Preparing for Another Holiday Season of Labour Shortages

By Yulia Vasilyeva on July 29, 2022

A woman holding colourful shopping bags walks off an escalator

As July departs over the horizon, retailers in all industries are still struggling to come to terms with an ongoing labour shortage that threatens to disrupt everything from Back to School to last minute Christmas shopping. It’s a situation we’ve grown accustomed to since the beginning of the pandemic, but one we’re no closer to resolving – and the question remains “how can we ensure customer satisfaction with a smaller workforce than ever?”

Labour Shortages Aren’t Going Away

Let’s start with the bad news first… Unless you get some seriously lucky breaks over the next few weeks, there’s probably nothing you can do to avoid being short-staffed, at least to some extent, on your floors in the coming months. As the potential pool of part-time student labour returns to school in September, and those previously employed in the retail space continue to stay away, pickings are going to be slim.

In short, it’s probably going to be another tough Q4 when it comes to juggling the available labour and keeping things moving forward. But how can you maximize what IS available, in order to ensure that your customers are getting the level of service that they have grown accustomed to, especially as stores get busier?

Suggestions to Help Maximize What You’ve Got 

We’ve put together some strategies that might help you get through what is going to be an undoubtedly stressful period for many…

1. Focus on Keeping the Staff You’ve Got

Sure, it might sound obvious, but it’s absolutely essential you keep hold of the employees who are currently staffing your location floors. While this isn’t going to be possible in every case, particularly when it comes to student workers who are returning to school, there are definitely ways you can encourage staff to stick around.

Motivation is a major factor. Do your employees feel like they’re an important part of the business, or are they just another cog in the machine? You can help establish trust that they’re more than a number by letting them know that they’re being heard. Encourage them to provide feedback, make it easy for them to report any issues they may spot and, most importantly, take action on what they’re telling you if it’s applicable!

A happy worker is a worker that sticks around, and nobody likes feeling underappreciated when the pressure is on. Ultimately, make it so they don’t want to look elsewhere.

2. Improve Your Training Process

Despite the retail labour shortage, there are still those out there who are looking for work within the industry. If you’re lucky enough to find some, you want to make sure you’re getting them ready to take to the floor as quickly as possible. While the temptation may be there to send them out with little or no training, remember that these new hires are serving as the face of your business! You want them to be knowledgeable about your products or services, efficient, and able to deal with any questions or concerns customers may have.

If they need to be trained on specific software in order to do their job, such as a POS system, then ensuring you’ve prepared training documentation or videos is a great starting point. While there’s no substitute for one-on-one training, preparing materials ahead of time, making sure they’re readily accessible, and having an efficient delivery method can go a long way to shortening the training time.

3. Ensure Store Managers Aren’t Hiding Away

While store managers definitely have tough jobs, when faced with a labour shortage it’s a good idea to have them out on the floor as much as possible. Not only does this provide a quickly accessible source of support should a new (or experienced) employee need assistance with something, it’s also a great way to ensure that the overall health and performance of the store is being monitored in real-time.

A manager hidden away in the back office for the entirety of a shift means there’s one less available body on the floor, potentially increasing overall operation costs if you need to supplement them with an additional hire. It may be prudent to chat with your store managers and see how much time they can dedicate to in-store operations.

4. Make Issue Reporting Easy

If your stores aren’t regularly reporting issues, it’s usually not an indicator that there are no issues to be reported – but rather that the process for reporting them is such that they, frankly, don’t want to deal with the hassle. Not only is this incredibly dangerous for headquarters, as they are lacking essential data required to make the right calls in terms of store health, but it’s also massively demotivating for the staff themselves.

By making it easy and transparent to report issues, you’ll see more issues being reported. And more reported issues will ultimately mean a better experience for your customers and staff. Issue reports are a good thing! Encourage them, and ensure that they’re being actioned in a timely manner.

Don’t Forget About Head Office…

The labour shortages aren’t just affecting frontline staff – many head office departments are also struggling to find the hires they need to complement their existing staff. All too frequently, many departments are finding themselves far below standard staffing levels, forcing some employees to take on the tasks of multiple people.

It’s a dangerous cycle that requires a new set of tools and a fresh approach, across all levels of organization, in order to work around. If there’s any positive to be taken from this, though, it’s that we’re learning creative new ways to boost productivity and increase efficiency at an organization-wide level.

What Next?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should at least spark some ideas as to how you can keep operations as smooth as possible in the run-up to the holiday season. For those that are unsure how to address the items above, perhaps now is the time to consider Intelocate as the primary operations tool for your multi-unit business!

You can book a real-time demo with our team here, where we’ll show you how Intelocate can keep your existing staff engaged, empowered, happy, and on track to hit all their KPIs – even in the face of the labour shortage. “Do more with less” is our mantra for a reason!

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