The retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries have undergone an evolution like never before in the last 2 years. The ever-increasing demand, intense competition, digital transformation, AI led automation and post-pandemic shifts in customer preferences warrants us to relook at the workforce driving this industry. Walmart is adding 150,000 store employees in the US in addition to the 20,000 supply-chain workers just for this holiday season. This is more than 10% of their US employee base. The US retail and distribution industry is expected to add around 1 million employees in this holiday season alone. Target is adding 100,000, UPS & FedEx are adding 190,000 people, while Amazon is adding 125,000 in supply chain.
While these are immediate needs, the future need for digital workers is driven by the technologies embraced or in the process of deployment. Commercial drones are expected VR in home improvement adopted by IKEA, AR – Warby Parker’s customers use AR to try on glasses remotely, L’Oreal AR powers makeup try-on experiences with leading brands, WatchBox uses AR to let customers try on different sizes of watches, Amazon uses ML based demand forecasting to make their system and supply more efficient, Kendra Scott and Etsy are using virtual fitting room technology, NLP driven chatbots provide personalized experiences on websites. Amazon’s just walk out system uses a combination of sophisticated technologies like computer vision systems, machine learning, facial recognition, IoT devices driving staff free and cashier less stores. Safeway is pioneering a new driverless cart service to deliver groceries locally. Walmart is getting ready to deploy fully autonomous trucks for delivery orders soon. Google is already working on drone-based delivery in 15 minutes
With such changing dynamics in the retail industry, increasing demand, changing technologies it becomes imperative companies take a fresh look at the workforce to supplement the growthWith such changing dynamics in the retail industry, increasing demand, changing technologies it becomes imperative companies take a fresh look at the workforce to supplement the growth
Four key workforce imperatives to adapt to the new normal
1. Redefining the roles and providing training
The roles are getting redefined as the customer expectations are increasing. Back-office staff (buying, stocking/merchandising, engineering, technology, and finance) need to understand systems better and how it interfaces with newer technologies (drones, Blockchain etc.). The front-office staff (sales, technology, and customer services) need to take complete ownership as problem solvers and build more empathy, speed and analytical skills. This requires them to have an end-to-end understanding of the business right from supply chain, fulfillment, in-store activities, billing, refunds etc. Store managers need to be trained to use the information available from AI, ML, real-time data analytics to increase store revenues and profitability. Returns, chargebacks and frauds are ever increasing – detecting and preventing ensures no revenue leakage. Customer sentiment analysis, propensity to churn, personalization is key to having more meaningful conversations. The new workforce needs better trainings (soft-skills, products, competition, technical etc.) to be equipped to handle these requirements.
2. Optimizing and managing the resource mix
The ever increasing demand – both permanent growth and seasonal variations require the right mix of resources - permanent, temporary and BOTs.The staffing model becomes a very complex process to manage – 24 x 7 operations and shift coverage, over-time, absenteeism, attrition, and on top of all that, skill shortages. The new hybrid or work-from-home models further complicate the process. Managing these dimensions requires astute forecasting, planning, staffing and scheduling. A strong workforce management process is the only way to make strategic staffing decisions, streamline staffing and provide business continuity in optimizing costs.
3. Increasing automation intensity
Bots constitute a decent mix of the workforce today and will take a significant role going forward. Today around 15-20% of front office activities and upto 40% of back-office activities across various functions are being automated using RPA and enabling technologies. The ability to scale up bots with investments in technology, infrastructure, and technical resources is critical to scaling up at the right speed. The emergence of technologies like blockchain, IoT, AI-ML, AR-VR requires investment in technical resources to augment the tech led changes.
4. Up-skilling, re-skilling and right skilling
As we see the store managers being freed up with data and real-time analytics, their skills at interpreting and using data become crucial. Today, there is immense data thrown at the operations which needs to be used well to drive customer satisfaction. For instance, Walmart promoted 200,000 associates to various roles in 2020. Creating career path through education, right-skilling, role-based trainings are important for promoted associates to deliver in their elevated roles. With the advent of technology there is a constant need to up-skill the resources to learn newer technologies, and utilize them in everyday operations to drive effective customer conversations. AT&T believes 100,000 roles on hardware support will become redundant within the next decade. AT&T initiated a massive re-training of 250,000 employees with an investment of $1 billion to build necessary skills for jobs of the future.
Wipro delivers across all types of resources – permanent, temporary, over-time, flexible staffing for holiday volumes with precision forecasting, staffing and scheduling processes. For one of the leading US retailers, we handled 50% additional volumes during the holiday season seamlessly with hybrid staffing models. Robust workforce management techniques enabled with tools ensure better planning, staffing, scheduling, adherence and output.
Wipro’s Retail Academy is an initiative drive hyper-skilling of resources to meet the ever changing demands of the customer in the era of digital revolution. Our focus on providing trainings across omnichannel strategy management, changing customer mindset, data analytics and insights, customer loyalty, digital marketing etc., builds a strong future ready workforce supporting our customer strategies.
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