Your top employee is no longer the best

The transition from single channel to omnichannel by retailers has been going on for more than 15 years now. When it all started, this change was chiefly focused on marketing and IT: prices, product range and marketing communication were brought together and aligned with each other. The impact this transition had on the organisation during this first phase was mainly discernible in the marketing and IT departments.

Changes in terms of personnel, however, were still very limited: the beginning of selling through the online channel led to new positions mainly geared towards e-commerce. Due to the further shift from offline to online sales and the emergence of cross-channel services, such as Click & Collect, employees were expected to learn new skills, thus creating a change in the existing job descriptions.

In areas where the sales are making a partial shift to online retail, the emphasis in the physical store is leaning more and more towards service and customer experience. The question is whether the current staff members still have the right skills. The best sales person may be

considered the best employee today, but what if that same person spends most of the day having to provide service?

The shift from buying in the physical store to the online channel has, until now, not led to lower staff levels in the retail sector. In fact, the number of jobs in retail actually increased in 2016. But the job descriptions are changing at an incredible pace. 21,000 jobs were lost in stores last year, but at the same time 26,000 new retail jobs were created. This growth can mainly be attributed to positions in logistics (delivery, distribution centres) and in customer service.

At the head office, too, there are massive changes. Whereas in the past there was often no data available on which to base decisions and management’s gut-feeling dictated the course of action, the scales have tipped completely and there is now so much data, we don’t know what to do with it. Analysing data and translating it to tangible actions demands specific skills that most retail companies simply don’t have.

It’s logical that this ever-changing need for staff to learn new skills has an effect on the recruitment and selection process. One of the key questions for the future will be “Where do we get the right people from?”. It therefore makes good sense for retailers to map out in which areas the organisation expects to grow in coming years and which jobs and skills are needed in those areas to attract the right people before it’s too late!

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