The retail industry is undergoing substantial transformation. The full impact of artificial intelligence technology on retail roles is not yet known. And myths of long, anti-social hours and poor career prospects still abound, both online and off. How can the retail sector shrug off its ‘Cinderella’ industry persona, and attract and retain the best talent? Especially when the digital native millennials will soon outnumber the baby boomer generation in the workforce…

Alongside the need for learning and training, wellbeing is now considered a top employee benefit for attracting and retaining talent. Britain’s Healthiest Workplace asked UK employees to name the top worries that impact their performance at work. At number one? Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while holding down a job. So how can retailers make a fit and healthy workforce a reality and meet the wellbeing standards of jobseekers? Develop a supportive company culture by removing barriers to fitness and incentivising engagement.

Organisation wide programmes and initiatives for employees to get active not only benefit the health of the workforce but also lower absenteeism which costs UK businesses £15 billion a year. While not every organisation can have a gym on site, providing access to support and services at an affordable cost, at a time and place that is convenient for the individual can increase health and positivity towards work.

At online retailer Zappos, employees earn points for wellness activities such as exercising or getting a health-check that are redeemable against sports goods. Target employees in the US are encouraged to use online tools to help assess their health and set goals. What do these examples have in common? The retailers getting it right are instigating initiatives enabled by technology.

“The retailers getting it right are instigating initiatives enabled by technology.”

The time is ripe to go even further, and completely revolutionise benefits in the UK retail industry. Newly launched we:bo offers on-demand personal training services via a two-way video call, allowing flexibility of time and location. Increasingly popular Headspace provides meditation sessions to improve wellbeing of the mind, and running apps such as Runtastic also act as pedometers for those on the move.

Imagine a personal trainer live on your device in 90 seconds for quick work out in the boardroom. Mindful meditation in the back room of the warehouse. Friendly competition on the shop floor as you track how far you walk to the stockroom each day.

we:bo Apps like we:bo enable fitness at your fingertips

Why wouldn’t retailers partner with non-traditional companies like these to transform their employee benefits packages? Now that would be attractive. A discounted membership to a gym most employees don’t use? Not so much…

And it doesn’t have to come at a huge cost to retailers. In many instances, it may even increase ROI. Why? Instant fitness and wellbeing at the touch of a button is very appealing to the tech savvy and time poor.

Instant fitness & wellbeing at the touch of a button is very appealing to the tech savvy & time poor

Employee buy in and spreading the word is vital for awareness. Empower them to shout it from the rooftops (or at least from Facebook…). And this starts right from the beginning of the hiring process as negative reviews can not only discourage talent but also customers. With the rise of the online review platforms, the candidate and employee experience has become a focus area for improvement for major companies, with some even turning their recruitment experience into a revenue stream.

When it comes to wellbeing for the workplace, there is a huge opportunity for retailers to lead the way for other industries. Treat your workforce like a valuable asset. Happy employees, happy customers. Fit people, fit business. And in doing so leave the ‘Cinderella’ industry misnomer behind for good.

This article was originally published by Retail Week.