Why are retail employees going around company systems?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
A couple of weeks ago, I gave a few talks about the future of the store, and every time the part about workforce transitions arrived, I got heads nodding about how Gen Z is even more likely than Millennials to be impatient with your old, lame technology.
An easy example is how some employees at a store might set up a group on Slack or Facebook to communicate with each other about schedules and shifts to swap.
Retail executives always get a grim look on their faces when I bring up that example, mostly because they know that those Slack or Facebook groups already exist in their company, and there’s pretty much nothing they can do about it.
But rather than feel queasy about it, why aren’t more retailers moving to enable these kinds of communication? Employees want it. They feel it’s important enough to go around your feeble systems to get it — even when the retailer protests.
The problem is that companies (and this is not exclusive to retailers) have become more concerned about making employees do it the way they think it should be done rather than spending the time to help them do the things that employees need to do. It’s a classic technology implementation mistake — not understanding the processes you’re impacting before you try to implement technology to enable the process. But it’s also emblematic of how far away retailers have gotten from trying to enable employees vs. controlling costs — control the employee, and you therefore control the cost.
Well, costs are about to get out of control for retailers, as minimum wages rise. If you can’t control the cost to the degree you like, maybe you’ll find that you can unlock even more employee productivity by helping them, rather than forcing them to do things in an old, lame, unhelpful way just because “we’ve always done it that way.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it okay that store employees collaborate through Slack or Facebook groups where the retailer is not invited or has no visibility? What should retailers do about these forms of unauthorized communication?