The Special Human Resource Environment of Retailing

Staffs are a major resource in any business. This is particularly true in retail industry, which has a very large number of employees and which provides a range of services to its customers. The retail human resource environment has its special features: a large number of inexperienced workers, long hours, highly visible employees, many part-time workers, and variations in customer demand. Those features also create difficulties to retailers.

First of all, a large number of inexperienced workers and part-time staffs in a retail business may lead high employee turnover, poor performance, lateness and absenteeism. This is due to several seasons. One is that inexperienced workers can apply retail positions, such as check-out clerks, wrappers, stock clerks and some types of sales personnel, which doesn’t require high education, training and skill. The other one is that employees who work in retailing companies likely live near the retailing stores. In addition, part-time staffs are very easy to quit their jobs

Secondly, long working hours may result that retailer need to two shifts of employees. As the trend of longer store hours (evening and weekend), retailers need to consider employ staff for evening and weekend use.

Thirdly, high visible employees mean that retailers have to monitor employees very closely. As consumers nowadays play a very important role in retail industry and employees are highly visible to the consumers, retailers must select and train employees carefully, especially care about their manners and appearance.

Finally, variations in customer demand may create difficulty to retailers to predict exactly how many employees are required. Retailers need to have the knowledge about what season, what number of employees is needed; and what day, what number of employees is needed; and which period of a day, what number of employees is needed.

The process of Human Resource Management in Retailing

The four main activities of the process of Human Resource Management are Building capability, Planning, Recruitment and Selection, Training and Performance. When retailers are applying the Human Resource Management process, the labor laws, diversity and employee privacy has to be considered.

Building Capability

Any retail organization’s 70 percent staff would consist of frontline sales staff who are either freshers or less experienced. A major challenge is to make them understand that they are not a part of a mom-and-pop store but of a national or international retail brand. The store manager at store level has the task of motivating employees but he is more focused upon targets. Also, these are not highly experienced people with an understanding of various motivational tactics. Thus, HR intervention at store levels has changed the way that a retail staff feels about their organization. Also, the scarcity of an experienced talent pool in India’s retail industry means that HR needs to focus on building in- house talent capability since there are just a few professional courses for retail in India.

Talent Management

Retaining employees in a business that requires long hours, working on weekends, and no clear career path is a significant concern for retail HR departments.

HR departments are going out of their way to adopt innovative methods of recruiting and keeping talent, such as social networking platforms like Facebook. HR departments across retail organizations are attempting to use novel approaches to attract and retain personnel. Various motivators are tested at multiple levels, such as store-level celebrations, rewards, flexible working hours, internal and external training, financing higher education, discounts, and recognizing retail employee day. Nevertheless, the HR department must recognize that retail is not yet considered an industry. Compared to other industries, people still do not see retail as a professional career opportunity.


By analyzing the current workforce will allow the company to evaluate the department performance and helps to realize what kind of staff are required in order to form the skills which they needed. Retailers need to employ the right number of staff in order to make the workforce more efficiency. Too many employees will increase costs, and too few will not able to carry out of its work. Therefore, retailers have to analyze both current human resources within the retailing organizations, and future plans or strategies of the organization and the effect on human resource.

Due to the development of Information Technology, companies may not be able to find the employees who have the skills they required. In addition, internal staffing factors such as labor turnover, sickness or accident rates also have to be considered. However, planning has to be thought out carefully, and updated when other factors have changed. This process takes time to operate. However, it is less expensive than the recruitment and selection process. Meanwhile, it will be helpful to find the employees who already have the skills that the retailers require.

Recruitment & Selection

Recruitment is the process of identifying the need for a new employee, defining the job and the appropriate person for it, attracting a number of suitable candidates, then selecting the one best suited to the job. When a company is looking for new employees, they tend to use different channels in order to find the most suitable personnel. The channels could be educational institution, TV/magazine advertising, agency or any other channels which is the best way to find the right personnel. The recruitment process can be very costly. It takes a great deal of time to set up an effective recruitment process. Therefore, the company has to carry this job out in a systematic way.

The next job is to select new employees from among those the company has recruited. The process of selection includes job analysis and description, the application blank, interviewing, testing, references and a physical examination. These processes should be followed in an integrated manner. However, the selection process can be very costly because the company has to pay for the postage of sending out application forms to candidates and they may also have to pay for the travel expenses for candidates’ journey to interview.


Leena Nair’s appointment as the new Global CEO of Chanel is a matter of pride for India, who despite of not coming from a fashion background took over of reins of Chanel from January.

She started her career as a management trainee at Unilever in 1992. She steadily rose through the ranks to become the “first female, first Asian, youngest ever” Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at Unilever in 2016. She was also a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE).

After getting the degree of MBA in human resource management from XLRI and being a gold medalist, she joined Unilever as a management trainee, and after spending 30 long years with the company and being CHRO, she was then appointed as the Global CEO of CHANEL, despite not coming from a fashion background.

Under her leadership, Unilever was named the number one FMCG graduate employer of choice in 54 countries. She headed the Diversity and Inclusion agenda for the organization ensuring that its workforce is diverse and inclusive.

She also got another compliment from former PepsiCo chairman Indra Nooyi. Nooyi, a trailblazer and person of colour to helm the food and beverage giant for 12 years as the CEO until 2008, is a mentor to Nair. She called Nair a “kickass executive”.

Career timeline:

1990-1992: MBA -HRM XLRI Jamshedpur


1992: Management trainee

1993: Factory Personnel Manager

1996: Employee Relations Manager

1997:   MDP Manager

2000: Human Resource Manager (IND) 2004: General Manager HR

2006: General Manager HR (IND) 2007: Executive Director HUL and VP HR south Asia

2013: SVP Leadership & organization Development & Global head of Diversity and Inclusion

2016: CHRO and Member of Unilever Leadership Executive

2022: Global CEO CHANEL



Article Corner— Impact of the Global Malady on HR

Given the way, Covid-19 turned the world into a mess, Human Resource Management has been thoroughly affected. With offices going vacant, and people turning to work from their homes, the roles of the HR managers have undergone a paradigm shift.

Ensuring the physical and mental wellbeing of employees located in various corners of the country, all the while maintaining their productivity- has been an ordeal.

Nevertheless, companies across the globe have been on their toes, and have displayed immense commitment towards their people.

Extended medical benefits for families and providing network connectivity in the remotest corners, have been a few of the initiatives implemented by firms.

Shamayeta Choudhary  


Humain-I, HR Club

Indian Institute of Management Indore



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