Front-line retail employees are the backbone of the retail industry. As the retail industry continues to transform following the pandemic, workers have had to adapt to new challenges presented within the retail stores. The Australian Retail Outlook 2022 Survey powered by KPMG found that over the past year, 47% of Australian retailers struggled with shipping and delivery, 44% struggled with supply chain, and 33% struggled with staffing. During which, retail associates have been experiencing increased pressure of managing evolving customer expectations in an unpredictable environment.

Nonetheless, retail staff continue to go above and beyond to attend to the increasing demand and keep customers happy. From offerings such as curbside pickup to online fulfilment and other high-priority initiatives, the new tasks and responsibilities are placing an increased strain on both workers and businesses.

Burnout is a reality felt by many workers, with a recent study revealing that 81% of workers are experiencing burnout. As a consequence, businesses are experiencing a high staff turnover rate. According to the Australian Retailers Association, 84% of its members stated that it has become harder to recruit new employees. While many retailers are committed to alleviating the strain of labour shortages in their teams, they are also eager to increase their operational capacity.

One way to keep teams engaged and productive is through facilitating their communication. It is critical that both employees and employers are fully across the tasks that need to be completed, know how to prioritise them, and can coordinate actions across teams.

Real-time task management solutions should provide a 360-degree view of all work that must be completed that day and what role specific employees will play. The solution should also have capabilities to automatically prioritise all tasks for teams according to best practices.

Here are the four key characteristics of a successful task management solution:

1. Faster navigation

With so many new tasks and activities to accomplish, store associates do not have time to navigate through a clunky and tedious interface to get the job done. Providing teams with intuitive, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven software can be the solution for faster navigation and job completion. By connecting teams with digitised processes that automate and elevate workflows, managers can achieve more agile operations and respond to change effectively. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) inventory management systems, for example, work to create actionable insights, enhance customer experience, increase sales, and drive a smarter supply chain.

2. Personalised information

In the face of labour shortages and higher task volumes, successfully coordinating store teams is critical to ensuring that jobs are done correctly and on time. If nobody knows who is responsible for restocking a shelf or handling a curbside pickup order, for example, there is a risk that it will not be completed. A task management solution can streamline this coordination and minimise confusion by providing the right, personalised information to the allocated employee at the right time. 

3. Real-Time visibility

Outdated data can slow processes down and lead to errors. Store associates need to be able to effectively plan for upcoming curbside pickup, and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) orders, restock shelves, and handle last-minute disruptions, such as a late truck arrival. With a data solution that updates their task lists in real time, giving them visibility over the most up-to-date information at the right time, they do not have to worry about adapting to disruption in the store. Instead, the back-end task management solution does that for them, keeping them informed via the application whenever something new comes up.

4. Easy collaboration tools

Communication is key to any successful business model. Associates need to be able to quickly find the right person when they need assistance or have questions about a particular assignment. Managers also need to be able to reach employees instantly if they need to re-prioritise tasks or rectify an activity. Without a way to communicate in real time, processes slow down, tasks are not completed on time, and mistakes are not fixed quickly enough. All of this could have a negative impact on the customer experience and therefore on the business.

With a software solution that enables store associates and managers to send messages and feedback in real time, managers can better coach and train associates in the moment, and associates can collaborate or seek guidance at any time.

Store associates today are under more pressure than ever before. By equipping them with an execution and communication solution that enhances their work processes, you can take away some of this pressure so they – and your customers – can go home happier each day.

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Brett Newstead is director of sales at Zebra Technologies ANZ.