seen fantastic results in this space.

“I anticipate that 2024 will be the year where retailers embed financial wellbeing support into their DE&I strategies. Recent research from Wagestream found that the number of financially excluded people almost doubles for those working in shift-based industries like retail. Levelling the financial playing field can be a huge DE&I unlock, so in 2024, expect to see more shift-based organisations responding by subsidising access to useful and affordable financial products, like fairer credit and cheaper insurance.”

Asda is prioritising financial wellbeing for its 140,000+ staff through a partnership with Wagestream, a financial wellbeing app. The app empowers employees to manage their earnings and expenses in real-time, offering access to up to 50% of their earned contracted pay on demand. It also provides tools for budgeting, savings, and financial education.

Asda’s Chief People and Corporate Affairs Officer, Hayley Tatum, highlights, “We are always looking at ways we can help and giving our employees flexible access to their pay, alongside a range of support and guidance through the Wagestream app could prove vital in giving them financial peace of mind as well as their mental wellbeing.”

3. AI Revolutionising HR in retail

AI is revolutionising HR practices in retail, bringing efficiency and precision to various functions. From automating administrative tasks like payroll and benefits administration to streamlining recruitment processes, AI plays a pivotal role. It expedites the creation of policies, contracts, and job descriptions while supporting predictive analytics for workforce planning. In the retail sector, AI plays a crucial role in enhancing recruitment, improving performance reviews, refining onboarding processes and facilitating data-driven decisions.

As highlighted in a McKinsey survey where 92% of HR leaders express plans to increase AI use, its advantages extend to improved efficiency, cost reduction, and superior decision-making. This positions retailers strategically in the competitive landscape.

Elliott Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson King, a trusted advisor to senior executives in retail and hospitality, foresees a surge in AI adoption in HR for talent attraction and streamlined recruitment processes in 2024. He emphasises: “There will be an increased use of AI in HR in 2024. It will become a powerful tool to reduce the labour-intensive administrative side of recruitment such as sifting through CVs. The coming year will see the power of that technology unlocked and utilised to hone talent attraction and streamline processes. That said, we will still need the right people and personalities to decide how best to access and apply this technology.”

4.  Leadership and employee value proposition: A symbiotic approach to talent acquisition

In 2024, a prominent trend in the retail sector revolves around the crucial interplay of leadership and Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in the quest for top-tier talent. Leadership, with the skills to guide and manage teams effectively, harmonises with EVP, which encompassing rewards, benefits, and opportunities crucial for attracting and retaining exceptional talent.

Elliott Sanderson underscores the significance of purposeful leadership and connection, particularly in the context of the pandemic’s impact and the rise of hybrid working. The need to combat feelings of isolation is addressed by crafting EVPs that showcase a sense of connection and inclusivity, allowing employees to bring their authentic selves to the workplace.

Sanderson notes, “With our newsfeeds permanently peddling the disaster narrative, we will need special leaders to emerge in 2024 who can rally the troops.” Internal communication and positive engagement with employees become pivotal, especially at the executive level. The retail and hospitality sectors, still dealing with the aftermath of Brexit and talent shortages, feel compelled to enhance recruitment strategies and bolster the employee value proposition.

Ceridian advocates for adaptability in HR approaches.

“2024 is when we see retailers fully embrace the power of today’s boundless workforce. By leveraging gig workers and talent marketplaces to adapt to fluctuating labour demand, retailers can position themselves for rapid scaling and gain access to diverse talent pools and skill sets. This adaptability will be essential for success in the ultra-competitive, fast-paced retail landscape of 2024 and beyond.”  added Wendy Muirhead, Managing Director of EMEA, Ceridian.

5. Companies will invest in talent and growth

Perceptions of low wages and limited advancement opportunities prompt a strategic shift in 2024, as highlighted in Deloitte’s research on the importance of investing in talent through higher wages, improved training, and defined opportunities for growth.

Elliott Sanderson predicts a recalibration in Q1, unlocking funds for investment in talent and growth.

“The unstable economic climate has resulted in a lack of funding and restricted growth. The world of private equity and venture capital has understandably reacted to market conditions and been cautious with investments. There have simply been more limited funds to funnel into people and tech but as we enter Q1, there will be a recalibration as cash is unlocked for investment into talent and growth”.

6. Continued focus on employee experience and engagement.

In 2024, the focus on employee experience and engagement become crucial for attracting, retaining and growing talent. According to The Deskless Report from Axonify 40% of leaders plan to invest more budget into employee engagement in the coming year–which means organizations that don’t start to invest more in employee engagement will quickly lag behind.

Sephora shines as an example, prioritising training, technology, and development for its frontline staff. All cast members (their internal name for frontline staff) start with training on the three main product categories (perfume, makeup and skincare) starting on day one, and continually get retrained on new products, techniques and trends.

Sephora has mastered employee experience by focusing on three key aspects: training, technology and development. Sephora is so committed to training that they even developed Sephora University with three locations globally, offering training to the frontline and corporate employees alike.

In addition to making their cast members industry experts, Sephora provides them the most cutting-edge technology to use in store. From ColorIQ (their digital shade finder) to handheld registers, cast members are using world-class tech as often as they use a makeup brush, which makes their jobs easier and more enjoyable.

Additionally, Sephora emphasises providing mobility for its cast members – whether between positions, stores, departments, or even countries. One cast member has grown from a Beauty Advisor to becoming the General Manager of France through Sephora’s commitment to growing, training and developing their top talent.

Wendy Muirhead stresses the need for HR strategies focused on empathy and innovation, creating meaningful connections in the ever-evolving world of retail.

“In 2024, it’s essential for retail organisations to focus their HR strategies on empathy and innovation, balancing workforce expectations with operational efficiencies in this complex world of work. To retain employees and maintain an engaged workforce, retailers will need to focus on their employee experience to create meaningful connections in a boundless workforce.

The evolving nature of retail work adds complexity to this task, yet maintaining organisational efficiency has never been more critical. Whether it’s AI-driven tools, talent marketplaces, or offering access to net pay on-demand, technology will be instrumental in driving both efficiency and connection at scale in the increasingly dynamic world of retail.”


Have you got an amazing HR or L&D team?

If you have an outstanding team that goes above and beyond, why not celebrate their dedication by nominating them for the prestigious People in Retail Awards 2024? Give credit where it’s due and shine a spotlight on the incredible contributions of your teams in making your business thrive. .

Grab your free entry pack here and let the recognition begin!

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