Credit: iStock.com by Drazen
Retail workers are leaving their jobs at a record pace, with 721,000 workers quitting in August alone, maintaining an industry high for employee turnover since April. What’s more, employers in the retail space that were already facing massive labor shortages are now also preparing for increased seasonal hiring — making employee engagement more critical than ever. Employee engagement is a key driver of employee motivation, retention and happiness — and is a critical factor for retailers to empower their workforces.
To foster a culture of engagement, it’s essential that retail leaders establish meaningful connections throughout their organization. However, it’s difficult to create connections among retail employees as frontline team members hold a customer-facing position, working less collaboratively with their managers than in a traditional office setting. This lack of connection is creating a disengaged workforce as only 65 percent of retail employees are engaged. So, what will it take to retain and engage workers during the busiest season of the year? Let’s dive into three strategies retail leaders should consider.
Encourage Frequent Recognition at All Levels
Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of employees wish they received more recognition at work. When employees are regularly recognized it results in lower turnover. Fostering a culture of employee recognition is clearly critical for retention, but the approach must come from the top, and recognition should be ingrained in every aspect of the company to make a real cultural shift. To create a culture of recognition, retail leaders must approach it like all business objectives, with a plan of action. Employers can activate their recognition strategy by prioritizing manager check-ins, incentivizing internal recognition and providing rewards, which can include points-based rewards, wellness stipends, paid time-off and tuition reimbursements.
The Burnout is Real: Prioritize Mental Health in the Workplace
More than half (51 percent) of retail workers are concerned about their mental health — a critical concern for overall employee well-being, productivity and retention. One way that employers can work to support their employees is by providing employee assistance programs (EAPs). These programs help workers prioritize their wellness by giving them access to benefits like free assessments, short-term counseling, and referrals. Such resources are well received by employees, with 86 percent of workers using EAPs reporting that they have had a positive impact on their well-being.
Additionally, managers must lead by example when it comes to practicing a healthy work-life balance. When a leader models the behavior they want to cultivate, it sets the expectation that benefits — whether it be PTO days, sick days, flex hours, etc. — aren’t just talk, and encourages staff to use the resources available to them.
Continuously Source Employee Feedback and Take Action
For retail leaders to increase engagement among employees, their workplaces must address employees” needs. To understand employee sentiment, there’s really only one way to identify actions to take: ask them. It can be difficult to gauge overall sentiment of a retail workforce, as many companies have thousands of employees located around the globe, and almost half of workers don’t have a direct channel of communication between their headquarters and themselves. However, digital pulse surveys have made gathering feedback quick and easy, allowing employees to share their valuable insight within minutes. This tech-enabled approach helps retail leaders consistently gauge employee sentiment and take action — data shows that 90 percent of workers are more likely to stay with an employer that takes and acts on feedback.
The retail industry’s success is contingent on its workforce, making it imperative employers retain employees, especially during the busy holiday season. Recent research forecasts that U.S. retailers will experience a labor shortage of 350,000 workers heading into the holiday shopping season. Engagement plays a pivotal role in reducing turnover as engaged employees are more likely to stay with their organization. Coupled with a culture of recognition, a focus on mental health and emphasis on employee feedback ensures that companies both attract and retain an engaged workforce.
Dr. Natalie Baumgartner is chief workforce scientist at the Achievers Workforce Institute, the research and insights arm of Achievers, providing thought leadership based in science, data and research, and ensures our products and services are rooted in workforce science.
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