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How to tackle issues with staff retention in retail

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Running a retail business during times of recession and economic uncertainty is challenging and it is often the case that employee benefit, welfare and development are placed lower down the priority list, while targets are increased and bigger demands are placed on employees’ time. This can often lead to an increase in staff turnover, costing UK businesses a reported £42 billion per year. The retail sector is largely recognised to have a high turnover of staff, though people are the number one asset of any company and, in many cases, could be the key to a retailer’s survival and future success.

It is not unusual for retailers to experience low morale and motivation among their teams during times of financial hardship. It is inevitable that the anxieties of team leaders will filter through to all levels, resulting in staff questioning the future of their roles and the organisation.

To add to this, employees aren’t seeing the benefits of pay increases and bonuses, yet instead are quite often expected to take on more responsibilities due to cutbacks, which will eventually lead to a decrease in staff loyalty and productivity. If an employee is dissatisfied in their career, they will look elsewhere and the time and effort you have spent embedding your company’s values and culture and investing in nurturing that individual’s talents will be wasted.

Retailers recognise the need to invest in new employees as they start, allowing them to see the benefits in working for their business from the offset and encouraging them to thrive within their role. What they should also consider is the value of maintaining this during the tougher times.

It is important to keep an open line of communication between employees and the management level to enable the employee to feel a valued part of the team. The rumour mill begins when senior team members shut off communication with individual teams and branches and this can encourage the spread of negative feelings throughout the company. By giving staff open, honest and regular updates, they will feel informed and more likely to remain loyal to the business. There should also be a forum for feedback to ensure that individuals’ views are heard.

Rewarding people who have taken on extra responsibility, developed opportunities for the company or contributed something positive is essential. By showing this interest, the employee will feel valued and that the work they do is appreciated, worthwhile, and has a purpose, therefore increasing motivation.

If you have to make redundancies, don’t forget about the people that you retain. It is important that they are informed about the restructure and any changes that implicate their positions – they should be clear on what is expected of them and how they are valuable to turning the fate of the company around. Give people goals and empowerment of the business’ priorities to demonstrate their importance to the company’s success and incentivise positive results.

Many retailers withdraw from learning and development programmes in times of hardship, but, in spite of the financial climate, staff still need to feel that they are learning, and if they don’t get that from your business they may look elsewhere. Encouraging the continuation of development and training programmes for each member of staff will show your commitment to them. Development is also essential when individual job roles have grown or evolved and new roles are required. If you have made redundancies, you may be able to offer remaining team members some training in an area that is now lacking to bridge the gap, rather than simply relying on existing colleagues to take on new responsibilities without any prior experience.

Though it is inevitable that employees move on, ultimately people are more likely to want to remain in their positions during a recession to guarantee job security as far as possible. Therefore, retailers currently having trouble retaining people can apply some simple tips to maximise their staff retention:

  1. Create a tailor made development program for each employee
  2. Create open communication between employees and management
  3. Reinforce your company culture and demonstrate empathy with your employees’ individual goals and values
  4. Make sure employees know what you expect of them by setting goals and being clear on revised remits and job roles. Give them responsibility and autonomy to help your business succeed.
  5. Reward successes wherever possible and showcase talent in order to keep your best people

Finally, it is well documented that people are motivated to succeed when given autonomy, recognition and development, so essentially the best advice for retailers with retention problems is to address these key areas.

Published on Friday 08 November by Editorial Assistant

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