Unemployment is a problem for both the government and the public. For the public, the issue of relying on benefits to cover day-to-day costs can be stressful. Meanwhile, the government has the issue of the public having less expendable income as a result, which then weakens the economy. But for many, trying to get out of unemployment can be difficult for a variety of reasons, from disabilities to high street stores closing in waves.
In particular, the threat of unemployment is weighing heavily on retail staff. But there are ways and means for the retail industry to tackle both the problem of unemployment and the threat of store closure on its staff.
For many, the desire to work is impeded by a disability that makes it difficult to do so. In order to reduce the amount of people who are out of work down to a disability, The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work launched a campaign in 2018 which retailers can voluntarily opt in to. It is called the “Disability Confident” employer scheme which provides employers with the skills, examples and confidence to recruit and develop disabled employees. The government aims to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027 and this is a great opportunity for retailers who are doing well in the industry to expand their workforce. By looking at the Disability Confident list of employers that have signed up, we can see that branches of big names such as Asda, Barclays, and B&M Bargains are all committed.
Diversity in the workforce is another common issue. In 2017 it was reported that retail companies in the FTSE 100 are ahead of other industries when it comes to gender diversity. Retailers should focus on broadening their selection process when it comes to the recruitment process. This can ensure that those who’ve lost a job in a retail position face equal opportunity when it comes to finding a new role.
Of course, hiring employees from a range of backgrounds has a positive impact in many ways. Ultimately, when a workforce is representative of a customer base, it can lead to a better understanding of the target market and an improvement in business performance.
Many charities support unemployed people trying to find work. Partnering with a disabled or mental health charity for example can help you reach those who are out of work because of a disability or health issue and encourage them to apply.
CT Shirts, retailer of quality black suits, is a brilliant example of this at work. This company has a long-standing partnership with the Prince’s Trust which involves fundraising and a mutually beneficial relationship. This charity works closely with vulnerable young people who need a helping hand to get their lives back on track. Like many retailers that The Trust works with, CT Shirts took advantage of one of their “Get Hired” days — a day of greetings and interviews with young people who have been through The Prince’s Trust Programmes to get to know some potential employees.
In-store staff may feel the pressure, but e-commerce staff are in a thriving digital world that is only set to grow. Therefore, an important consideration to make is whether retail employees should be trained in other areas of the business too. Or at least should their knowledge of the company and its products or services be valued so that their given the opportunity to progress in another area of the business after redundancy?
This sort of training is definitely something to consider before rolling out redundancies. Cross-discipline training can also encourage more loyal employees and therefore those who are more invested in the performance of the retail business as a whole.
Retail stores are definitely under pressure, but it isn’t one that can’t be worked around. As some companies pave the way, it’s down to other industry players to make big changes too.