How can technology alleviate the skills shortage facing forecourt businesses?

How can technology alleviate the skills shortage facing forecourt businesses?

Posted 21 January, 2022 at 15:30

Author Mark Bradshaw on behalf of (IFM) Independent Forecourt Magazine

Employee turnover is a common issue for forecourt businesses. While many industries struggle to keep up with supply and demand, combined with staff turnover reaching an all-time high, we should be looking for solutions to help keep staff on board. It is time to explore the potential of technology to ease the forecourt trade skills shortage. 

What is causing the current skills shortage?

Three main factors are guiding the development of the UK – and, to some extent, global – skills shortage. The primary driver has been Covid-19. With reduced mobility for most of 2020 and some of 2021, demand for fuel decreased, seeing many forecourts forced to cut staffing numbers. The threat of Covid-19 has also seen many retail workers move away from customer-facing roles, fearing contagion. As businesses began to reopen, would-be employees were presented with the opportunity to question their careers, meaning that in some business sectors, there were more vacancies than people to fill them. 

In the UK, Brexit is also impacting freedom of movement and the availability of European retail workers - a  workforce that the UK’s retail sector has previously leaned on. Simultaneously, IR35 has disrupted supply chains as contract HGV drivers have taken their services elsewhere. A ‘perfect storm’ is the phrase that many commentators have used, and it may be a difficult situation to rectify. How can tech hope to hold a solution?

How can technology help resolve the forecourt skills shortage?

Better recruitment

Technology can significantly assist the onboarding process for businesses, allowing for better distribution of documents and access to welcome channels. Training material can be included in welcome packages for new employees, boosting employee confidence as they adjust to their new roles. When orchestrated collaboratively, communication, training, and task management can systematically train employees without intensive involvement from managers, freeing time to build on relationships with employees under their care. As a result, employees will feel more comfortable in their roles and more connected with other employees, encouraging productivity and increasing motivation.

Enhanced employee engagement

Many employers overlook the importance of employee retention. It’s all very well finding new recruitment strategies. However, by preventing churn, you’re keeping hold of talent, reducing the expense of training, and enhancing the depth of skills within your business. Technology can build employee engagement and loyalty, encouraging workers to feel that themselves – and their opinions – matter. A frontline digital workplace such as  WorkJam opens communication and collaboration. It is vital that communication is facilitated not only within different levels of the business but also across them, with employees at the lowest rank still able to communicate effectively with those above them. Training can be delivered directly and health checks managed automatically. If an employee is struggling, you can take action before it develops further. Barriers such as time, location, and even language can be bridged (for example, through the use of inline translation software and visual communication), increasing the functional capabilities of the business. 

Improved scheduling

Periods of under or over staffing are common, and flexibility matters today more than ever. Employees are no longer able to commit to the same shift for extended periods, favouring instead the ability to change their availability to avoid repetition and burnout. Without adequate technology and communication, last-minute scheduling changes can disrupt even the best-planned rota. Technology allows employees to adjust their availability according to their external commitments, with the potential to swap shifts with colleagues quickly and easily. An open shift marketplace increases this flexibility by providing additional shifts at neighbouring locations that better fit an employee’s lifestyle. 

In union environments where red tape and regulations are more common, shift bidding can be particularly effective. This system allows employees to bid on preferred shifts, with the highest seniority gaining priority - a system that can be fully automated via the implementation of effective technology.  

Enriched training and development

The correct application of new technology places training and personal development in the hands of your employees, giving them the tools and support required to manage skills advancement. Employees with access to development opportunities are happier in their work and feel more valued, both of which can improve loyalty and reduce employee turnover. Reward systems and gamification improve motivation, demonstrating progression through stages of training in the form of badges and qualifications. Accumulating the relevant badges - and correlating skills - can make employees eligible for certain positions or promotions. 

With a motivated labour force providing the foundations for business success, employee retention and recruitment must be a priority. While the global skills shortage continues, the technology at your disposal could differentiate you from other employers. 


As Managing Director, Mark Williams is leading WorkJam's expansion in EMEA. Before joining the company, Mark held the position of Global Enablement Manager of Retail at Shell, where he was responsible for all frontline digital transformation projects. Operating with different structures across the globe, Shell's challenge was to provide consistently excellent service through a fragmented workforce, without a large directly managed footprint. Under Mark's leadership, the Enablement Team rolled out WorkJam to 100,000 employees across 35 global business units. Unifying communications, learning, and task management revolutionized how Shell Retail worked, improving turnover, compliance, and employee experience.

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