Exterior of a JCPenney location.
Retailer J.C. Penney recently sought out a solution to issues it has been facing, including reducing turnover, improving communication, and increasing employee satisfaction. — JCPenney

Why it matters:

  • J.C. Penney was seeking a solution that could help it reduce turnover and improve employee satisfaction, among other goals.
  • The retailer discovered that workers could use a new employee solutions app for short training videos, for example, which helped them perform their jobs more efficiently.
  • The turnover rate among first-year warehouse workers, who were the first group to use the new app, has been ‘materially better’ than the preceding year, the company said.

Retailer J.C. Penney is driving increased employee engagement and satisfaction using a mobile app that offers workers same-day access to their pay and other features, including better scheduling control over their shifts, and the ability to watch training videos.

“We recognized the need to meet our front-line associates where they are with a mobile or web-based digital solution, including an open shift marketplace and access to wages earned after their shift, to our hourly population enterprise-wide,” Andre Joyner, Chief Human Resources Officer of J.C. Penney, told CO—.

The retailer had been evaluating how to extend its Associate Value Proposition (AVP) to its front-line workers, when it decided to implement the new technology from employment solutions provider WorkJam. The AVP is a framework that focuses on the importance of employees as a key part the company’s mission.

J.C. Penney’s efforts come as the challenges that employers have faced in recruiting and retaining labor may be easing. A recent retailer survey by consulting firm Korn Ferry found that 30% of respondents reported that turnover among hourly store employees was down 10% or more from the previous year.

“Retailers are thinking twice about adding new roles, which has employees re-thinking leaving one job in search of another,” said Craig Rowley, Senior Partner, Korn Ferry.

Tapping a customized — not a ‘one-size-fits-all’— solution to reduce employee turnover and boost job satisfaction

Joyner said J.C. Penney had been seeking a solution that could help it achieve its goals around reducing turnover, increasing employee satisfaction, improving communication, and providing other tools that workers would appreciate, such as the ability to trade shifts and gain early access to their pay.

“These goals didn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, so we couldn’t use a one-size-fits-all product,” he said. “From the beginning, the team at WorkJam understood what we were trying to do and was an effective accelerant to our philosophy, the Associate Value Proposition, helping us scale our efforts to the entire associate population.”

These goals didn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, so we couldn’t use a one-size-fits-all product.

Andre Joyner, Chief Human Resources Officer, J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney first rolled the solution out to its supply-chain warehouse workers and has since added more tools for employees in that area of its operations. These include scheduling functions, including flexible and on-demand scheduling, and mobile clocking in and out, as well as several communications functions, such as in-app messaging between teams and individual workers, and early access to pay. Plans call for adding mobile gamified learning and development, along with other training and development tools.

In its retail stores, the company launched WorkJam with more targeted functionality, including early access to wages, the ability to view schedules in the app, and some communications functionality, including the ability to access corporate news stories and to message with other members of the store team in the app, all of which are available in multiple languages. Joyner said the retailer plans to roll out the full suite of functionality to retail employees over time.

[Read: How 3 Companies are Monetizing the Pain Points of Remote Work]

Offering warehouse workers on-demand access to training videos when supervisors are too far-flung to answer questions

Joyner said the implementation of the WorkJam platform has created opportunities for new functionality that J.C. Penney had not originally foreseen. For example, warehouse workers said they wanted on-demand access to training videos, given that they were not always near their direct supervisors in their massive work environments when they had questions. As a result, J.C. Penney is now working to roll out short, digestible training videos that workers can access on their mobile devices.

“The especially cool thing about a tool like this is that the operators maximize it, meaning that those who are using it are finding ways WorkJam can improve the associate experience that we couldn’t even plan for,” said Joyner.

The WorkJam solution replaces some pre-existing functionality, but also introduces new tools for workers, he said.

“Through the app, we have been able to integrate existing functions to combine scheduling, communications, learning, and training, so our associates can seamlessly access everything in one place,” said Joyner.

Using ExpressPay, for example, workers can access a portion of their earnings as quickly as the same day they complete their shift, with the money deposited directly into their bank accounts. The shift marketplace tool, meanwhile, allows workers to post shifts that they would like to relinquish, so that other qualified employees can pick up extra shifts they may be interested in.

[Read: Can’t Find Workers? It’s Time for a New Type of ‘Employer Branding To Woo Them]

 Headshot of Andre Joyner, Chief Human Resources Officer, J.C. Penney.
Andre Joyner, Chief Human Resources Officer of J.C. Penney, shared how the retailer is using technology to help meet the needs of its employees. — J.C. Penney

The ROI: The turnover rate among J.C. Penney’s warehouse workers is ‘materially better’ than the prior year

Some data points indicate that the WorkJam solution may be helping reduce turnover and improve employee satisfaction in the supply chain division, Joyner said.

For example, the turnover rate among first-year warehouse workers has been “materially better” than the preceding year, since the rollout in that division. The rollout to store employees was too recent to have yielded measurable results in terms of reducing turnover, he said.

In addition, based on feedback from surveys, workers said they feel more empowered since the app was implemented, Joyner said. Supply chain workers reported an increase of 18% year-over-year, and store workers reported an increase of 9%.

“There’s also so many great stories we’re hearing that prove its effectiveness that can’t be tied to numbers,” said Joyner.

For example, on Black Friday in 2023, the retailer had a variety of promotions running throughout the day in its stores at specific times, including giveaways, coupons, and flash deals. Through WorkJam, workers on the East Coast were able to communicate with their counterparts in different time zones to share real-time advice about how the promotions were going and what they would’ve done differently, so stores across the country could be better prepared for what was coming.

 Person's hand holding phone showing the WorkJam platform.
J.C. Penney's new WorkJam solution introduces new tools for workers, like on-demand access to training videos as requested by employees. — J.C. Penney

Workers appreciate that the app represents an investment in making their jobs easier and helping them feel better connected to their co-workers and to the company, he said.

“Teams are using the app to recognize other associates, compliment their teammates on a job well done, ask questions, and more,” said Joyner.

Happier and more empowered workers also end up providing a better experience for customers, he said.

“We are looking forward to introducing micro-trainings and even more avenues to empower associates to up-skill and cross-train, enabling associates even more flexibility in their day-to-day and in their future career options,” Joyner said.

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