Workforce management is key as retailers prepare to open doors, says REPL Group

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By Chris Love, managing partner workforce transformation, REPL Group

“With the government due to announce its exit strategy to the current lockdown rules this week, retailers should be anticipating that they soon may be able to start reopening their doors. This means it’s essential they begin to put plans in place that will enable them to quickly and efficiently respond to any new government guidelines. As changes are likely to take place at short notice, there is an increased need for more efficient communication between retailers and employees. Particularly as, at least to start with, the conditions under which shops can reopen may vary depending on the types of retailers.

“Since stores such as B&Q have reopened, we’ve seen the introduction of strict measures which mean very few individuals are allowed to enter the shop. Instead, customers wait in their cars for orders to be brought out to them. This could be one example of how other retailers will need to operate upon reopening, marking the beginning of a paradigm shift whereby social distancing measures mean retail employees do the ‘shopping’ for customers instead. This approach will make their roles more labour intensive, so retailers need to think about workforce management issues ahead of time. This will include increasing staff members to fulfil these roles and ensuring they continue to safeguard their employees, for example, by tracking which employees work together for potential contact tracing and allowing time for frequent deep cleaning. While stores still remain closed, retailers should also consider updating instore window displays, which are likely to have gone unchanged since early March, and prioritising essential or seasonal items closer to the front of the store.

“Looking ahead, retailers need to put workforce management tools in place to be able to quickly contact employees to inform them when the store will reopen, any new shift patterns and to communicate the necessary health and safety guidelines. These are unprecedented times and workforces need clear and concise information to ensure they understand the latest guidance and can comply with any new rules set out for them. Equally, employees must be able to quickly get hold of store managers to inform them if they are unwell so that retailers can take the necessary precautions to safeguard the rest of their workforce and customers.”