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There’s a disconnect between retail associates and leaders on how effective their communications really are
What do retail workers want? This is the question I’m hearing from every retailer I’ve spoken to in the past year. As we strive to find some sense of post-pandemic normalcy — or at least start to understand what our new normal looks like — retail organizations are struggling to battle rising costs and heightened customer expectations, alongside serious staffing issues that diminish their ability to rise up to these challenges.
To align their employee experience to keep their staff engaged, productive and, most of all, loyal, retailers need to learn more about what their workers want. So we turned to the findings of our 2021 Deskless Report: Retail Edition, part of an ongoing research project that surveyed hundreds of frontline workers and leaders about turnover, community, communication, feedback and much more.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Retail workers are quitting because of poor communication.
A whopping 37 percent of retail workers polled for The Deskless Report currently want to quit their job. When we asked workers what could make them quit, one of the top three answers was “poor communication.” Retail leaders agree, too. When asked what the No. 1 barrier between head office and associates was, leaders also said “communication.”
The problem is, there’s a disconnect between retail associates and leaders on how effective their communications really are. While 59 percent of workers say the communications they receive are somewhat or not-at-all useful, 81 percent of leaders say they’re sending meaningful, quality communications. This disconnect is extremely troubling because if leaders think they’re nailing it, they’re not looking for ways to optimize or improve their systems. And according to associates, these systems are very broken.
2. Retail workers are driven by a sense of purpose and community.
While pay will always be a factor for motivating and engaging retail workers, our research shows that deskless workers are driven by forces other than compensation. When asked what makes them feel engaged and motivated at work, 58 percent of retail workers said “A sense of purpose/meaning.” While 79 percent of retail workers said they already have a clear sense of their company’s vision, 66 percent of respondents still said they want to know more. This presents a huge opportunity.
Closely linked to purpose is employee community, something that’s challenging in many frontline industries where workers are dispersed throughout locations across the country, or even globally. While 78 percent of retail workers said they feel connected to the co-workers at their location, 59 percent want a stronger community with employees outside their location.
3. Retail workers are desperate to share feedback.
We often refer to this as two-way communication, with good reason. Employee feedback, especially in retail, is less about performance reviews or employee complaints. It’s about tapping into an extremely valuable resource for customer insights and best practices: your employees.
And trust me, retail workers want to give feedback. Sixty-eight percent of workers polled said feedback is extremely or very important to them, and 64 percent said they have opinions on how to make their organization better or more profitable. However, here we see another disconnect: while 79 percent of leaders say they’re fostering a feedback culture, only 27 percent of workers say their company asks for feedback often.
And frankly, I’m not surprised. The top three feedback channels both workers and leaders said are used are surveys, conversations with managers, and email. These aren’t channels that make sense for retail frontline feedback. For feedback to be collected in real time, which is the way it has to be in retail organizations, you need feedback channels that are easily accessible during shifts, during the moment.
If there’s one thing these findings tell us, it’s that we have work to do. But also: By giving staff what they want, retailers have the opportunity to access a lot of untapped potential and drive better retention, productivity and revenue as a result. That’s win-win.
Jordan Ekers is co-founder and COO of Nudge, the top-rated communication platform for frontline employees.
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