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5 Key Strategies for Retaining Retail Employees

Amy Watts
Amy Watts

Retaining staff is a pain point for employers in nearly every industry right now, but retail is an area that continues to be heavily affected by the so-called “Great Resignation”. 

49% of retailers say that their biggest challenge over the next year will be hiring and retaining employees, as the average employee turnover rate in this area is close to 60%.

Losing employees in this sector is costly - not just thanks to lost investments into sourcing and hiring talent, but also in terms of the impact this has on retailers’ ability to provide a high quality of service to their increasingly fickle customer bases. 

While churn may seem inevitable in the retail industry, there is a solution to be found. Read on to find out the root causes of retail employee turnover, and five key strategies we recommend to boost employee engagement and retention.How to Retain your Retail Employees: The Ultimate Guide

Why is retention a concern in retail?

Retail is a huge industry: nearly 16 million people work retail jobs in the US, which equates to roughly one in 10 working Americans. With such a large, dispersed workforce comes plenty of challenges - but why is employee retention so pressing?

Statistics show that retail employees leave their roles at a rate that’s over four times higher than the average churn rate in all other industries, a phenomenon which costs retailers more than $19 billion in activities related to recruiting, hiring and training, as well as 230 million days of lost productivity.

The highest turnover rates are found among hourly employees, 65% of whom end up leaving their jobs. Replacing these workers costs businesses a full 16% of their annual salary, and has a hefty impact on the morale of remaining staff who must deal with constantly shuffling teams and retraining new joiners. 

Retention is a problem that is multi-faceted, and which can go on to impact all areas of a retail business. Without experienced and motivated staff, maintaining store processes and providing consistent levels of customer service is a real challenge. Having to continuously source and train new employees only adds to the strain.


Why do retail employees churn?

So we know that churn is a pressing issue in retail, but why is this sector in particular so susceptible to it?

The retail industry is notorious for long, unsociable hours, low wages and having to deal with unruly customers, but financial incentives aren’t enough to retain in-store employees if they don’t feel valued or supported by the company they work for. 

The key issues in retail are the same as in many other industries: they stem from a lack of information and communication. Employees are often thrown into the deep end thanks to weak onboarding programs which do not familiarize them with company procedure or where they can go to find support. We know that employees who experience poor onboarding are two times more likely to look for a new role, yet many retailers fail at the first hurdle due to a lack of resources.

Failure to recognize employees for their work is also damaging to retention, especially in a sector where more than half of workers say they’re on the brink of burnout as a result of their jobs. Without verbal or monetary recognition of their efforts - and the instilled sense that their work matters to the wider company - employees are less likely to be motivated in their roles, and less likely to want to stick around.

While issues with communication, information gaps and lack of recognition can be found in any sector, combining this with the physical and mental toll that retail work can take is a recipe for high churn rates.

However, there are solutions. Here are five strategies which are proven to aid retention and engagement among retail employees.


5 strategies to retain your retail employees

1. Seek out (and act on) feedback

The first step in retaining your staff is listening to what they need, and ensuring that they feel heard. Retail staff in particular feel disconnected from their employers, with 41% saying they don’t feel consistently heard when providing feedback to headquarters. 

In order to foster a culture of loyalty and engagement, employers need to include their employees in decision making and remain informed about what they want and need in order to feel happier in their jobs. This means providing regular opportunities for meaningful feedback from their employees, and committing to acting on that feedback.

“The best brands have taken major steps in reaching out to employees to get their voice and rewarding them for their ideas, then using those ideas to actually affect change.” Paul Warner PhD, VP in Customer and Employment Experience Strategy at InMoment.

 2. Recognize your employees

As we mentioned earlier, failure to properly recognize employees’ efforts can be disastrous for retention.

Investing time and resources in recognizing positive contributions to the workplace has real value when it comes to employee satisfaction. As many as 82% of employees are happier when they’re recognized in the workplace, and those who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to quit.

Though verbal recognition is important, finding more concrete ways to show appreciation will have an even greater impact. Whether it’s naming employees of the month or introducing personalized reward programs, going the extra mile to show that you value your employees and the work they do for your company is essential.

3. Offer flexible work options

Flexible working has been a key trend across all industries and workplaces, and retail is no exception. In fact, retail workers value flexibility over every other benefit, including pay.

Many of the sector’s leading companies still rely on outdated, manual scheduling methods, leaving employees unable to plan more than a week advance and having to cover for colleagues at the last minute. Emerging tools such as Quinyx provide employers with an opportunity to automate this process with intelligent scheduling and AI forecasting, and allow employees increased flexibility and autonomy in their roles.

Navigating Business Challenges in Retail and Hospitality: Insights and Strategies for 2024

4. Invest in tech

Speaking of outdated tech, it’s not just scheduling that needs a refresh.

Digitizing HR and workforce management processes not only improves productivity, it also means that employees are less likely to have a bad shift. Removing unnecessary friction with regards to payslips, scheduling, holiday allowance, benefits and more allows employees to focus on their work, while making the overall experience at your company more of a positive one.

With better tech also comes better communication, as instant messaging tools keep employees up to date with new policies and incentives, and foster greater transparency as a result.

“Look at your employees in a different way, not just as store staff, because that mundanity gets to everyone. Use technology to empower your store employees, as opposed to replacing them. In independent retail, you still need that touchpoint to add a human element even during virtual interactions.” -Hemant Chavan, Founder, Brik + Clik

5. Strengthen training programs

A staggering 32% of retail employees say they don’t receive any formal training in their roles, which is higher than any other industry surveyed. 

Without access to the right information, employees cannot perform their jobs. This isn’t just damaging from a business perspective - it means that workers cannot see value in their work, and aren’t motivated to progress. 

Especially as technology in this space continues to advance, retailers will need to train and upskill their employees in order to provide the experiences that customers demand, and the opportunities for growth which 91% of employees who leave a role say they’re looking for. As a result, 40% of retailers plan to invest in training their store staff in 2022. 

Providing employees with the right information is important for productivity, but providing it in the right way is crucial for retention. Mobile-based training programs are essential for a workforce that’s constantly on the go, delivering relevant, bite-sized learning content straight to workers’ mobile phones which they can complete in their own time, and in a location that best suits them.

Retaining employees in the retail space may seem like an uphill battle, but understanding exactly what your staff need to succeed and leveraging technology to do so will already put you in good stead. 

At eduMe, we help deskless businesses to boost workforce retention and engagement through mobile learning, giving your people seamless access to training content right at the point they need it.

Get in touch with us now to see how we can help you boost retention 👇