- It may sometimes feel as though the move to online business has dampened the significance of maintaining a strong team of professionals, but this is illusory, because it’s actually had the opposite effect. That you can run a modern business without a great team doesn’t mean you should. If you aspire to be a leading online retailer one day, the best thing you can do is invest in HR — it’ll pay off soon enough.
What do you picture when you think of a human resources department in action? Possibly a bureaucrat making their way around a conventional open-plan office, confirming that workers in formal attire know what constitutes appropriate workplace behavior. The point is that HR gets a bad rap, especially considering how important it truly is.
A good HR department ensures that employees are being used to the best of their abilities. It keeps them happy. It deftly navigates conflict and brings teams closer together. What’s more, it isn’t only significant in that standard office environment — it’s actually more important in the modern fragmented business world, and it’s particularly vital for ecommerce.
So much so, in fact, that HR can make the difference between success and failure for an online retailer. But why is this? What makes it so important for that particular industry? Let’s get into it:
Company culture is vital for recruitment
Because ecommerce is such a massive and lucrative industry, top retailers can — and must — spend heavily on bringing in the best talent. This makes recruitment tricky for their less-successful competitors. When they can’t compete financially, and they know that top candidates are fully aware of their value, they need to stand out in other ways.
This is one of the two main reasons why company culture has become such a topic of interest in recent years, along with the slow but steady recognition that employees who actually like their workplaces (and feel secure in their positions) tend to produce better work. Cultivating a stronger company culture attracts better talent and gets them working more productively.
And HR is key to company culture. It determines what is and isn’t allowable for employees, sets out perks and benefits, deals with complaints and other issues, and generally aims to keep top performers content and armed with all the resources they need to thrive. As a result, operating without a strong HR department is outright foolish for any seller with long-term ambitions (you should also consider implementing an HR suite to support development).
Remote workers need to be managed well
There’s nothing stopping you from hiring in-house employees for your ecommerce business, but it isn’t necessarily the right way to go. Not only does it require you to keep a fair amount of office space, but it also adds heavily to your expenses. It’s better these days to allow remote working wherever possible (provided you can support people adequately). That way, you can source candidates from far-away places, and save money on renting space and possibly equipment.
Furthermore, consider that you may well need employees from different cultures. This is particularly true if you’re trying to sell internationally, which is very plausible — global ecommerce is on the rise, driven by technology making it possible to breeze past the traditional obstacles. This is great overall, but also dangerous. The low barrier to entry can lead you to underestimate the amount of work required to be successful when selling internationally. It takes research, customization, and (above all else) local knowledge — and that calls for local hiring.
Imagine having a workforce of employees spread throughout the world: some in disparate parts of your nation, and some in different countries with varied time zones and requirements. A simple team management tool wouldn’t be enough to keep everyone on the same page. You’d need an HR department capable of checking in with everyone on a consistent basis, looking out from problems and addressing them before they could cause any damage.
The fast pace demands staff adaptability
Things change quickly in ecommerce. New marketing methods come along, new payment systems emerge, and new standards of customer service become established. Combine this with the push towards automation, and you have the ingredients for a system that demands flexibility far more than it demands skill.
Back before marketing moved into the digital world, you could hire a skilled marketer and leave them to do their job in the same way every day, with their workload never changing significantly. A modern marketer, on the other hand, never stops learning. They must keep updating their skills or be left behind by their rivals, and it’s the professionals most committed to staying ahead of the game who thrive in the long run.
But people can’t (shouldn’t) be left to train themselves. That’s where HR comes in. With an HR department committed to helping employees further themselves, expand their skill sets, and become more useful overall, you can have confidence that the value of your team will increase enormously over time.
It may sometimes feel as though the move to online business has dampened the significance of maintaining a strong team of professionals, but this is illusory, because it’s actually had the opposite effect. That you can run a modern business without a great team doesn’t mean you should. If you aspire to be a leading online retailer one day, the best thing you can do is invest in HR — it’ll pay off soon enough.