The retail sector is having a tough time. On top of pricing pressures, waning consumer confidence, and ongoing supply chain challenges, it faces difficulties recruiting and retaining people. Better retail employee engagement is vital.

In fact, the wholesale and retail sector currently has the second-highest number of job vacancies in absolute terms across the entire economy, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Now standing at 148,000, the figure is around 14,000 higher than it was pre-pandemic. 

Unsurprisingly then, the vast majority (99%) of retail leaders are concerned about the impact talent shortages are likely to have on their business, up from a still huge 94% in 2021. Industry research reveals that anxiety is particularly acute among large retailers, which are ‘extremely worried’ about the situation. 

A lack of available people on the labour market to do the job was cited by 39% of the leaders questioned. This was up from 24% the previous year. Other key factors include employees changing careers (34%) and insufficient people with the right skills (34%). 

Retail employee engagement is falling — why?

Retail employee engagement payroll software for retail (3)

Things are not being helped by high levels of staff turnover. Some 16% of the 1,000 employees questioned for The Future of Retail Workforce Study had quit their employer. This was up from 10% the previous year. A third of them had left in the last six months and two thirds in the last 90 days. A further 19% of respondents were considering whether to follow suit, indicating likely disengagement. 

A central problem here seems to be the labour shortages that are currently plaguing the sector. The resultant pressures are leading to as many as two out of five employees (42%) feeling “overworked and underappreciated”, according to a study reported in The Grocer. Clearly, this scenario is leading to higher staff turnover rates. 

In recent years, many sectors have made strides in boosting employee wellbeing and motivation, recognising its importance in keeping hold of their workforce. But for too long, retail employees have been somewhat left behind. The low engagement, high turnover approach is no longer sustainable as the sector faces a growing talent drain.

Gethin Nadin, Chief Innovation Officer, Benefex (a Zellis company)

So, in light of this situation, what key factors do employers need to consider if they want to retain their best people? The Future of Retail Workforce Study reveals the following key insights:

4 top factors influencing retail employees’ decision to stay in a role

  • They like working with co-workers (70%)
  • Their job is enjoyable (68%)
  • Diversity (67%)
  • Job stability (67%)

6 top reasons driving retail employees to leave a role

  • Little or no educational/training benefits (61%)
  • The job is too stressful or physically exhausting (59%)
  • The company has a poor reputation (57%)
  • They dislike their manager (57%)
  • Their schedule is inflexible (57%)
  • They weren’t recognised for their efforts (57%)

How can we improve employee engagement in the retail sector?

Retail employee engagement payroll software for retail (4)

Here are some key ideas to engage, or re-engage, your workforce, boost productivity, and keep them in their role:

  • Help employees get to know each other Be sure to introduce employees to each colleague on their shift and create activities that foster connection between them. Also hold at least one all-employee event per year – you could even invite their partners and families.
  • Make work more enjoyable Ensure the break room is pleasant, comfortable and well-stocked with drinks, snacks and anything else staff might need. Why not provide them with meals or snacks when working over public holidays? Encourage people to test out new products and implement a ‘no-working-on-your-birthday’ policy.
  • Be open and transparent Explain the company’s purpose clearly. Keep staff in the loop about what is happening in the organisation and create a bulletin board for announcements. Ensure line managers hold weekly one-on-one meetings with each member of their team. Publish shift rotas as soon as possible to help employees plan their lives.
  • Invest in staff development Make certain learning and development activities take place during working hours so that employees don’t have to spend their free time doing them. Develop a career plan with staff members. Set individual sales goals and provide adequate support to help them hit them, which includes providing the right equipment to do the job.
  • Recognise and reward employees Praise staff for great customer service. Celebrate if they exceed their own personal bests. Explain employee benefit offers and encourage people to ask questions about them. Ensure employees are always paid on time and offer them staff discounts.
  • Encourage personal responsibility Survey employees to understand their views and gather feedback regularly. Provide them with some control over their own work processes and encourage them to innovate, with the aim of doing things more effectively.

Given these engagement activities cut across payroll, benefits, and traditional HR domains, they rely on well-integrated software to support them. Fragmented, siloed systems make it much more difficult.

Payroll software for retail with HR and benefits built in

Zellis HCM Cloud combines best-of-breed payroll software for retail with high-quality human capital management (HCM) technology. It has been designed from the ground up to ensure your payroll and HR processes run efficiently, are fully compliant with the most complex of regulations, and yield powerful data insights. Not only that, it delivers superior digital experiences and features to make your people feel truly appreciated for the work they do. 

Learn how working with Zellis can help you.