Retail industry charity the Retail Trust has developed a generative AI powered dashboard to help retailers including FatFace and Next to improve staff mental health and prove the value of their wellbeing strategies.

The new ‘happiness dashboard’, built in partnership with a handful of leading retail employers and the Retail Trust’s technology partners BJSS and WorkL, allows employers to track staff wellbeing trends and improve the effectiveness of support.

The platform works by identifying trends around which Retail Trust wellbeing services employees are using to generate recommendations on how to improve engagement, reduce levels of absenteeism or presenteeism, and increase staff retention.

It also shows each employer exactly how much initiatives to improve mental health are saving their business and the economy, by calculating the financial value of fewer staff calling in sick, working while unwell, quitting their jobs or turning to the NHS as a result.

Research by the Retail Trust found 80% of retail workers were experiencing declining wellbeing last year, with a fifth (19%) struggling to meet their monthly outgoings due to rising costs and nearly half (47%) feeling unsafe at work amidst a wave of assaults and retail crime.

Watch the video below to learn more about the 'Happiness' dashboard:

Chris Brook-Carter, Chief Executive of the Retail Trust, said: “We’re concerned that four years on from the pandemic, wellbeing budgets are coming under strain across the retail industry despite the knock-on effect this will have on staff sickness and retention, because employers can no longer show the direct impact to their bottom line.

“They need more help to prove the tangible financial value of investing in their people’s mental health for their business and the economy, and to more effectively identify and address the causes of poor wellbeing. We believe this approach could be rolled out across every sector to help improve workplace wellbeing and tackle the UK’s increasingly high sickness absence.”

Analysis by Deloitte*, which has been adopted by the Retail Trust for the new happiness dashboard, estimates that mental ill health currently costs UK employers up to £56 million a year but measures to support staff wellbeing provide a £5.30 return on every £1 spent.

The Retail Trust’s happiness dashboard also uses the Wellby standard, a measure backed by the Government’s social impact task force, which has found that improving someone’s life satisfaction by just one point on a scale of one to ten could be worth £13,000 to the economy. This includes the amount saved for the NHS and by reducing sick pay claims.

Tracy Gilchrist, Resourcing and Retention Lead at FatFace, said: “We have really enjoyed being part of developing the happiness dashboard with the team at the Retail Trust. The dashboard has provided us with valuable insights to how our colleagues truly feel and how they interact with the resources we share and recommend.

“One of the insights the platform helped us to identify was that our remote workers had lower scores around feeling anxious and having information shared openly with them. We found this useful as we were then directed to Retail Trust content that we were able to share with these colleagues, and it also meant we took time as a business to discuss how we communicate important messages so remote workers felt included.”

Andrew Jurd, Head of Retail HR at Next, said: ’Understanding and supporting the wellbeing needs of our colleagues is an important part of creating a great working environment where colleagues are valued.

“Working with a trusted partner like the Retail Trust means we not only gain a better understanding of how our teams are feeling, but through their interaction with the Retail Trust’s wealth of knowledge, experience and resources inherent in their services, we can gain actionable insights into the wellbeing needs of the amazing people who work for us, while supporting them along the way.”

The platform, part of the Retail Trust’s ‘Better You’ data and insights offering, identifies data and patterns from colleagues’ interactions with Retail Trust services and wellbeing surveys to provide an overall picture of staff mental health and actionable insights, to address specific issues like stress, financial worries or safety concerns at work, and provide the financial value of wellbeing strategies. Employers can also the monitor the effectiveness of initiatives to improve wellbeing in real-time and benchmark their performance against industry standards.

Kerry Lee, Client Principal For Retail at the Retail Trust’s technology partner BJSS, said: “The dashboard is a real game changer for the industry. It delivers actionable insights on employee wellbeing that retailers’ HR teams can use to accurately target welfare initiatives and measure their impact in financial terms. We believe it will be instrumental in helping retailers across the sector improve welfare outcomes for staff.

“The platform helps small, medium, and large companies realise that investing in welfare initiatives isn’t just nice for the workforce but has a real positive impact on financial performance. We hope it encourages retailers to do more to continually improve outcomes for staff, which is what the Retail Trust is all about.”

Lord Mark Price, Founder of Employee Experience Platform WorkL and former managing director of Waitrose, said: “I’m pleased that WorkL has been able to provide valuable data on workplace wellbeing that the Retail Trust can now utilise for its new happiness dashboard. I’ve worked in retail for more than 40 years and so really understand the pressures retailers are now facing when it comes to both accurately measuring and meaningfully improving the wellbeing of their staff, so that they can drive the success of their businesses.

“What’s so important about the Retail Trust’s happiness dashboard is that it can take this kind of data and use it to generate actionable insight that also helps retailers prove the value of their wellbeing strategies. We’re proud to be a partner of the Retail Trust and look forward to supporting it even further as it continues to strengthen and the extend the capabilities of this vital new platform.”

Half of retail managers interviewed for the Retail Trust’s health of retail report last year said staff absences were rising due to mental health issues. The report also uncovered a rise in staff theft due to the cost-of-living crisis, and an increase in the number of suicidal workers.

And research published by the Retail Trust in November revealed attacks on shop staff are worsening amidst rising levels of in-store crime, with two in five (41%) now shouted at, spat on, threatened or hit every week. 66 per cent said the incidents had left them feeling stressed or anxious about going into work and 42 per cent are considering quitting their jobs or leaving retail as a result.

The British Retail Consortium said last month that violence and abuse against shop workers had risen to 1,300 incidents a day, up by 50% year-on-year.


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