Retail Employees Want More From Leaders, Here’s What to Do About It


Share on LinkedIn

The Amazon Effect is raging strong, and retailers are feeling the heat.

As the major online retailer continues gaining ground in sales and acquisitions, many larger brick and mortar stores are closing up shop. However, the detrimental effects this has on retailers’ bottom lines go far beyond customer sales and experiences. Successfully reinventing brick and mortar stores begins with their most important asset: employees.

Unfortunately, as chaos ensues with the competition of Amazon and other online retailers, brick and mortar employers are losing their grip on employee engagement. In fact, Quantum Workplace’s 2017 Employee Engagement Trends report found only 65.1 percent of retail employees are engaged, below the 66 percent national average and down 1.2 percent from last year.

Due to these falling employee engagement numbers, retailers may see a decrease in retention, bringing even more costs to struggling brick-and-mortar stores. With the average cost per hire estimated at $4,129, according to SHRM’s 2016 Human Capital Report, the focus on retail employees has never been more crucial.

It’s time to rise up against the Amazon Effect, put the importance of employees back in focus, and start making moves in retail. Here are three tips to get you moving:

1. Focus on the employees.

There’s a lot going on in the world of retail. But when you give into the major pressures and demands of the ever-changing retail landscape, it’s easy to stop focusing on employees.

Unfortunately, this lack of focus leads to decreased professional development opportunities and poor team dynamics, which, according to Quantum Workplace’s The Future of Retail report, contributes to a turnover rate that is up to 60 percent in some retail departments.

The Amazon Effect makes it even more difficult to take the attention off of customers for a bit and focus on employees. After all, losing customer business to online shopping and two-day shipping is a major issue.

If your employee engagement rate is dropping, in conjunction with other factors like impatient or unhappy customers, then you’ll be left with unsatisfied and demotivated employees who will eventually run for the door. Focusing on today’s retail employees means giving them something to work towards. Show them the meaning behind their jobs by remaining transparent about the company’s current status and hopes for the future. Ask them for their opinions, and share how their talents will directly affect the company’s success in years to come.

2. Acknowledge your team’s value.

Your retail team is number one in the chain of importance — and you better recognize it. From taking care of store appearances, being front-and-center with customers, and dealing with any and all issues as they come up, they’re truly handling it all.

If you’re not acknowledging their hard work, they’re going to start searching for someone who will. In fact, in Quantum Workplace’s previously mentioned The Future of Retail report, the fifth-strongest driver of retail employee engagement is that senior leaders of the organization value people as their most important resource.

So what’s the best way to go about it?

Walmart did it in 2015 when leaders made an announcement that they’d be increasing wages for more than 500,000 employees, were increasing job training, and even offering clear advancement opportunities.

The valuable takeaway is the acknowledgment attached to the gesture. Higher wages, increased training, and opportunities for advancement are just a few ways you can show employees you value them as part of your team.

To really let your team know just how valuable they are, you need to recognize them for contributing to the organization’s success. In the previously mentioned Future of Retail report, retail employees ranked this as their number one driver of employee engagement. Check in with your team frequently to let them know you’re seeing their efforts and know it’s positively affecting the company. Show them just how much you appreciate it with a day off, recognizing them in front of their peers or even offering career advancement.

3. Let your team be heard.

Your team members aren’t just coming to work, collecting their paycheck, and moving on with their lives. Today’s retail employees are looking for more out of their jobs, but leaders need to first understand exactly what they want and how to offer it to them.

According to Quantum Workplace’s report, utilizing their strengths and seeing professional growth and career development opportunities are two of the top employee engagement factors for retail employees. This means your team wants to add more value to the organization.

In order to do this, you need to start by understanding what each employee’s strengths are and where they will excel. First, sit down with employees and ask them just that — what do they believe their strengths are, what are their career goals, and where do they see themselves in the company in one year, three years, and even five years.

Once you know where they stand, observe their strengths and start matching the lists. Combine their skills with their goals and make an actionable step-by-step plan to show them that advancement within the company is possible — and you’re willing to help them get there.

Dan Harris
I have years of experience with all phases of research, ranging from data collection and logistics to advanced analysis and consulting. I have a Master's Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and am currently a Doctoral candidate for I-O Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here