Uncover The Unexplored Element of Employee Retention in Retail

| Retail

Grocery Retail Employee

Spoiler alert – the unexplored element of employee retention in retail? It’s technology.

Employee retention has been a major focus over the last few years, with retailers pulling all the levers around salaries, benefits, flexibility, promoting brand values and more to minimize churn and retain experienced workers

But read on, and we’ll explain why new research shows that technology might be one area that hasn’t been given enough focus, how important it can be and what you can do to make your store associates happier.

Retail labor state of play

Retail has had a lot to deal with over the years. Changing consumer preferences, the pandemic, and macroeconomic factors presented different challenges. Some of these have directly and indirectly impacted frontline workers and affected employee retention in retail.

The ‘Great Resignation’ has been and gone, but the sector still suffers from shortages.
Let’s look at some numbers.

  • Mckinsey reported (citing JOLTS June 2023 data) that the North American retail industry had approximately four million more open positions than candidates searching for work in June 2023
  • Data (Q4 2023) from the British Retail Consortium reported 2.8 million people employed in retail and 102,000 vacancies.
60%

Retail suffers from a reported 60% churn rate, which indicates that more than half of store associates will change roles next year.

Source: McKinsey & Company

Offering enticing salaries and benefits packages is one way to attract and retain employees. However, as workers are a retailer’s most significant ongoing investment, these packages can be costly and lack differentiation.

Report findings

In our 2024 research report – Frontline Retail Revealed, we surveyed 2,000 store associates to determine what factors impact employee retention in retail and their attitudes to technology – specifically the main devices used to perform daily tasks such as inventory scanning.

The findings were expected and surprising in equal measure.

It’s no surprise to see salary and work-life balance top the charts regarding reasons to stay with a current employer. But what did interest us was how high the percentages were for easy-to-use technology.

Here are the top reasons to stay (% rank 1)

Retail Retention Workplace Loyalty graph

And the top reasons to leave (% rank 1)

Retail Retention reasons to leave graph

14% said providing easy-to-use technology was their number one reason for staying in their role, and 8% said frustrating technology would be their number one reason for leaving.

Having nearly a tenth of retail’s global workforce at risk of walking out due to poor-fit technology or workflow frustrations demands attention.

Diving deeper into how devices impact employee retention in retail, 69% of respondents said the devices they use are an important factor in their choosing to stay in their current role.

2/3

Over two-thirds of respondents rated devices as an important factor when choosing to stay in their role.

Source: Scandit 2024 Primary Research

Other factors linked to when associates use devices for daily tasks also received significant interest and would cause one in ten workers to leave:

  • Tedious work tasks that lack variety, such as manually scanning and counting inventory.
  • Dealing with demanding customers and not having access to the required information to serve them confidently.

Boosting employee retention in retail

So, how can retailers mitigate against those factors and differentiate from rival businesses regarding loyalty and retaining workers?

First, a few factors found in our research are worth mentioning:

  • Consider the different needs of different workers. Our findings suggest the average worker is age 40, has worked in retail for 4 years and has been in their current role for 3 years. But a significant percentage have been there less than 6 months and are aged 66+.
  • Invest in the right innovations. The most valued device features are multitasking (70% top 3 rank) and access to real-time information (67% top 3 rank), making sure tools are fit for purpose has a big impact.
  • Focus on training and support. Over 1 in 10 said training levels and support were poor. With a quarter of associates taking 5 weeks or more to be proficient, better and higher quality training can bring this time down.

Second, it’s clear that the devices associates use play a huge part in their satisfaction. Investing in modern devices that associates can use to automate tasks or digitize processes could not only help with the increased workload but also eliminate tedious tasks and cut frustrations—all cited as potential reasons to leave by many associates.

The data shows that 60% of respondents feel that their employers have invested in technology to empower and help them do their jobs better.

However, this means 40% don’t see their employer investing in their tech needs and 20% actively feel it’s not a priority for their employer.

A key takeaway for retailers is to find devices that can best support their current tasks and act as a platform for further innovation.

Rather than incurring the high cost of new hardware, retailers should look for ways to augment their capabilities and regularly roll out new features that boost employee retention in retail by making their lives easier.