Do Retailers have different HR needs?

On the one hand, people are people. On the other hand, a mining pit is a vastly different environment to the floor of a supermarket.

To understand the differences, you need to look at the job requirements, and it is obvious that you have different skill sets. Just have a look at the skills needed in any job advertisement. But are the HR processes different? The employee in a mining pit shares the same human emotions as the employee on the supermarket floor. The manager of the employee has the same objectives – to align the employee to the needs of the employer.

So where am I going with this?

The retailers I talk with want to know about HR in other retailers. Why are they more interested in understanding HR in retail organisations than HR in other organisations? The HR challenges that a retailer faces are not unique to retail – but the combination of HR challenges is unique. Some examples of these challenges are:

  • Employees are typically customer facing, and are the face of the employer
  • Multiple generations are often in the same work environment, from Millenials in their first job to Baby Boomers on the cusp of requirement, with each demographic having different attitudes to tenure, technology and customer service
  • Volume hiring is a constant need, with high attrition rates sometimes above 20%, and peak hiring periods for seasonal workers when you can hire as much as a third of your workforce again, with the attendant costs of hiring and training
  • Employees are not desk bound; they are on their feet facing clients constantly; they have limited access to a computer in a confidential environment

What does all this mean for a provider of HR systems, such as Oracle? The good news for us is that we have many Retail clients, and much experience to draw upon. A large retail chain with tens of thousands of employees, seasonal workers and contingent workers recently committed to an Oracle HR solution, and I spoke with the Oracle team to understand the retailer’s industry specific requirements.

The key retail decision points for them were:

  • a social media enabled recruiting solution to appeal to the younger demographic
  • an onboarding solution that incorporated video and learning tools to improve pre-hire engagement and mitigate the drop out risk between hire and start date
  • a recruiting solution capable of managing a high volume of applications / employees at reasonable costs, given a typical 20% attrition rate and seasonal worker requirememts
  • a mobile implementation of the manager’s HR environment, so that they can walk the shop floor and have their employee’s profile, skills and goals available for an instant discussion

So do retailers have different HR requirements? No doubt the above requirements exist in many industries – but do all of them exist simultaneously in another industry?

I suspect not.

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