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3 Tips From Aussie Employers on How Retailers Can Tackle Talent Shortages and Improve Employee Engagement

Three tips to help retailers attract quality talent and boost the employee experience while also improving the customer experience.

Is your retail organisation struggling to attract, retain and develop talent? Get tips from three retail leaders on how to boost your recruitment and employee engagement strategies. 

Staffing is an ongoing challenge for retailers

The retail and consumer goods industry has long faced challenges when it comes to keeping shop floors, head offices, warehouses and factory lines staffed. Even before the pandemic, retail careers faced a negative perception, whereby potential and existing employees viewed their retail jobs as a stopgap before starting their “real” careers. 

This became acutely clear during the Great Resignation. In Australia, almost two in five (39%) retail businesses struggled to find suitable staff in June 2022, compared to 18% in June 2021. 

There’s another factor at play here too – the digitisation of retail. More and more, consumers are turning to online channels to do their shopping. That’s not to say that the brick-and-mortar store is no more, but the lines between in-store and online shopping have blurred and your customers have come to expect connected shopping interactions, whatever platform they’re engaging with your brand on.

The skills shortage in retail is compounded by a widening digital skills gap in Australia and New Zealand, whereby 88% of Australians and 82% of New Zealanders don’t feel equipped to learn the digital skills needed for the future. 

These two issues are not mutually exclusive. In our latest eBook, Tackling Talent Shortages, we share how employers can overcome these staffing challenges by upskilling their employees with the digital skills they need to meet their customer’s expectations. The eBook also uncovers how to boost employee engagement by providing pathways to long and fulfilling retail careers. 
Here, three retail leaders from R.M. Williams, True Alliance and who is elijah share how they are tackling skills shortages through automation, employee-centricity and professional development.

Lean into automation

Raquel Bouris, Founder and Creative Director of who is elijah

My big tip for any retailers wanting to tackle skills shortages head-on? Make the most of automation! At my fragrance company, who is elijah, we did this by taking a holistic view of the company and every function. We mapped every function in the company and worked out how we could use automation to eliminate routine tasks and any unnecessary grunt work. 

As a result, we’ve been able to eliminate human errors and reduce staffing costs.

For example, there was a period when our team had to sort orders and print labels from multiple systems. Now that we’ve automated the order process, each employee can start their day with a list of every order that needs to be sent. In six months alone, we were able to increase direct-to-consumer sales by 500% and drive down human error significantly. 

Create a workplace that works for your people

Nathan Alexander, Chief Technology Officer, R.M. Williams

When it comes to tackling talent shortages, I have a mantra I’d like to share with fellow retail leaders: The only way your business can be customer-centric is to also be employee-centric. 

By that I mean happy, engaged and challenged employees are more likely to go above and beyond for your customers. And from a bigger-picture perspective, happier employees will stay in the business longer too. 

One way you can secure employee engagement is by involving your people in the planning process. For example, when R.M. Williams was going through a digital transformation project, we co-created new processes and experiences with our employees. They were invited to apply their on-the-job knowledge to the company’s strategy, and we were able to show them how integral their input was in the company’s success. 

How you gather their input can vary. We hosted discovery sessions, but you could also hold information interviews, share polls or submit surveys. The most important thing is that you show them how their ideas and input will impact the bigger picture. 

One thing I will stress is that you won’t always hear only positive feedback – be comfortable hearing the ugly truth on occasion, but know that this feedback can only benefit your business.

Invest in the employee experience through upskilling

Ken Kennedy, Group Head of Digital, True Alliance

At True Alliance, we believe our people are our greatest asset. To attract and retain the best talent, we’ve developed a talent acquisition and retention strategy, which underlies a number of our work processes.

For example, when it comes to attraction, we emphasise the benefits of working with us, including flexible work, product discounts, learning and development opportunities, paid leave on your birthday and individual control over working hours.

And once they join, an employee can access upskilling and learning opportunities. For example, we host regular training sessions with industry experts and provide opportunities to attend training courses so they can expand their skill sets.

The team also uses Salesforce’s free learning resource, Trailhead. There are set units the team must complete to operate our cloud platform, but we also encourage them to tap into other units and the Trailhead community to strengthen other skills around marketing, legalities and so on. Trailhead provides them with a simpler and less technical introduction to useful topics that helps them understand how key functions are connected.

From a retention perspective, having a culture of learning and development is our way of backing good people and showing them the long-term careers they’ll have with us.

Preparing for the future of retail

Here at Salesforce, we believe that an investment in your people is an investment in your company. Showing new-starters the pathways to career development and upskilling them with the digital skills required for the future of retail will be key to your company’s success. 

And as the expectations of Australian and New Zealand consumers evolve, now is the time to create a culture of continual learning in your organisation. Upskilling them with the digital skills they need for a digital-first retail future will be a win-win for every retail and consumer goods organisation. 

Want more guidance on how to target the digital skills shortage and evolve your recruitment and retention strategy in the process? Download our latest eBook, Tackling Talent Shortages, for expert insight into how you can prepare your employees for retail’s digital future.  

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Jo Gaines AVP, Sales

Jo Gaines has spent over 20 years working for and with technology and media companies. Since 1999, she has worked for various companies and networks, including Krux, CBS, Yahoo, Kidspot, Sensis and Salesforce.  Jo is AVP, Sales and Executive Sponsor of Salesforce Women's Network ANZ. Prior to joining Krux (which was acquired by Salesforce in November 2016), she served as chief revenue officer at Brandscreen, an independent demand-side platform provider where she managed the Australian commercial and marketing team supporting more than 80 active accounts. At CBS Interactive, she was in charge of Australian consumer brands as general manager, consumer and CBSi. She has also held senior sales and marketing positions at Kidspot, iPrime and Yahoo!7 among other firms. Jo also launched and served as CEO of Digital Media Options Pty, Ltd, a digital media consultancy specializing in optimizing and monetizing digital assets for brands. Jo's greatest passions are friendships and motherhood; she has two beautiful daughters. Jo enjoys running, is completing her yoga teacher training and tries really hard to live a healthy lifestyle.

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