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UK’s retail warehouse workers say technology makes jobs easier and more enjoyable

Zebra Technologies

A new survey of front-line retail and warehouse workers in Britain has found employer investment in technology is making jobs easier and boosting job satisfaction.

Zebra Technologies, a provider of mobile computer technology, partnered with job site Indeed for this latest study, which highlighted technology’s impact but also uncovered an experience gap that needs to be addressed.

The survey revealed 62% of workers acknowledged their employers were investing in technology to help them do their jobs. More than half (55%) reported technology is making their day-to-day jobs easier and 44% got increased job enjoyment and satisfaction.

Some 58% of those surveyed also see their jobs as long-term careers, citing flexibility (38%), stability (34%) and variety (30%) as the top three reasons. And when asked about career development, 40% saw the retail and warehousing industries as having a lot of opportunities for progression.

For retail and warehouse employers and recruiters, the findings highlight the positive impact the right technology investments can have on labour hiring, training, retention and elevating the role of associates at a time of increased challenges facing these industries.

“Customer experience and business productivity are naturally high priorities when considering technology investments, but these findings show the important role technology has in elevating responsibilities and improving the employee experience,” said Daniel Dombach, EMEA director, industry solutions, Zebra Technologies.

“Technology should be seen as a key lever to attract and retain valuable talent and support career aspirations. Enterprise technology is increasingly operating on a simpler ‘drag and drop’ approach, creating workflows on a screen. For example, handheld devices come with touchscreens and apps for shifts, tasks, and communication while cloud, Wi-Fi, radio frequency identification (RFID) and 5G are connecting workers, inventory, workflows, and devices.”

The survey results showed when it comes to applying for roles, the top three reasons workers applied for retail or warehouse jobs were flexibility, hourly pay, and company reputation for looking after workers.

“Jobs in the retail, loading and stocking sectors are increasingly in demand today against the backdrop of ongoing recruitment challenges, and demand for these staff is there too. This month, retail job postings on Indeed are up 114% from where we were at the beginning of 2020,” added Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed.

“We have seen a spike in people searching for seasonal end-of-year roles this year, a rise of around 8% compared to the last two festive periods and up 30% versus 2019 and 2020 levels. This could be, in part, due to economic constraints as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, prompting people to seek seasonal jobs to help pay the bills.”

Tech-savvy workers, but room for improvement
Although front-line workers do not have the same oversight as a chief technology officer or IT director, they understand the impact that investments in technology can have on the wider business. Workers cited improved speed and quality of customer service (48%) and worker productivity (46%) as top motives for technology investment by employers.

And when asked how technology will impact their jobs and workplaces in the future, workers cited improved accuracy (38%), productivity (38%) and dealing with customer queries faster (36%) as the top three benefits.

However, the survey also uncovered a ‘technology experience gap’ that could be exacerbating current labour shortages facing these industries and the recruitment sector. It found one in five surveyed said technology had made their jobs harder, with 19% stating it had decreased job satisfaction and enjoyment.

“There’s a 35 percent gap (55% v 20%) between those who experience technology making jobs easier versus harder,” said Mark Thomson, EMEA director of retail, Zebra Technologies. “This should be seen as an urgent but fixable issue in the face of today’s labour shortages.”

A recent report by the Indeed Hiring Lab highlighted the importance of workplace happiness, and how job search activity decreases with increased job satisfaction, while Zebra’s Global Shopper Study found that 84% of retail associates expect the retail environment to be just as technologically advanced as their everyday lives.

“There is still too much legacy technology today that is hard to learn and use along with too many boring, repetitive tasks that could be automated to free up associate time for more interesting and varied work,” said Thomson. “Unhappy workers are likely to be at a higher risk of leaving, and their negative experience could put off others from applying for roles.”

Over a third (35%) of Zebra and Indeed survey respondents also believe employers invest in technology to fill the gap due to a lack of staff or high turnover. Investing in productivity-enhancing technology to make hiring easier in the face of labour supply constraints was suggested as a response employers could take in the Indeed Hiring Lab report.

“There continues to be a high number of vacancies in the retail and warehouse sectors, even when taking into account the hiring peak in mid-October which fell about a month earlier than prior years,” said Kennedy. “Retailers and warehouse outfits continue to hire at pace. Job postings in these areas remain at more than double pre-pandemic levels, but attracting the right talent remains challenging due in part to high rates of economic inactivity.”

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