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Combatting Churn In The World Of Retail

The evolution in retail has been accelerated thanks to COVID-19. Developers, designers and data specialists are now as key to creating customer experiences as workers in any store, while logistics and operations teams have become critical to making sure that customers get what they want, where and when they want it.

In every area, in every team and every role, technology is transforming retail: changing relationships with customers and revolutionizing how shopping works. The role of the store itself is changing, from the focus of customer-facing operations to a core part of an omnichannel shopping experience. The skills required to work in retail are changing too, creating huge challenges for recruitment teams. But how do retail businesses retain and develop the employees they already have?

Employee churn

Retail faces unusually high employee turnover. Recent research from McKinsey found that two out of five employees surveyed are thinking about leaving in the next three to six months. However, in the retail sector specifically, a huge 76% of respondents who had quit between April 2020 and April 2022 were looking to move to a different industry or not return to the workforce altogether; the highest percentage of any sector. Meanwhile, the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the retail trade has the second highest quit rate, behind only accommodation and food services.

There are many reasons why staff turnover is so high across the board. Pay remains a major motivation to move on. Beamery’s Talent Index found that among respondents who had left or considered leaving their job in the last 12 months, 30% cited better pay as a key motivator. However, 27% listed poor management as a deciding factor. A lack of salary increases, benefits and perks also came across as major factors, while many were concerned that their company’s values did not align with their own.

A lack of mobility options?

Career development and job mobility are also major issues. 62% of employees in the retail sector told us they would be likely to leave their company if it recruited for a role they were interested in and didn’t ask them to apply. Only 48% of retail respondents said they had access to all job openings within their organization. 18% had lost opportunities to re-skill or re-train because nobody could tell them what skills the business would need in the future, or because there wasn’t enough training budget to cover upskilling in relevant areas.

Improving retention

When Beamery’s Talent Index asked workers what five factors would help them remain at their existing company, increased salary topped the poll for employees across all sectors. However, retail workers were more focused on increased work perks and benefits, as well as increased work flexibility. What’s more, when asked about what pulled them to a new employer, many retail workers prioritized factors other than salary, such as workplace location, flexible working, good environmental policies, and the attraction of the company brand.

In short, there’s more to retention than money. In its report, The Great Renegotiation and New Talent Pools, McKinsey says that businesses need to sharpen their traditional value proposition – job titles, compensation, benefits and the career path – but also ‘build their nontraditional value proposition, which revolves around flexibility, mental and behavioral health benefits, a strong company culture and different forms of career progression.’ They can also leverage the fact that physical retailers are often blessed with an abundance of locations where employees could at the very least do short term “gigs”. Retail and its ever expanding logistical remit means there could be jobs, not just in traditional stores and the headquarters, but also in supply chains and the digital world that this entails.

Organizations also need to factor in how they support their employees and their wellbeing, particularly in a post-pandemic world where some will be working from a store or a central workplace, while others work remotely or from home.

Opportunities for development

Perhaps most importantly, retail businesses need to ensure that key employees see opportunities for growth and progress, both in terms of having access to openings and promotions, and in terms of having the chance to develop new skills. 80% of Talent Index respondents would be likely to stay in their current organization if they had more opportunities for internal progression, or could be trained to move into a new role.

A recent study by Aptitude Research with Beamery also showed that 78% of companies have lost talent due to a lack of career development opportunities, while companies that invested in skills development were twice as likely to improve retention.

Through a data-driven, AI-enhanced HR platform, organizations can take a skills-focused approach to talent, matching roles to internal candidates based on their existing expertise and interests, but also looking at opportunities to upskill employees with the potential to fill emerging gaps, delivering a win for both them and the company.

Cross-training programmes can help individuals expand their capabilities and put the spotlight on high-value workers, while ensuring that, if there is an opening, there could already be someone there to fill the role. Training and development programmes that recognise and reward new skills and experience can also boost retention, whether that means professional qualifications or gamification-style achievements. It makes sure that employees feel seen and respected.

How we help

Beamery gives every worker a personalized, AI-powered and data-driven roadmap for their career, helping them to develop their skillset, build relevant experience, and make the most of opportunities across the company. It promotes internal mobility, diversity and fairness, while helping organizations achieve their goal of attracting and retaining the very best talent.

Learn more about the Talent Lifecycle Management platform from Beamery, and read our full report on talent challenges in the retail industry here.