Business leaders in the retail sector are feeling the squeeze as more than 90% currently face talent shortages, according to Retail Dive.(1)
To win the talent they need, change is in order. Retailers need to first understand how we got here, and then rewrite the playbook for attracting and retaining top-notch retail employees accordingly.
An employee’s market
For legacy employers, the first step is recognizing that the landscape has fundamentally shifted. Because there are more job openings than employees, job seekers have the upper hand in today’s retail environment.
Traditional retail jobs don’t offer things like cash incentives, but the game is changing. Suddenly there’s a bold new set of demands that transportation, back-of-house, and customer-facing retail workers expect. As a result 29% of retailers say they’ve implemented a sign-on bonus and 32% say they now have a referral program.(2) So when and how did this power shift happen?
It’s more than just a retail issue. The ongoing pandemic put things into perspective and compelled many employees across industries to rethink their approach to work. Everywhere, a max exodus occurred as workers reevaluated their careers, placing a higher importance on work-life balance and overall well-being.
A recent Joblist survey found that 22% of job seekers quit their previous job and 73% of currently employed workers said they are actively thinking about quitting their jobs.(3) In other words, the Great Resignation is upon us.
These insights make it clear that businesses need to adapt to gain and retain talent. Retailers in particular face a unique set of challenges, as one in three Americans say they would not want to work for an employer that required them to be onsite full time.(4)
Tactics to gain and keep top retail talent
How can retailers attract top-notch employees that want to be there, in person, to deal with a multitude of changing needs? We’ve got some ideas to help you roll out the red carpet while also keeping your business goals in mind.
Offering cash incentives: Who doesn’t love cash? These monetary rewards are highly sought after by job seekers.
- Sign-on bonus: Offering a sign-on bonus is an attractive way to get noticed by potential employees. And as a one-time payment, it’s a lower-cost option for retailers. Amazon announced in May that it’s offering sign-on bonuses of up to $1,000 in many locations. Just remember that this only gets talent in the door. You’ll have to think of a retention strategy to maintain employee satisfaction.
- Referral bonus: Business leaders may also consider offering a referral bonus, which is not only effective in recruiting talent, but also widens the net, attracting more candidates who are likely a good cultural fit and may need less onboarding when hired.
- Wage increase: Wholesale retailer Costco has a reputation for being one of the best companies to work for in America, and this year they stepped up even further. In March, the company announced increasing its minimum wage to $17 for hourly workers.
Offering quality-of-life benefits: During these globally stressful times, workers are much more responsive to and appreciative of employers who take their well-being seriously.
- Flexible scheduling: Instead of upping your minimum wage or offering cash bonuses, consider putting flexible scheduling on the table. While it may seem like a lot of work to tailor schedules to individual needs, an EY study concluded that nine out of 10 employees want flexibility in where and when they work. For retailers, the “where” may not be possible, but the “when” certainly is.
- Gym memberships: Offering a stipend to take care of physical health is nothing new, but after the highly sedentary lifestyle of early-pandemic lockdowns, staying active is an even higher priority for employees.
- Mental health days: Burnout is real. Providing mental health days allows your employees to take time to focus on their needs and come back to work with renewed energy, which will likely increase productivity. Win-win.
Upskilling and training: We’re going to go ahead and say that this one is a business necessity as much as it is a tactic for attracting retail talent. That’s because the pandemic forever changed how retailers operate. With hybrid and omnichannel experiences proliferating, associates need a diverse skill set to thrive in their roles.
- Technology: Digital is inextricable from any shopping experience these days, and yet three out of four retail associates say their employer doesn’t give them access to the technology they need to do their jobs effectively. Retailers who equip their employees with cutting-edge tech empower workers to do things like issue a return or provide payment options seamlessly, which leads to an enhanced in-store experience for customers too.
- Training: Employees want to feel confident in their ability to deliver. Providing a well-thought-out onboarding process can achieve that, but to retain talent, employers need to establish ongoing training programs that continually elevate employees’ capabilities. This is important as the retail landscape continues to evolve to meet shifting customer needs, but also serves employees who want to work somewhere with growth opportunities.
Winning the battle for retail talent
These days, we expect more from our in-store shopping experiences and, in turn, the retail employees who make it happen. To snag the highly skilled talent businesses need to succeed, leaders will need to get creative.
Considering competitive offerings, like increased compensation, non-monetary benefits, and the latest and greatest tools are just a few ideas to get started. But there are so many innovative ways to meet your hiring needs. Whichever route you decide to take, make sure you can afford to keep your strategy running in the foreseeable future, that it aligns with your business goals, and above all, that it prioritizes people—both your employees and your customers.
KrisAnne Madaus is a NY-based copy and content writer at Zip who has served various clients in the tech, data analytics, and consulting arenas throughout her writing career. She enjoys creating content that helps business leaders foster innovation in retail, ecommerce, and management.