As retail continues its shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online and mobile platforms, workforce dynamics are changing, too — particularly when it comes to specialized positions.
“A decade or two ago, a software engineering career in retail might have seemed like a dead end,” writes Stephanie Overby for TechBeacon. “But today, the retail industry employs as many or more software engineers than Silicon Valley.”
An analysis of LinkedIn data reveals that “software developer” is now the third-most common job title in the retail industry, up from the eighth-most common title in 2013. And, according to a National Retail Federation blog post, retailers posted more than 1,200 unique, entry-level computer science jobs in June of 2018 alone.
“We are also seeing tremendous growth in data analytics and data science,” Ellen Davis, NRF Foundation president and senior vice president of research and strategic initiatives, told CBS MoneyWatch when discussing additional positions opening up in retail.
According to the LinkedIn analysis, “the most common and fastest-growing skills for developers in retail revolve around the web and user experience,” but workers also have experience with more retail-specific technologies, including warehouse management systems, supply chain optimization and Oracle Retail.
Having workers with those specialized skills means retailers can both support ecommerce goals and leverage innovative technologies that satisfy high customer expectations, improve backend processes and ultimately drive sales. But not every job opening gets filled.
How Retailers Can Close the Digital Skills Gap
As with other industries, retail faces a significant shortage of workers with relevant digital skills, and according to a Capgemini study, 60 percent of retailers say that gap has widened over the past couple of years. Beating out the stiff competition for skilled workers requires the right mix of incentives, company culture and career opportunities.
High Salary Isn’t the Only Carrot to Consider
In 2017, median pay for software developers rose to $103,560 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Deloitte’s “Retail Talent Disrupted” report stresses the importance of abiding by the market salary rate rather than lowballing candidates.
“Investing in increased compensation will likely help retailers compete with other industries for the highly skilled digital, agile and creative talent that is needed to innovate in the dynamic retail environment,” it states.
Beyond offering high pay, enabling workplace flexibility can help retailers lure younger talent. Remote work capabilities, sufficient time off and the ability to work irregular hours act as strong motivations for millennial employees in particular, the report states.
A People-Focused Company Culture Is Essential
Passionate, tech-savvy professionals look for companies that understand and share their values, whether they want to belong to a collaborative team, prioritize a healthy work-life balance or seek the space and time to innovate and pursue their own projects. That’s where having a positive office culture comes into play.
“Corporate culture is the biggest factor in deciding if a company is the ‘cool’ place to work,” writes Andreas Slotosch, co-founder of the employee-communication app BeeKeeper, in a company blog post. “Rather than view corporate culture as a ‘nice-to-have,’ view it as a competitive strategy to lure in top talent and entice them to stay,” he adds.
Digitally Skilled Workers Want a Path Forward
Today’s job candidates don’t just value benefits and culture; they also keep an eye on the future. According to Capgemini‘s survey of digitally skilled workers, 74 percent of respondents would prefer to join companies that lay out a clear path for career advancement. Another 73 percent want to be hired by employers with recognized training programs.
That’s good news for retailers: Besides improving recruitment efforts, offering skill- and career-development opportunities can help drive innovation and increase employee engagement — but only if retailers follow best practices.
“Retailers must move beyond traditional learning programs and instead create an employee-centric learning culture, where employees are ‘viewed as customers to be satisfied, rather than students to be pressured,’” Deloitte recommends in its retail report.