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Maximizing employee performance

An interview by Dan Berthiaume, Senior Editor, Technology, Chain Store Age at EnsembleIQ


Retailers seeking to optimize the output of their human workforce should look to artificial intelligence and automated systems. Chain Store Age recently spoke with Jim Kirby, VP, Service Advantage for Ricoh North America, about the challenges retailers face today in maintaining adequate staffing levels and ensuring their employees remain productive without causing a negative effect on worker morale.

Read time: 3 minutes

originally published in July / August 2023 issue of

Kirby delved into how retailers can effectively utilize leading-edge technologies such as robotics and automation to properly support their workforce in performing higher-value and more complex tasks by streamlining routine, manually oriented workflows.

How can retailers help avoid and remediate employee burnout?

We have found, through industry research, that most retail employees cite increased workloads due to turnover as one of the primary drivers of high-stress levels and burnout. Moreover, the workload that these employees reference is often overloaded with tedious, mind-numbing, and repetitive tasks.

Employees want to be empowered to make a difference at their place of work rather than spend time feeling like they’re simply a machine. It may sound counter-intuitive, but leveraging automation to reduce manual workflows is the key to creating a more human-centric work environment.

This ultimately leads to increased productivity, streamlined procedures and time savings. By freeing up resources, employees can focus on more strategic and complex duties, and spend more time interacting directly with consumers.

Short staffing is a major issue with today’s labor shortage. What can retailers do to overcome this challenge?

Many retailers are looking to technology, such as robots and cobots (EDITOR’S NOTE: cobots are trainable robots designed to work alongside humans), to act as a workforce multiplier to help close the personnel gap caused by labor shortages. Implementing these types of solutions often benefits both employers and employees alike.

Robots and cobots can help alleviate the burden of manual and mindless tasks, which leads to more time selling and engaging with customers. Innovative tech also gives employees more time for professional development and training.

This has the additional benefit of helping to close skill gaps that are often a byproduct of short staffing. It is a common misconception that robots and cobot solutions are there to replace humans. Robots and cobots supplement the human workforce allowing employees to shift focus away from tasks and onto customers or strategic activities.

What advice would you give retailers looking to implement and scale technology to maximize employee productivity?

I give every customer three pieces of advice. First, focus on innovation instead of maintenance and support — this creates exciting, efficient ways to shop. Engaging innovative technologies promoting customer and employee satisfaction is a win-win — the critical support needed to achieve this funds itself.

Second, avoid overextending your existing staff with large-scale tech projects that consume their capacity and take time away from supporting your core business.

And third, find the right partner that can offer a variety of tech support and consult with you as you adapt new, automated solutions that fit your organization's and your customer's needs. These programs must promote the adaptation of new automated workflows and technology — with new workflows come change requiring continuous learning. Ensure technology is available to employees when needed (uptime), otherwise they’ll reject your usage model.

How can Ricoh solutions and services help retailers optimize their workforce and scale technology?

RICOH Service Advantage does both, giving retailers options as they evolve in deploying newly optimized workflows, automation, and technology. We support full technical and user training programs, perform new installations, setup, and provisioning at stores, warehouses and distribution centers. We can engage tiger teams for pilot work, consult on optimizing drive uptime and scale new technologies.

Our programs include training design and delivery, service desk support, on-the-ground, local technicians for routine maintenance, break-fix management, installation support for technology, automation rollouts and more.

From store technologies that automate critical workflows to routine tasks, we work closely with store leadership and their technology manufacturers to provide programs promoting uptime, usage, and adaptation to new automated workflows.

We can help them track assets, determine root cause and avoid costly downtime through more predictive and remote monitoring measures. Essentially, Ricoh helps retailers accelerate change and maintain the ongoing and expected returns that come with today’s significant tech investments.

Learn more about Service Advantage

Dan Berthiaume is a recognized expert on retail technology, having covered the space since 1998. He has been interviewed on National Public Radio and Coffee Break with Game Changers, and quoted by a variety of publications and news sites including CNBC. Dan also has served as a moderator and panelist at numerous industry events.

Dan Berthiaume

Senior Editor, Technology

Chain Store Age at Ensemble IQ

Jim Kirby.png
Jim brings more than 30 years of management and operating experience. He is responsible for building Ricoh’s business development and customer on-boarding teams that work with companies that have product lifecycle management requirements, such as training, installation, special projects, as well as service programs that directly impact uptime and usage of mission-critical technology and the automation of workflows. This offering includes service desk and service programs that let OEMs and end-user customers maximize their return on technology investments.

Jim Kirby

Vice President, Service Advantage

Ricoh North America

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