Enabling growth for HK retailers with workforce technology

Chano FernandezThe retail market in Asia is growing as consumer spending across the region increases. While that’s good news for revenue growth, it puts pressure on retailers to find, hire, and retain great employees to support that increased demand.

In 2016, retail sales across 11 countries in Asia were about US$6.6 trillion, compared to only US$1 trillion in 2001, according to Deloitte’s Asia Pacific Economic Outlook. Deloitte attributes this growth to growing prosperity and increased access to credit in many of those countries.                                

According to the Deloitte report, real disposable personal income between 2001 and 2016 is estimated to have grown at an average annual rate of 11.5% in China, 7.5% in India, 6.6% in Vietnam, and 5.7% in Malaysia. In China alone, approximately five million credit cards were issued in the third quarter of 2016, nearly three times as many seven years ago.

Invest where it matters the most

The growth in retail spending is occurring across both traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online.

Consider that more than two in every five consumers in Hong Kong have made purchases through their mobile device in the last three months, according to a recent MasterCard Online Survey. The majority of consumers in Hong Kong (88%) made at least one purchase online in the three months preceding the survey, representing a 4% increase from 84% in 2015. Four in five local consumers revealed plans to shop online in the first half of 2017.

To match with such spending pattern, Hong Kong retailers are making investments in technologies areas like mobile payments, social media engagement, online customer support, and more.

Such growth has also increased the competition for talent to support both in-store sales and online channels. It is more important than ever for local retailers to have effective strategies for hiring, onboarding, engaging, and developing employees. But without the support of the right human resources technology, this goal may be challenging in the competitive talent market.

There is another area where technology can make a big difference in retail—supporting the people side of the business, where much of your competitive advantage is directly delivered. To hire, onboard, develop, and retain the right talent, retailers need to make the right investment in a human capital management (HCM) system. Cosmetics company Avon and Japan-based Uniqlo’s owner Fast Retailing are some of Workday’s retail customers that have adopted HCM to manage their workforce.

Hiring and onboarding

Competing for talent requires a strong speed-to-hire strategy that is supported by technology. This encompasses areas like using historical data to identify successful hiring profiles, rapidly recruiting new candidates through web-based systems, facilitating in-store self-service kiosks for hiring, and easily rehiring seasonal workers from previous holiday rushes. Technology enables business to quickly post new openings and let employees easily refer former colleagues, friends, and family members. In a competitive job market, the longer an employer takes to process candidates’ applications, the more likely talents will be lost to a competitor.

Successful onboarding is also critical, reducing turnover and leading to happier, more productive employees. If done properly, onboarding ensures new hires feel welcome and helps them understand their job priorities and their company’s mission and culture. It also efficiently handles the compliance and paperwork aspects of the hire and allows employees to begin contributing in their roles as quickly as possible. Little or none of this should happen on actual paper. Today’s employees expect their relationship with a company to begin and continue online, with the same streamlined experience they expected from their personal lives.

Onboarding should not be looked at as a one-size-fits-all approach. It entails personalizing each new employee’s experience by providing them with information on other employees they should engage with, operating procedures, and goals for their role.

Retailers are also wise to get employees started with online learning, whether that’s an introduction to company culture or specific role-based training and best practices. Better yet, if your learning system supports user-generated video content, employees can share their tips for success that are automatically recommended to others by the system based on factors such as role, location, or new-hire status.