Retail employees face lack of career progression and training

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Retailers in Singapore are grappling with shortage of manpower, with 9 in 10 retail employees either ‘somewhat agreeing’ (48%) or ‘strongly agreeing’ (45%) that there is a manpower shortage.

Hence, retailers need to address the concerns of the workforce, with 2 in 5 (44%) retail employees planning to leave the sector in the next year, citing low salaries (56%), dealing with unreasonable customers (52%), and long working hours (46%) as the top push factors. 

Moreover, 50% of retail employees say that their employer has not offered any support in terms of career development, with 7 in 10 employees (69%) reporting that they have not attended any training programmes in the last two years.

These are some of the key findings from the recently launched Industry Insights Report 2022 on Retail, which aims to uncover the career outlook of retail employees, including the challenges they face at work and sentiments towards digitalisation in the retail sector.

Based on a survey of 200 retail employees in Singapore, and interviews with industry practitioners and experts from NTUC LearningHub, the report also investigates the workplace learning and development (L&D) opportunities, and the priority skills retail employees hope to acquire.

Nearly three-quarter (73%) of retail employees agree that their workplace has digitalised in the past two years. With digitalisation of the retail sector, over half of employees (54%) are concerned about how it will affect their jobs.

In fact, only 16% of employees share that they are ‘very comfortable’ operating retail technologies, with 30% of employees expressing concern over the spate of new technologies introduced at work.

However, 36% of employees reveal that their employer has prepared them to a ‘very small extent’ or ‘not at all’ for the digitalisation of the retail sector, and 31% of employees are concerned that there is no proper training on new retail technologies.

Despite that, the retail workforce remains optimistic and is motivated to acquire new skills. The top front-end skills that retail employees hope to be trained in are people and relationship management (44%), customer experience management (42%), and problem identification (33%) skills. Additionally, the top back-end skills they would like to pick up are data analytics (39%), customer behaviour analysis (36%), and social media management (32%) skills.

Emphasising on the need for employers to build a future-ready workforce, Tay Ee Learn, Chief Sector Skills Officer at NTUC LearningHub, says, “As retail technologies rapidly evolve and expand, so must the competencies of retail employees.  While it is increasingly necessary for retail frontliners to be tech-savvy, it is equally important for the back-end employees to keep pace with the changing demands of the retail sector.”

He adds, “With the recent implementation of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for retail workers, along with various schemes and funding support available, such as training subsidies and mentorship for enterprise transformation including job redesign and training needs analysis, retailers can better prepare for changes in the sector and proactively implement measures that seek to fill the skills gaps by providing training and upskilling opportunities.

“By encouraging continuous learning, employers can also foster a mindset shift towards adaptability and workplace resilience within the workforce.”