What are the roles and responsibilities in retail HR?
Covering a wide variety of workers with general and management expertise, as well as industry-specific knowledge and skills, the role of Human Resources (HR) in the retail industry can be complex. As the current largest private-sector employer in the UK, the retail industry employs nearly 3 million people, with 50% working part time. That’s a huge amount of people, all with unique needs. And it’s HR’s role to provide the right support to enable them to thrive.
Find out how they can achieve this with our guide to the key roles and responsibilities in retail HR.
The role of HR within the Retail Industry
A customer’s experience shopping for a product or service is make or break. It not only determines their purchase decision but also whether they return to buy again. That’s why the main role of HR in the retail industry is to enable every employee to play their part in creating a great customer experience.
Whether it’s supporting roles (such as buyers and merchandisers) or customer-facing employees (such as store managers and assistants), HR needs to make sure that the business has the right talent in place to meet customers’ needs. This involves developing plans to attract talent, hiring the best-qualified candidates and ensuring retail staff are trained, engaged and retained through people-centred policies, processes and culture. If your HR department gets the employee experience right, you will see great customer experiences follow.
HR roles and responsibilities in retail
From posting job adverts to employee exit interviews, HR is responsible for managing the whole employee life cycle. Here are some of the tasks that they complete on a day-to-day basis.
Hire the right employees
Effective recruitment involves a lot more than just posting an advert on job boards or social media and waiting for the perfect application to appear. HR needs to understand the job requirements and make sure these are met by analysing the market, consulting stakeholders and managing budgets. They are also responsible for practical aspects of recruitment, such as arranging interviews, ensuring paperwork is complete and onboarding new employees.
No business will run if employees aren’t paid. Making sure this happens isn’t a straightforward process. Taxes need to be calculated, expense reimbursements authorised and pay rises and bonuses applied. HR are responsible for ensuring all the relevant changes are made so people receive the appropriate pay.
Conduct disciplinary actions
Where an employee’s performance or behaviour is unacceptable or improper, disciplinary procedures need to be followed. When dealt with ineffectively, disciplinary actions can lead to the loss of a valuable employee and even litigation. That’s why HR plays a vital role in offering support, attending disciplinary hearings and giving advice on the way an investigation report is presented to ensure it addresses all necessary issues.
Every year policies should be examined and, if necessary, updated to reflect any changes or in reaction to an occurrence in the organisation. HR should always be consulted with on these decisions. It’s also HR’s responsibility to make official updates to policies and to suggest changes if they no longer serve the company or enable employees to do an effective job.
Maintain employee records
All HR records must be maintained as mandated by law. They contain personal details and contacts for each employee which are critical in an emergency. These records can also help businesses make informed decisions – whether that’s identifying key skill gaps, analysing demographic data or ensuring compliance with regulations.
Conduct benefit analysis
Providing an attractive offer is key to hiring the best talent. A great candidate may have multiple job offers and end up choosing to work for another company with lesser pay if the benefits are more attractive. HR should compare their organisation’s offer to similar companies to make sure benefits are competitive.
Responding to changing employee and customer needs may require a variety of training. For example, getting store employees quickly up to speed and able to serve customers requires soft skills (communication, customer services, conflict resolution) and technical skills (point of sale systems, inventory systems, merchandising). HR can help provide guidance about the appropriate formal training and development available.
Provide career growth
Seeing a clear route for career progression is important for attracting and retaining talent. HR should guide employees to a long future within the company. This may involve regular check-ins to offer career path support, including training, coaching or secondments.
Support health and wellness
Employees are people and will have other pressures outside of work. HR is not only there to offer support for work-related issues, but also for financial, health and wellbeing issues. This isn’t about offering advice or solutions, but highlighting when compassionate leave should be taken and directing employees to appropriate external support networks.
Promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion initiatives help employees feel heard, seen and valued. To be effective, HR need to embed D&I in policy, processes and work experience throughout the organisation. This isn’t a one-off exercise. HR should ensure these messages are delivered consistently through a range of formal and informal communication channels.
Want to find out more about HR’s role in creating a diverse and inclusive retail work environment? Check out our article on how retail HR can promote diversity & inclusion in the workplace.
How can a retail HR department improve my company?
With responsibilities throughout the employee lifecycle, HR can have a huge impact on every business. After all, employees are the single biggest asset of an organisation. Although retail human resources face many challenges, there are lots of effective ways retail HR support employees so your company thrives. Here are four examples:
Talk about the uplift in company culture
Establishing processes and policies that enable employees to play their part in creating great customer experiences is one thing. But if this is going to be truly embedded in company culture, HR needs to reinforce key messages and highlight successes.
Create a safe space to talk about issues
Employees should feel comfortable reaching out to their HR departments. If they don’t, HR is doing something wrong. HR should set the tone during employee onboarding and explain that people are in a safe place where they can raise any issues.
Offer mental health options
Rather than providing solutions for employee issues, HR should be there for support. Whether an employee is facing mental illness, health issues, debt or any other life occurrences, HR should talk through the options available and help them take their next steps. Check out our helpful step-by-step retail mental health toolkit.
Increase retention rates
Staff retention has long been a problem for the retail sector. US retail stores experience 76% turnover rates for part-time employees each year. This means more time and budget is needed to recruit, onboard and train employees all over again. With effective HR practices ensuring that the best people are hired and driving employee engagement, employee retention rates increase throughout the organisation.
Improve work efficiency
A happy employee is a more productive employee. If companies want to improve efficiency, they need to focus on their workers’ satisfaction. HR can help employees feel more content, and therefore be more productive, by providing support, offering appropriate training and creating an enjoyable work environment.
Retail wouldn’t exist without customers. Every role plays a part in delivering a great customer experience, and HR is no different. The HR department shouldn’t feel separate from the rest of the organisation or only called upon when there are issues. They should set the tone and create a customer-centred culture by ensuring employees are trained, engaged and retained through effective policies and processes. And, of course, they should have an open door for colleagues who need support in their work or home life.
Find out more about what effective retail HR looks like at our annual HR Summit. Register today!
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