Forward-thinking retailers are starting to view their people in a refreshing new way – as customers.

In the obvious sense, store staff, head office teams, delivery drivers and depot employees are likely to be regular customers of the brand they’ve chosen to work for anyway. And the impact of their experience can directly affect the customer experience and therefore business performance. But there is also a trend towards treating retail employees in the same valued, methodical, nurturing way that loyal customers are handled – listening to their needs at work, building trust, and delivering strategies designed to keep them happy and engaged. Just as retailers want to understand and improve the whole ‘customer journey’, there is a movement towards paying the same attention to the ‘employee journey’, from how individuals are treated at the application and onboarding stage, through training and developing in the job itself, and at the end of employment.

After all, retention of staff is vital for the health of all retail companies. We also know that good and bad experiences – whether it be as a customer or as an employee – can be quickly and easily shared across social media. These days protecting the employer brand is just as important as preserving the customer-facing brand.

Those retailers who already think of their staff as customers are breaking down the restrictive barriers of ‘us’ and ‘them’. They are putting in place the means of listening to the employee voice, and acting upon the findings. They are also thinking about how culturally to treat their people in ways that will make them feel valued – through everyday workplace policies, benefits options, workplace events, for example.   As digital consumers today we’re constantly engaging with brands and giving feedback whether it be through TripAdvisor, Uber ratings or Glassdoor. So why in the workplace do so many organisations still rely on the annual survey as an adequate source of feedback? By moving to a well-communicated, continuous cycle of feedback and improvement for staff – ‘continuous listening’ – retailers can act on employee opinion and improve employment policies and business operations, raise engagement levels and boost the employer brand. The feedback culture is here to stay.

Much can be gained by investing in technology that enables the employee experience to become just as good – and as closely measured – as the customer experience.

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