Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

126 Frontline workers play a crucial role in the retail industry. Whether they are refilling stock, helping customers with their needs or finalising purchases at the checkout, thousands of fashion, food and consumer goods businesses around the world rely on them every day. However, Microsoft’s 2023 Work Trend Index report discovered that one in two frontline workers cite being burned out in their job. This is having an impact across the industry in the form of labour shortages and employee retention challenges. According to Anya Minbiole, global business strategy lead for worldwide retail and consumer goods at Microsoft: “The working age population is getting smaller and there is a burden on younger generations to fill positions. “Furthermore, key performance indicators such as a sales revenue-to-work hours ratio can push retailers into asking employees to work harder and more efficiently, despite barriers such as high employee turnover rates and the growing divide in technology know-how.” Retailers are counting on artificial intelligence to come to the rescue. “Generative AI is becoming increasingly pivotal in shaping the retail landscape,” says Minbiole. “This transformative technology is not only enhancing customer experiences but also streamlining operations, from personalised shopping to inventory management.” The combination of AI and the cloud can deliver significant benefits: easing communication between colleagues, making important data available in real-time and removing some of the time-intensive tasks that workers face daily. AI and cloud solutions are providing new ways for retailers to empower and support their frontline workers to make good decisions. Microsoft’s Anya Minbiole tells us more BY AMBER HICKMAN FEATURE Adopting new superpower “ It is a complementary perspective in which humans and AI are partners that balance out each other’s weaknesses” a