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Next-Gen Retail Tech Strategies for Enhancing The Associate Experience

12/8/2023
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Steven Kramer is President and CEO of WorkJam

Striking a balance between retail associates' eagerness for flexibility and a store's operational needs is a constant challenge. 

In this interview with Steven Kramer, president and CEO of WorkJamRIS News looks into innovative strategies for creating a winning workforce formula. Kramer emphasizes the role of technology – specifically digital frontline workplaces – in creating a win-win relationship between retailers and their workforce. 

From implementing a shift marketplace for flexible scheduling to offering early access to pay, the discussion explores how these initiatives not only enhance employee engagement and retention but also significantly impact the overall customer experience. Kramer also sheds light on the transformative power of targeted communication and the tangible results witnessed in retailer initiatives, showcasing the potential for a true paradigm shift in the retail workforce management landscape.

RIS News: How can retailers balance associates’ desire for greater scheduling flexibility with a store’s operational needs? 
Steven KramerA retailer can balance associates’ desire for greater scheduling flexibility with store operational needs with technology, specifically, a digital frontline workplace. A digital frontline workplace is a super app that includes core operational functionalities and consolidates tools that workers use to do their jobs to create an optimized user experience. Retailers should look for a super app that has a shift marketplace where employees can pick up shifts, swap shifts, or give up their shifts. It creates a symbiotic, win-win relationship for both the employer and its employees.  

Filling open shifts can be challenging for retailers and location managers. Even when there are enough employees to satisfy the needs of the schedule, those employees aren’t always available to work. This leads to managers making many outbound calls while racing to fully staff shifts. Plus, employees get frustrated when they don’t have the possibility to pick up extra shifts or get penalized for needing to have the flexibility to have time off. 

A digital frontline workplace gives managers the freedom to offer up shifts in their locations or to be able to source employees from nearby locations. It also allows employees to swap shifts and put shifts up for grabs without penalties. From an operational standpoint, the pool of on-demand labor allows managers to improve staffing accuracy with less demand on their time. Managers can spend more time on the store floor, where they are needed. 

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RIS News: Why is early access to pay an effective strategy to enhance engagement and retention? 
Kramer: Early access to their earned wages, through ExpressPay in the WorkJam app, enables companies to foster trusted relationships with employees by improved financial wellness. By lifting this pressure, it enables frontline workers to stick with one employer. ExpressPay can lower hiring costs and increase retention. Combine this benefit with flexible scheduling, and retailers can become an employer of choice. Moreover, employees will prefer, and actively seek out, open shifts since they can have access to wages earned instead of looking for a second job, further enhancing the success of flexible scheduling programs.  

RIS News: What are some of the most impactful ways to improve communications with associates? 
Kramer: Cut out the noise. Employees have so many communications coming to them from all departments — often not relevant for them — that it’s hard to sift through all the noise. An enterprise with a frontline team of 75,000 workers could gain at least one hour of productivity weekly because of targeted, clear messaging to the right audience. That could equal four million hours of added time deployed on more productive activities! The second way is to use the tools people use to communicate in their everyday lives — their phones. An app puts the communication they need in a familiar format in the palms of their hands. The third is to have those messages in their native languages. Not only does it provide inclusivity, but it also shows respect, and that the employee is valued.  

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RIS News: What results have you seen from retailer initiatives to enhance the store associate experience? 

Kramer: Enhancing the store associate experience is a lever retailers need to pull sooner, rather than later. When you enhance the employee experience it affects the customer experience positively. By using a digital frontline workplace, like WorkJam, everything from task management and workflows, communication, learning, flexible scheduling, and early access to wages earned will not only increase the employee experience but positively affect the bottom line.  
 
For managers, WorkJam can increase efficiency by up to 50% by cutting administrative tasks that result in thousands of hours spent across the store network. Reducing manager burden provides significant multi-dimensional value. They can spend that returned time focusing on business strategies, coaching, and growth opportunities.  

Overall, an enhanced employee experience increases staff productivity and happiness. With benefits like early access to wages earned, flexible scheduling, and targeted communication, we’ve seen employee turnover can lower by at least 25%.  

Forrester Consulting determined WorkJam delivers an average return-on-investment of 401% with a payback period of approximately six months. The returns are tangible — increased employee engagement, reduced costs, improved customer experience, boosted sales, and increased retention.

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