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Panel recap: Transforming HR for the future of retail

16/05/2024 minute read Hamzah Hafesji

The retail landscape is rapidly evolving, driven by shifting consumer demands, technological disruption, and workforce changes. As a result, HR plays a critical role in enabling organisations to adapt and thrive amidst this transformation.  

At The Retail Bulletin’s recent ‘Retail HR Central’ event in Birmingham, OneAdvanced’s Global Director of Growth for People, Paul Ridings, joined a panel discussion that provided valuable insights on key trends shaping the future of retail HR. Here’s a comprehensive recap of the discussion. 

Panel overview 

Title: Retail Strategy Spotlight: Leading and Evolving to an Agile Organisation – Joining the Dots Between Business, People, and Strategy 

Facilitator: Liz Jewitt-Cross, Founder & Director of Future HR 


  • Deborah Ormondroyd, Head of Retail at Bird & Blend 
  • Marco Galer-Reick, VP UK Strategy Enablement & HR at Delaware North 
  • Paul Ridings, Global Director of Growth for People at OneAdvanced 

 Key topics discussed 

 1. Bridging strategy and execution

Marco Galer-Reick emphasised the necessity for HR to bridge the gap between business strategy and people operations. His role at Delaware North is designed to "join the dots" across the organisation, aligning strategy with people, infrastructure, skills, and culture. Achieving this involves dismantling and rebuilding existing structures, fostering a mindset shift, and ensuring the organisation remains relevant amidst new competition and market threats. 

Key insights: 

  • Align individual goals with organisational objectives. 
  • Reduce agency costs by providing clear, measurable targets. 
  • Embed diversity and inclusion into talent strategies, organisational design, and cultural initiatives. 

 2. Embracing diversity and inclusion

Deborah Ormondroyd shared Bird & Blend's innovative approach to talent acquisition and development, which centres on diversity and inclusion. This includes establishing committees dedicated to various aspects of diversity, sourcing candidates from broad backgrounds, partnering with agencies that prioritise diversity, and investing in scholarships and management development programmes. 

Key insights: 

  • Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to talent strategies. 
  • Partner with agencies prioritising diversity to source candidates. 
  • Invest in scholarships and development programmes to promote inclusion. 

 3. The rise of generative AI

Paul Ridings addressed the impact of generative AI on HR processes. While AI promises to enhance productivity, HR's role will be to ensure jobs remain meaningful and fulfilling as AI automates specific tasks. Ridings advocated for a "crawl, walk, run" approach to AI adoption, starting with narrow applications before scaling up. 

Key insights: 

  • Adopt AI responsibly to maintain job meaningfulness. 
  • Utilise a phased approach to AI implementation. 
  • Focus on applications that initially address specific needs. 

 4. Prioritising people technology

There is a significant uptick in demand for solutions enabling desk-free workers, a substantial portion of the retail workforce. Investing in technologies that improve employee experience, reduce attrition, and drive operational efficiencies is crucial as businesses recognise the impact of their people on growth and profitability.  

Key insights: 

  • Invest in tools that connect desk-free workers, such as OneAdvanced’s people and workforce software. 
  • Enhance employee experience with consumer-grade digital tools. 
  • Mitigate risks like "shadow IT" to ensure security and compliance. 

 5. Evolving HR skills and partnerships

The panellists agreed that the evolving role of HR necessitates new skills and partnerships within organisations. HR business partners must advocate for their function's priorities, competing with operational demands for resources and attention. Collaborating with value creation specialists can help HR teams quantify the return on investment (ROI) of people initiatives. 

Key insights: 

  • HR must develop new skills to stay relevant. 
  • Advocate for HR priorities amidst competing operational demands. 
  • Collaborate with specialists to measure the ROI of HR initiatives. 

Advice for HR leaders 

In a rapidly changing retail landscape, the panellists offered valuable advice for HR professionals working in retail: 

1. Connect with desk-free workers: Store managers and frontline employees are often overburdened, creating a "funnel effect" that hinders communication and engagement. Investing in technologies that connect desk-free workers can alleviate this burden and drive operational efficiencies. 

2. Prioritise employee experience: As the workforce becomes increasingly dominated by millennials and Gen Z, organisations must prioritise employee experience by providing consumer-grade digital tools and fostering a culture that aligns with their values and expectations. 

3. Embrace continuous learning: HR professionals must embrace continuous learning and skill development to stay ahead of the curve. This includes understanding the implications of emerging technologies, such as AI, and their potential impact on HR processes and the workforce. 

4. Foster collaboration: Effective collaboration between HR, business leaders, and technology partners is essential for driving organisational success. By aligning strategies, sharing insights, and leveraging collective expertise, organisations can navigate the complexities of the retail landscape more effectively. 


As the retail industry continues to evolve, HR's role as a strategic partner championing innovation, employee experience, and an inclusive workforce will be vital for long-term organisational success in this highly competitive, dynamic market. The insights shared by the panellists provide a roadmap for HR professionals to navigate these changes and drive impactful outcomes for their organisations.