19. November 2020 | Interview, Retail Technology, What´s new in Retail

dm-drogerie markt trusts in digital retail store management

Employees are not allowed to use their cell phone at the workplace? Not so fast! The German retail chain dm-drogerie markt has been relying on digital internal communications between employees and store management since 2017. Employee smartphones help optimize customer service, promote speedy inventory replenishment and support internal networking among the team. Director of Human Resources Christian Harms talks about the retailer’s investment in the future.

What are the features of modern retail store and workforce management from your perspective?

Man with glasses in a suit smiles into the camera; copyright: dm-drogerie markt GmbH

©dm-drogerie markt GmbH

Christian Harms: For us, modern retail store and workforce management means having “the office in your pocket”. To make this a reality, we handed out 25,000 smartphones to our colleagues in our dm stores in the fall of 2017. Our employees can download social apps such as Yammer as our company’s social network or as a company-wide communication platform that fosters teamwork. Employees can also use their smartphones as a mobile store inventory management system. The applications are largely based on consumer apps to allow for an intuitive operation.

Employee holds smartphone, photographed from behind; Copyright: Andy Ridder

© Andy Ridder

Why does retail have to get away from using paper notes, pens, and bulletin boards in the hallway and switch over to digital workforce management?

At dm, we are generally known for our willingness to embrace modern technologies. Digital workforce management enables all employees to act at any time and swiftly assist the customer. Apart from the digital platform “dm-Lernwelt” (English: dm learning center) which provides background information and practical real-life examples for staff members, the company smartphones are also a quick and direct way to communicate with colleagues and create a transparent culture in the workplace. Push notifications likewise help communicate new processes in real time.

At your stores and beyond: Which processes did dm convert from analog to digital?

We have replaced paper dispatches with document scanning, for example. Information such as new listings used to be communicated via email but can now be directly accessed on the smartphone.

dm-drogerie markt; copyright: ARTIS-Uli Deck

©ARTIS-Uli Deck

How did you prepare to ensure a successful analog-to-digital conversion at your company?

To ensure a smooth implementation, we initially tested the employee smartphones and the various applications in selected dm stores during the pilot stage to guarantee agile operations. The user experience played an especially important role for us. Mobile developer skills were built up in-house and complemented by external specialists.

How important is the employee in this type of organizational realignment?

Employees are key to successful business realignment. The continuous dialogue relating to interests and specific wants and needs pertaining to their daily tasks makes it possible to incorporate new ideas, which can make the workday of the respective employees easier.

You digitized communication and organization in 2017. What is your verdict so far and was it worth the effort?

In 2017, we chose to invest in our future. Now it is unimaginable to manage daily store operations without the use of employee smartphones. Since then, we have added many processes and applications, inspiring new ideas every day.

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