The Indian retail industry is accelerating rapidly. The rising consumerism and increased disposable income have propelled the growth of Indian retail sector at a rate of 30 per cent annually. In addition, according to a McKinsey report, with the rise of Indian Consumer Market, retail industry in India is estimated to grow four times by 2025.
The above statistics highlight the fact that retail industry in India is going to witness a challenging task of managing its HR practices. Since retail industry is highly manpower oriented, its HR practices require deep analysis. HR means managing the employees and includes all the management decisions and practices that directly affects or influence the people working for the organisation. Moreover, the emergence of international retail players in India has also driven the need for a better HR strategy in place.
Sharing his views about the challenges of HR in retail industry in India, Deepanshu Khurana, CEO, i360 says, “The attrition rate of retail industry is very high and the working culture of the industry is very stressful, thus to overcome these challenges, organisations must incorporate innovative HR practices. For example, monetary benefits should be given to the employees from time to time, motivating them continuously, communicating them with encouraging words, will help them retain for longer period of time.”
Challenges of HR in Indian retail industry
Before figuring out the measures of improving HR practices in India, let us have a look at some of the challenges in HR practices.
Unskilled manpower: The organised retailing is a massive man power oriented industry that recruits a large pool of employees. However, there is a huge scarcity of skilled retail professionals. This can be attributed to the fact that retail has never been considered as a prominent profession in India as there were very few retail professional courses till few years back. Retail has always been considered to be a family business which one generation passes on to another. However, retail has achieved the status of a profession and some courses are now available for retail profession aspirants.
Stressful working culture: Retail being a very stressful profession very few people aspire to make a career out of it. Khurana shares, “Retail industry has a stressful working environment; employees work on weekends without any breaks, so employees must be given a weekly or monthly off to help the employees rejuvenate.” Providing some facilities and benefits might attract some more people towards this profession.
Providing basic facilities: It is strange that most of the retailers do not get the basic needs right. Like the job of a sales man is physically exhaustive and draining. The HR practices must take care of the basic needs of such employees who are up on their feet from nine to six or more. Providing restrooms, proper canteen service, recreation rooms to the staffs is a must. However, when a retailer ensures proper hygienic sanitary facility for employees, help efficient employees commit to the organisation for long period of time. For example, leading global retailer, Marks & Spencer when appoints a new supplier, it’s managers first check the staff toilets and dining facilities.
Down top communication: Retail job involves 80 per cent of communication and 20 per cent of business. Effective communication involves top-down, down top and lateral interaction among employees. However, when an open communication is encouraged from lower level employees to the upper level, it motivates the employees to share their insights too which at times can be quite helpful for organisational success. Since in retail, floor managers who are in direct contact with the consumers can convey the experience and demands of the consumers directly to the top level management without any dilution of the actual message.
Training and orientation: Training is one aspect of HR that differentiates a successful organisation from others. Training in areas like problem solving, key skills development, and presentation, effective communication are of prime importance to gain optimum performance from the employees in retail industry. Giving proper training to the staff is the best investment in the retail business.
Grooming the staff: Appearance matters a lot. Well groomed professionals are always confident and appealing to the consumers. Retailers are found to employ visual merchandise and store outlook but they also must make sure that their sales staffs are presented well to the consumers. Properly ironed crease free uniforms, clean shaves, right kind and right amount of deodorant, cheerful smiles are the few things about which employees must be efficiently trained with.
Motivating and counseling: Employees when motivated and stimulated are bound to work beyond their capacity. For example, Reliance Retail Ltd, believed that when employees are given a suitable environment to work and are motivated in sync with, are found to deliver their best.
Customer oriented service: Another HR practice of retail industry is to have a customer oriented service. Sharing his view on this Khurana says, “In retail industry when a customer walks in, he walks on par of the brands, but once the customer walks into the outlet, then it’s the customer’s experience that matters. Therefore, other then having a sales kind of an attitude, the employees should be motivated to have a customer service attitude to help the customers have better experience.”
To conclude, these HR challenges when taken care of by the organisation are bound to make a difference to the organisational success. Every retail organisation must have a HR manual that would include everything from clarifying timings, personal care & grooming, appraisal system, and training and practices. Effective HR practices when in place give that competitive edge required. Apart from these practices, retailers are required to incorporate innovative HR approaches to help them stay ahead and stay functional.