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UK retailers face specialist skills crunch

New research reveals over half of retail workers consider themslves to be generalists
London, 19 February 2014: The UK retail sector is at risk of losing its specialist skills, according to new research from recruiter Michael Page. The survey of 2,000 white collar professionals found that over half (57%) of retail professionals consider themselves to be generalists rather than specialists, and now spend at least two in every five working days on activities outside their core specialism.
The recruiter warned that the decline in specialist expertise could harm business growth in the retail sector. Already, one in five (21%) retail professionals feel that having a more generalist role is affecting their productivity and over a third (38%) said that the lack of specialist skills in their company is placing unnecessary pressure on them to meet customer demands.
The research also found that almost half (45%) of retail professionals are concerned that their skill-sets are being diluted by non-core activities and 55% think they are spending more time on non-core activities than expected when first starting their job. In response, a third (39%) of retail professionals say they felt stuck in a rut and that they aren’t valued by their employer.
Rob Archer, regional director at Michael Page Retail, comments: “Our survey found that specialist skills are literally being squeezed out of the retail sector. This is a fast-paced industry, and transferable skills are important but it’s equally important that retailers take time to develop their staff and nurture their specialist skills. Without this, the industry will struggle to innovate and make the most of the upturn.”
Innovation was at the heart of many retailers’ approach to Christmas 2013, and it’s expected that the omni-channel revolution will continue to accelerate in 2014, thanks to strong performances from key ‘click and collect’ retailers such as John Lewis, Argos and Tesco.
Archer concludes: “Retail is changing. It’s now more important than ever for businesses to start thinking about how the in-store and online processes can synchronise to create the ultimate retail experience. In order to achieve this integration, retailers need people with specialist IT innovation and customer service skill-sets to drive their business forward. Great customer service has and always will be of high importance in retail; but with the growth of e-commerce and omni-channel, we now need to pay equal attention to the customer experience online. This can only happen if retailers have skilled individuals in place and ensure that those skills are both protected and nurtured.”
Notes to editors:
Media contact
Sophie Tudor, Communications Executive, PageGroup
T: 020 3077 8177
About the survey
The ‘Specialist vs. Generalist’ survey questioned 2000 UK core office workers who are currently in employment and who were recruited into specialist roles. 160 people in the survey work in the retail sector.
The survey questioned individuals across a number of sectors including IT, manufacturing, financial services, public sector, retail and pharmaceutical. Individuals were surveyed on the basis that they have been in employment for a minimum of five years and employed with their current organisation for at least one year in order to account for their changing role in the workplace. Individuals were aged 18-65 years old and were sampled from organisations with over 50 employees. For the purposes of the survey, respondents were deemed specialists or generalists at work on the basis of the amount of time they spend each day on their core role as follows:
Specialist: Time and focus is spent on a single specialism
Generalist: Role is made up of many activities
The research was conducted by independent research house Loudhouse in July 2013