Older workers are valued members of the retail workforce, although striking the right balance between younger and older employees remains a critical issue according to new research commissioned by Kronos, a workforce management software and services company.

The survey of 1,685 Australian workers, including 309 working within the retail sector, found that technology gaps and dealing with a multigenerational workforce were pain points facing retail employees.

“Our survey shows the opportunities for Australian retailers to improve how they manage their workforce, improve customers’ experiences and potentially be more competitive against overseas retailers,” said Peter Harte managing director Kronos Australia and New Zealand.

“The insights drawn from the research can better prepare retail leaders, management and human resources departments to understand the current and future challenges in the Australian retail industry,” he said.

The ageing population and raised retirement age are major changes facing the retail workforce in the long term. According to the survey, 32 per cent of workers in the industry stated their employer doesn’t have an equal balance between older and younger workers.

Older workers are valued in the industry; 51 per cent believe older employees are better at customer service than younger workers, and 69 per cent believe customers appreciate the experience and helpfulness of older workers.

Compared with other sectors, retail workers are considerably more likely (35 per cent) to agree that hiring younger workers who request less pay is eroding the skill base of their company. Sixty-nine (69) per cent of retail workers also stated older workers remain in their jobs a lot longer than younger workers, offering stability in the sector.

In regard to the aging population, 50 per cent of retail workers said their industry was a good place for older workers to find a fulfilling job, while 40 per cent believe the retail industry is well positioned to meet the needs of an ageing workforce.

However a multigenerational workforce provides challenges for retail managers, with 39 per cent of retail workers agreeing it could be challenging for people of significantly different ages to work well together.

Another aspect covered by the survey was the opportunity provided by technology to make workers’ jobs easier. For example, 44 per cent believed not being able to contact the right person while on the move hampered their ability to perform their duties. A further 66 per cent of retail workers believe having access to better information would help them to improve the customer experience.

“By enabling retail employees with the right tools to manage their shifts, contact the right people, access product information and spend less time filling out paper work, retailers can free up their workforce to focus on what really matters, the customer,” Harte said.

Kronos suggests deploying a tablet or smartphone-accessible applications that retail employees can use to check stock, swap rosters and sell new services to provide real time information and improve their productivity.