Recalibrate Talent Strategies

A look at Imperative #5 for Rethinking Retail

The retail community has faced remarkable challenges, opportunities, and change over the past year. Circumstances triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have changed consumers, retailers, and the ecosystem around them in extraordinary ways. To ensure success moving forward, retailers will need to draw on lessons learned from the pandemic to make strategic investments and accelerate existing efforts in key areas. Our recent research with knowledge partner McKinsey & Company – Retail Speaks – defines these key areas via seven imperatives. The insight below dives into imperative #5, which focuses on the need to recalibrate talent strategies for retailers’ long-term success.


It is well documented that retail consumers are expecting more out of retail brands; the pandemic accelerated both the need and the demand for things like curbside pickup, contactless checkout, and even same-day delivery. To meet this moment in the customer relationship, retailers have had to increase investment in ecommerce capabilities, but are also exploring new approaches to talent. Seamless execution of last mile delivery, fulfillment, and serving customers in stores requires a dynamic talent strategy.

As detailed in the Retail Speaks report, most consumers demand for delivery of goods is within 2-3 days; a dynamic workforce is crucial to meeting that expectation. For this reason, leading retailers are building a 21st century retail workforce that is diverse, innovative, and skilled, that can meet consumers where they are and delight them in each part of the experience.
To build this powerful workforce, leading retailers are committed to recruiting and retaining talent with innovative approaches to staffing, scheduling, benefits, and culture. Specifically, retail must adapt to the retail worker who strives for flexibility and autonomy.

A potential solution is to integrate flexible and alternative work models that utilize independent contractors, contingent workers, and gig workers. Although these arrangements do come with risk, including brand integrity, as well as legal and regulatory compliance, they are essential to meeting the growing demand from consumers.
Fortunately, growing technology such as digital platforms on smart phones has expanded the ability for retailers to connect consumers with delivery and other services rapidly.[1] Increased agility is also a likely employer benefit of on-demand platforms. In the ways that just-in-time delivery systems revolutionized the logistics industry, on-demand platforms can rethink how retailers create their workforce mix and deploy talent in the most effective manner.[2]

It is imperative that as the landscape continues to evolve and demands of the consumer change, so must retailers if they want to compete. RILA is doing its part to preserve avenues of workforce innovation in the legal and policy space[3] so that leading retailers can continue to explore new ways to meet consumers and grow the industry.

To learn more about the 5th imperative in our Retail Speaks report, download your copy here. For additional information on RILA’s communities engaging directly on these topics, please contact VP of Workforce Evan Armstrong.
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