As retailers continue to emerge from the pandemic and gear up for the 2022 holiday season, the challenges of retail hiring and retaining employees are becoming increasingly apparent.
First, there’s the struggle to find employees to fill open positions, as the onsite nature of retail jobs has limited the applicant pool.
Then there’s the challenge of keeping current associates happy and fulfilled, all while not overwhelming them due to staffing problems.
Retailers are on the case. According to a Deloitte study, 83% are investing in employee recruitment and retention.
Those issues include reassessing salary but go beyond that to rethinking flexibility and culture, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
The key is to create a culture that’s worthy of employees’ time and energy on its own merit, rather than one in competition with another, such as those exemplified in the gig economy.
At a glance, jobs in the gig economy such as Uber, DoorDash and Instacart are tough to compete against, retail executives acknowledge.
Gig jobs may be considered more attractive than traditional retail positions because they often offer flexible hours for the same (or better) pay.
They successfully attracted workers who were forced to leave their retail jobs when stores closed during pandemic lockdowns, and many don’t want to return.
With a reported 1 million unfilled retail positions available, stores will require some creative solutions to lure back former employees.
During the past two years, many wage earners have reflected on what work means to them individually.
Money is not always tied to feelings of satisfaction and purpose. Many are seeking a better balance between work and their personal lives.
And then there’s the desire to work from home – a request that is impossible to align with the requirements of retailing.
All of that has created the perfect storm of people leaving their current job while seeking work that allows them to live their lives on their own terms.
Executives must therefore think outside the box to attract talent.
The challenge facing leadership is the acknowledgment of the constraints of retail work, while leveraging its advantages.
Those benefits are many times directly influenced, if not created, by employers. Significantly, such advantages must benefit both the employer and the employee.
Developing and promoting clear career paths encourages employee tenure. Employees are not simply seen as filling a shift, but rather, as representatives of their brands.
Offering professional development programs demonstrates to workers that a business wants to invest in them.
They provide the retailer with a trained workforce and the employee with a resume-worthy credential.
Not every company can offer in-house training; some employees may be looking to continue their education more formally, for instance at a college or university.
Tuition assistance options can support those career-advancement goals.
Many workers want reassurance their activities mean something and are valued.
Providing an actionable plan to the next level as well as the education or training needed to get there can promote longevity in the ranks.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Infusing DEI into the fabric of a retail business requires a commitment to investing in staffing.
Deloitte’s research found that 94% of retailers believe employees prefer workplaces that “consider DEI.” That means DEI initiatives should be in place at all levels of a company, from entry-level to the C-suite.
Improving DEI starts with an audit of current recruitment practices to identify gaps in the hiring practices.
Each element of the recruiting process—from job descriptions and candidate outreach to employee satisfaction surveys, should be evaluated.
Just as a retailer would promote its career advancement opportunities, it should also be transparent about its DEI goals and initiatives.
The two strategies can work collaboratively, helping traditionally disadvantaged groups receive training and education that can provide entrée into the elusive C-suite.
In a post-pandemic world, retailers must reevaluate what they offer employees beyond salary and standard benefits.
The past two years have given the workforce an opportunity to contemplate how they want to work, and what they want to receive for that effort.
Retailers now must reevaluate what it will take to get associates back into stores while developing a commitment to their staff as well as to their bottom line.