Retail’s covid response: 71% of frontline retail workers say employers have taken the right actions to keep colleagues and customers safe


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: Retail’s covid response: 71% of frontline retail workers say employers have taken the right actions to keep colleagues and customers safe.

Retailers’ efforts to keep employees and customers safe during the covid-19 pandemic have been recognised by frontline retail workers, the latest research from Axonify, the modern training and communication solution for frontline associates, reveals.

Original research of over 2,000 frontline workers in its ‘The State of Frontline Employee Training 2020’ report revealed that 71% of UK frontline retail staff felt the companies they work for had taken action to keep customers safe, while a further 70% agreed their employer had taken appropriate action to keep staff safe during the pandemic.  And, as the UK faces its second wave of coronavirus, 60% of retail staff felt that their employer’s initial response to covid-19 had better placed the business to deal with future crises, rising to two thirds (66%) of supermarket workers.

During the pandemic, store associates have had to navigate constantly shifting safety guidance – from managing occupancy to policing the wearing of face coverings and adapting to new rigorous hygiene and cleaning routines, all while delivering CX for shoppers at a safe distance.  Almost two thirds (65%) of supermarket workers and two fifths (39%) of retail staff said they had taken off new tasks and roles during the covid-19. 

Yesterday, Sainsbury’s became the latest retailer to announce the tightening up on in-store safety restrictions, amid warnings that within weeks further cities could be placed into the Government’s tier-three lockdown.  The supermarket now requires customers to shop alone, with staff outside the store enforcing the new policy, as well as reducing the number of tills open in a bid to keep shoppers apart and stem the spread of the virus.  

Tesco has also put new measures in place to stop panic buying, with staff policing ‘stockpiling limits’ on items, including flour, dried pasta, rice, toilet roll and tinned goods across its store network.  

However, Axonify’s report showed there is still work to do with just 22% of UK retail workers that took on new tasks or job roles during the pandemic receiving related training to support them, which is leaving staff – and retail businesses – underprepared  as Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, explained: 

“Historically, there has been an inaccurate and pervasive view that frontline workers aren’t worth investing in.  Luckily, the tides are changing because nothing brings a level of focus to the things that truly matter quite like a global pandemic.  It’s now crystal clear that business runs through the frontlines.  The things frontline employees do and don’t do absolutely impact how a business performs.”

“It is no question that the grocery and retail industries have been directly in the eye of the storm, so they have certainly been dealing with more chaos than the average employer.  But this is the canary in the coal mine.  If they don’t turn their attention to the actual training and support needs of their frontline soon, they risk getting swallowed up by competitors who are,” she concluded. 

About the research 

Research commissioned by Arlington Research for Axonify, conducted online between 27 July – 5 August 2020, surveying 2,000 respondents who work on the frontline at businesses with 1,000+ employees. Respondents came from the USA (667 respondents), UK (667 respondents), and Australia (667 respondents), with 500 respondents each in retail, grocery, contact centre and professional sales.

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