An Empowered Workforce is the Key for Retailers’ Growth and Service Excellence
An Empowered Workforce is the Key for Retailers’ Growth and Service Excellence

By SG Story

Posted on 21 June 2016

HR solutionRetailManpowerService Industry
 
The retail industry is a key economic pillar in Singapore. With over 20,000 establishments here, the industry generates over S$34.5 billion in operating receipts, and contributes 1.4% to our nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

However, in recent years, the industry is facing challenges on multiple fronts. Tourist spending fell by 6.8% to S$22 billion in 2015 – the first time in six years – while the proliferation of e-commerce continues to affect profits at physical stores. This has led to brands such as British fashion label New Look and French menswear chain Ceilo leaving Singapore’s retail scene altogether.
 
On the hiring front, retailers have long grappled with the tight labour market. Frontline employees, such as shop sales assistants and sales supervisors, are the most sought after. Many have cited unattractive salary, long working hours and physically strenuous requirements as top reasons why they avoid the industry.

At the Retail Sectoral Manpower Plan launch last December, Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, underscored the need for the retail industry to transform and adopt leaner manpower models. He advised firms to devote their attention to improving the quality of manpower and quality of jobs, instead of relentlessly striving to boost headcount.

 
So how can companies transform their HR models to attract and retain talents? Here are three ways to do so:
 
1.           Continuous Learning and development
From shop floor assistants to sales managers, people are the heart of the retail industry. Thus, in line with the government’s push to foster a culture of lifelong learning, retail employers must invest in maximising the potential of their employees.
 
Skills upgrading is definitely a part of this. It includes technical skills to operate new digital implementations, as well as soft skills to ensure service excellence.
 
Some retailers are beginning to recognise alternative qualifications such as certificates attained from the Singapore Workforce Development Agency’s (WDA) Employability Skills System (ESS) courses. This exposes the company to a larger pool of talents. At the same time, it also gives employees greater confidence, inspiring them to stay with the company to further develop their retail career.

1.           Job redesign
As retailers begin to integrate technology innovations such as self-service kiosks or fashion directories in their physical stores, front line employees can take on more value adding and customer engaging roles.
 
For instance, they can be addressed as fashion specialists or personal shoppers who are capable of offering customers with fashion advice.
 
This pushes front line employees to have greater ownership of their relationships with customers.
 

2.           Career Progression
An effective way to retain your employees is to demonstrate authentic interest in their career prospects – be it your contract staff or full-time workers.
 
A good example is through the company’s formal employee performance review. During this process, retailers can include its contract staff to help them develop appropriate career pathways and training roadmaps.
 
Not only does this showcase the company’s dedication to each of its employee’s career development; it also makes the employee feel appreciated. This will indirectly help to cultivate and build loyalty towards the company.
 
However, executing these measures effectively will not happen overnight. As such, the government has rolled out various grants and assistance schemes to accelerate the retail industry’s transformation.


Enhanced Internship with the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme
·             This is a structured career development path that seeks to inspire people to stay and grow within the retail sector
·             Brands can offer internships to retail students from Polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education through the Enhanced Internship (EI) programme
·             Students who successfully complete 20 weeks of EI will be offered to join the company through the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme
·             Companies can receive a grant of up to $15,000 for every individual who has been placed under the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme
·             The monetary support defrays the cost of developing and providing structured on-job-training
 
 
SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative
·             This initiative strives to support continuous learning  in the retail industry to develop the next generation of retail leaders
·             Individuals will have the opportunity to learn new skills that include retail operations and area management
 
The Singapore government will continue to place emphasis on skills upgrading and lifelong learning.
 
Besides the above-mentioned government schemes, companies can also tap on training courses available on the JobsCentral Learning Portal to equip employees with the relevant skillsets.
 

The retail industry will continue to undergo rapid transformation. Amidst the ongoing manpower crunch, retailers need to invest in its current pool of people and embrace technology transformations. This will help ensure that the Singapore retail industry remains competitive within the region and maintains its reputation as a shopper’s paradise.
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