How Retail Companies Can Retain and Grow Tech TalentNovember 22nd, 2023 — Revature
By Balu Sudhakar, SVP of Enterprise Business, Revature
The retail industry, like many others, is in the midst of a dramatic digital transformation. On the front end, retailers are working hard to improve the customer experience—which users say is more important than products or pricing—by investing in everything from smart stores to websites and mobile apps that can compete with Amazon.
These efforts are underpinned by data: some retailers are beginning to use generative AI to predict customer behavior, while others simply serve different products at different stores based on demographic indicators. On the back end, retailers also need to ensure their cybersecurity is up-to-par so they can combat fraud and protect consumers.
Historically, retailers have relied on systems integrators to meet their IT staffing needs. But as tech becomes more central to success, more retailers are realizing the importance of bringing tech talent back in-house. More specifically, retailers across the board are looking to hire new employees, while upskilling existing ones. With that in mind, here are three tips for retailers looking to grow their in-house tech teams in the months and years ahead.
- Think holistically
Demand for emerging tech talent has surged more than 200% since 2016. As a result, it can be tempting to rush the hiring process. But retailers don’t just need to snatch up tech workers; they need to build a balanced team. This means having diversity of experience, thought, and skills.
Imagine coaching a basketball team but only recruiting point guards. Even if you managed to attract the top-ranked point guards in the country, your team would find it difficult to compete.
In a similar vein, retailers must commit to finding the right talent at the right time based on their technology stack and project needs. Your team should have a mix of technical and non-technical roles. Additionally, it should be able to work on many different projects, from app development to cybersecurity.
- Plan ahead
In addition to thinking holistically, retailers also must think long-term. Building a tech talent roadmap that corresponds to the retailer’s digital transformation initiatives can help in this regard. The faster an organization can get junior talent to become mid-level talent, the more competitive they will be.
While junior talent may do the bulk of the programming, mid-level talent are faster, better problem solvers, make fewer mistakes and respond faster. But they also take much longer to hire, are often twice as expensive, and have higher attrition rates.
It serves retailers best to bring in junior talent and implement upskilling programs, tied back to their tech roadmaps. If junior talent is mentored properly, there’s a good chance they will stay on-board for the long haul and be able to touch a wide range of projects.
Reskilling store associates to become tech and data analysts is another component of a comprehensive, long-term roadmap, especially for retailers shrinking their brick-and-mortar footprint. The key takeaway is that hiring and upskilling are the most effective when retailers can look years ahead and plan their initiatives accordingly.
- Find the right partners
Because demand for tech talent is high, finding an experienced partner to help with insourcing and upskilling can be a savvy investment. By embracing non-traditional sources, such as hire-train-deploy, apprenticeships, and in-house bootcamps, partners can broaden the talent pool without sacrificing quality.
Many will even train talent based on your organization’s needs, in turn ensuring junior talent is day one ready. Once again, it’s junior talent that will future proof an organization, especially if retailers and their partners can demonstrate a deep commitment to their career growth.
The right partner will also help you create your tech talent roadmap and develop your overall tech talent strategy. Partners tend to have a good pulse on emerging technologies and overall market trends, which makes them well-suited for shouldering continuous learning programs as well.
The bottom line
It’s an exciting and important time for the retail industry. As tech projects become even more central to retailers’ success, bringing tech talent in-house and upskilling existing workers will be non-negotiable. Generative AI, data-driven marketing, smart check-out, and mobile ordering are all trends that competitive retailers must capitalize on. But that can only happen if organizations are able to think holistically and long-term about their talent mix.
While demand for tech talent is high, the talent is out there. With the right strategy, investments, and partners, retailers will be able to fuel and future proof their digital transformations and keep customers coming back as a result.