Retail Employee retention and engagement

Retail Employee Retention: 5 Employee Retention Strategies for the Retail Sector

Nov 11, 2022 6:11:41 PM

Employee experience | Employee engagement

No other industry has been more impacted by the Great Resignation than retail. Retail employee retention has always been challenging, but it has reached new heights in the past year. Attrition rates have even started impacting leadership: 63% of managers said they're considering leaving soon. 

Employee retention strategies for the retail sector are no longer optional, as many workers are showing their discontent by walking out the door. Retailers that can keep employees engaged and motivated will have a significant advantage over competitors. Yet, many companies struggle to understand how to increase employee retention in retail. In fact, 49% of retailers surveyed said their biggest challenge this year would be attracting and retaining workers. 

Here are some reasons why retail employee turnover is hurting many businesses, plus five ways to improve retail employee retention.

What is Retail Employee Retention?

Employee retention is a business's ability to avoid worker turnover by keeping employees productive and engaged. Retailers prevent turnover by creating positive work cultures and showing appreciation to their employees. In short, it's how well a company keeps workers around for the long term. 

As more employees opt to leave their jobs, retail organizations are forced to look critically at their current retention strategies and how they impact their turnover rates.

What is the Impact of Low Employee Retention in Retail?

Why is retention in retail so important? High turnover rates result in a number of poor business outcomes. The most significant impacts of low retention include:

  • High costs. Retailers with low retention rates have to spend more money than those who keep their employees happy and engaged. Recruiting, hiring, and training new talent is a significant expense. Plus, there is lost productivity as new employees are brought up to speed. Researchers found the hiring process costs companies, on average, up to $4,425 per employee. With regular turnover, these costs can add up.

  • Poor customer experience. Your customers suffer when there aren't enough staff members around. Tracking down an overworked employee will make your customers frustrated and more likely to leave for a store where employees are engaged and helpful. Plus, more experienced employees have the knowledge to create a better customer experience. New employees are not immediately up and running as they are still learning and gaining experience.

  • Poor employee experience. For the workers that stay, high turnover is a challenge. They have to deal with a revolving door of colleagues, which impacts the team dynamic. Plus, they have to cover while leadership looks for new staff members and contend with a bigger workload.

On the other hand, retailers with high retention rates experience a serious competitive advantage. Research shows that leading retailers have twice as motivated employees as competitors and resign half as often. They benefit from more engaged, knowledgeable, and happier employees, creating a better customer and employee experience.

5 Employee Retention Strategies for the Retail Sector

Pay and benefits are critical to employee satisfaction, but they are not enough on their own to prevent turnover. Retailers need to think long-term and implement real strategies to increase retention. 

1) Provide great onboarding

Onboarding is a retailer’s chance to make a critical first impression. Workers with poor onboarding experience are twice as likely to actively look for a new job than those with a positive experience. Plus, an effective employee onboarding experience is shown to increase retention by 82%. Yet, according to YOOBIC's 2022 Frontline Employee Experience Survey, 49% of frontline workers don’t think that their onboarding prepared them well for their job.

A great onboarding experience should start by building on a foundation of inclusion. Take an employee-centered approach by learning about their preferences and finding ways to integrate them into their training. For example, some employees learn visually, while others learn best by doing.

Promoting team spirit is also a powerful way to improve the onboarding process. Small cohorts of 3-6 people will help create more comradery and lasting bonds. Experienced mentors can also provide new employees with direction and support as they learn their new roles. 

Creating a clear flow of information is another way to build an effective onboarding experience. Conflicting and disorganized information is overwhelming for new employees. Handing over a folder with overlapping, conflicting information will leave the workers feeling confused and only set them up for failure. Instead, ensure your onboarding process gives new hires the information they need only when needed. Creating a smooth process that starts with the most basic information will ensure employees feel more confident in their new roles.

Frontline training and onboarding

2) Offer continuous training and development

Training continues after initial onboarding. Millennial and Gen Z workers want a role where they can learn and grow. Learning and job satisfaction are intricately linked to retail retention. Our survey of frontline employees found that 64% want opportunities for career growth within their current organization. 

Create additional opportunities for your workers to grow in your business. Short refresher courses, development opportunities, and challenges make work more exciting and increase engagement.

Related: Download our 5-step guide to effective training for frontline employees

3) Collect and listen to employee feedback at all levels

As a record number of retail employees quit the industry for good, companies, who take time to learn why and make positive adjustments will be able to retain their talent more successfully. Leaders need to understand why retail employees are particularly vulnerable to churn to make moves to counteract it.

While some employees might venture to voice their discontentment or offer suggestions for growth, many will stay quiet. It’s critical that retailers actively ask for worker input and make it easy for them to respond. Surveys at critical times, such as for new employees or after the busy holiday season, allow employees to offer their insights and feelings. 

Ensure that employees know their insights are valued by following through on them. Ask follow-up questions if you need clarification, and be open to understanding what's working in your business and what isn't. When workers see that leadership follows up on their suggestions, they're more likely to offer feedback in the future.

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4) Invest in employee engagement

There are more tools than ever for retailers to take advantage of to improve staff retention. Retail communication tools, for example, are a large part of employee engagement. They help create a community and sense of belonging when workers can communicate with leaders and each other.

Related: How GANT connect their global community of store associates

5) Make daily jobs more engaging

Whenever possible, eliminate the tasks that make jobs unappealing. Streamline and automate routine and repetitive tasks with tech so employees can focus on their roles' exciting and meaningful parts, such as concentrating on customers. For example, using task management tools to simplify daily routines and checklists and make it easier to prioritize will enable employees to spend more time helping customers and ensuring the store looks great.

Build Long-term Engagement and Motivation

Retail employee retention is a critical component to the success of your business. Businesses that implement effective strategies will prevent turnover and have happier and more effective frontline workers. Motivated and engaged workers create a better company culture and customer experience. Plus, they cost less in the long term than constantly finding, hiring, and training new employees.


Want to find more research-driven strategies to improve retail employee retention? We surveyed 1,400 frontline employees to get their insights and see what employers could do to make them stay. Download our report here

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