The Future of Retail Work: Adapting to Digital Technology

    Keeping up with digital retail technology is essential to business growth. Know how to prepare your retail workforce with critical digital skills. 

    calendar-plus-01 July 18, 2023
    user-circle Credly Team
    hourglass-01 10 min read
    Smiling female staff using digital tablet in supermarket

    The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped consumer behavior almost overnight.   

    Local delivery, online shopping, and hybrid shopping experiences, such as curbside pick-up, quickly became commonplace. In 2020 alone, some $40.2 billion was directed to retail technology deals worldwide.  

    But these new ways of shopping mean that retailers and their employees have to learn new ways of working. On the corporate side, there were significant investments in technology. New technical capabilities had to integrate seamlessly with company-wide logistics and local operations to deliver a compelling experience for shoppers.  

    In this new landscape, an organization's workforce resilience and agility are must-have qualities to nurture to retain their workforce and their competitive edge. And although shoppers are back in stores, the digitization of retail has continued.  

    For retailers, that means they — and their workforce — need to continue to learn and adapt to satisfy consumers who increasingly expect a unified experience across every touchpoint they have with a retailer, from mobile apps to their interactions with frontline workers.   

    For leadership and development executives and other human resources leaders, the challenge is preparing their workforce for the digital future — a future that's happening now.  

    The rise of social commerce, which enables shoppers to purchase products from inside social media apps, the rise of augmented reality, the growth of the Internet of Things devices, and other technological advances mean retailers need new skillsets and competencies in their organization.  

    At the same time, key soft skills, such as those identified by Pearson as power skills, and traditional business skills in marketing, finance, logistics, and innovation remain critical.  

     Traditional ways of training and educating on new technologies and practices of doing business can't keep up with the rate of change. Fortunately, technology provides L&D managers with new tools to accelerate learning and engage the workforce. Verified credentials, on-demand and microlearning, e-learning platforms, and other tools give leaders and workers ways to learn faster and better.  

    Successful integration of digital retail technology  

    Companies are learning to integrate digital retail technology while retaining and strengthening the all-important human touch. Beauty retailer Sephora, for example, has implemented augmented reality for online shopping experiences, enabling consumers to "virtually" try on cosmetics before they buy. But Sephora has also retained its long-standing commitment to being a human-centered company, with employees playing starring roles in-store sales experiences.  

    Target uses its mobile app to empower shoppers with more personalized in-store experiences. Still, it also encourages contactless pick-up and delivery, requiring the company and its workers to serve customers in new ways. To drive innovation, Target encourages its thousands-strong team of engineers to spend one day a week learning. 

    PVH, the parent company to Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and other well-known fashion brands, is another success story. The company encourages ongoing learning and development through PVH University, its internal corporate learning platform.   

    PVH's platform delivers a seamless online learning experience to more than 30,000 employees worldwide.   

    These examples illustrate how human-centered L&D is at the heart of the technological changes sweeping through the retail industry.  

    Identifying needed skills through skills mapping  

    So where does an L&D leader start? Transitioning from your current workforce to the future workforce involves identifying and developing the right skills.   

    Skills mapping helps by outlining the ideal career paths for employees to acquire the skills your organization needs. Having a reliable list of current and potential skills to draw from and standardized job descriptions helps L&D leaders better understand their workforce's capabilities and pinpoint the gaps.  

    For example, the growth of consumer mobile apps that integrate with e-commerce and shipping systems at the local store level could mean your development team will need more mobile development skills as they focus on building and maintaining apps that work seamlessly across iPhones and Android devices. 

    Identifying skills gaps is the first step in creating L&D programs that support your business strategy.  

    Upskilling and reskilling opportunities   

    A comprehensive skills map reveals gaps and provides insights into how quickly these gaps need to be filled.  Some retailers, including Amazon, have created their own learning and development programs to address both immediate needs and longer-term opportunities.  

    Digital learning platforms can provide on-demand learning — allowing workers to learn the new skill they need when they need it. A verified credential platform, such as Credly's Digital Credentials platform, gives leaders the confidence that they truly understand what skills employees have.   

    It also provides opportunities to boost employee engagement by recognizing workers for learning achievements.   

    Comprehensive skills development with E-learning  

    In the digital age, human skills are more critical than ever. Power skills such as communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving are just as essential as technical skills. In-store, strong communication skills and emotional intelligence are vital to serving customers well. That can directly increase sales.  

    E-learning modules can address the entire spectrum of skills needed. These platforms can cover a broad range of topics, from technical training on the latest retail tech to courses focused on enhancing customer service, problem-solving, or leadership.  

    Digital learning platforms provide engaging, personalized, and scalable learning experiences for workers, allowing them to progress at their own pace while ensuring key concepts and competencies are covered. This flexible learning platform is a powerful tool for building an agile, resilient workforce.  

    Digital credentials   

    An integral part of an effective e-learning strategy is verifiable digital credentials.   

    Digital credentials serve two purposes:   

    • On an organizational level, they provide a transparent and easy-to-understand snapshot of the team's progress on their e-learning journeys. This visibility is key to gauging the effectiveness of your training programs and identifying areas where future support may be needed.   
    • On an individual level, these credentials recognize an individual's learning and progress. Since many individuals are intrinsically motivated by the satisfaction they feel when they complete training and receive a badge, credentials also offer motivation.   

    This sense of satisfaction significantly enhances the learning experience, encouraging continued engagement and driving a company culture of continuous learning and improvement.  

    Implementing a system like this can feel daunting and overwhelming. Workforce planning software provides guidance and support for your L&D team.   

    Workforce planning solutions  

    For L&D and HR leaders, workforce planning solutions use analytics to provide a comprehensive view of your workforce's skills at the individual, team, departmental, or corporate level. That enables leaders to make better business decisions.  

    Credly's workforce is a robust tool. It enables skills mapping, the identification of skills gaps, and the creation of training programs and strategic L&D initiatives.  

    Schedule a demo of Credly's Workforce to get started building a more resilient, agile workforce. 

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