Do retailers need a different retention strategy for older workers?
According to a recent McKinsey survey of U.S. retail workers, a lack of supportive colleagues was the leading cause of attrition for those 45 and older while ranking as the eighth most important factor for those under 35.
Issues around supportive colleagues include feeling unfairly treated, overworked or working with unreliable people. By comparison, the top driver of attrition for retail workers under 35, lack of career development, was the fifth most important factor for employees 45 and older.
Retail’s workforce skews young. The average age of an employed retail cashier is 33 years old, according to career guidance site Zippia.
For retailers, the biggest opportunity may be related to changes in retirement age. Many Americans in their sixties and seventies continue to work as life expectancy rates rise. Aging boomers often work to stay mentally sharp and purpose-driven, and recent inflationary pressures are said to be causing some to delay retirement.
In a recent column for Bloomberg, opinion columnist Amy Yee wrote, “More mature employees also bring a wealth of experience, such as knowing how to deal with customers.”
Ms. Yee said shorter, flexible hours are appealing to older workers looking for flexibility to care for grandchildren and other relatives, and points out that “not all older people will be able to lift heavy loads or stand for long periods.” She also said many are looking to learn new skills.
In a recent column for Harvard Business Review, professors led by the University of Southern California’s Paul Irving wrote that frontline businesses looking to attract older workers need to shift their focus from “transactional relationships with employees to relationships of empathy and understanding.”
Their survey of 35,000 older U.S. employees found many looking for roles with social purpose. Prof. Irving wrote, “Organizations in every industry can elevate purpose and design more meaningful roles.”
Older workers are also looking for effective communication and awareness of ageism bias that are both often shortcomings with younger managers. More than two-thirds of the older survey respondents further prioritize camaraderie. Prof. Irving wrote, “A fun-loving workplace where employees enjoy each other’s company can mean a lot to the frontline experience.”
- How retailers can attract and retain frontline talent amid the Great Attrition (study) – McKinsey
- The Great Attrition in frontline retail — and what retailers can do about it (podcast) – McKinsey
- Retail Cashier Demographics And Statistics In The US – Zippia
- Every Business Could Use a Granfluencer – Bloomberg/The Washington Post
- 7 Principles to Attract and Retain Older Frontline Workers – Harvard Business Review
- Older and unappreciated: Workers over 50 face a rough time on the job – USA Today
- Older Employees’ Retirement Expectations Face Headwinds – SHRM
- Dove and Wendy’s battle ageism – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retention efforts differ significantly for older retail workers versus younger ones? What suggestions would you have for reducing turnover among workers 45 and older?