Retailers can reduce turnover by treating employees like consumers

Photo: RetailWire
Mar 28, 2018

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Retailers/CPGs have the second-highest turnover rate across industries at 13 percent per year, according to LinkedIn research. For hourly store employees, turnover has been estimated to be as high as 65 percent.

According to Jay Reilly, senior manager of business development for Deloitte/ConnectMe, workforce management (WFM) solutions help manage employees, but they’re often limited when it comes to providing an engaging experience.

Mr. Reilly shared three steps for retailers to reduce turnover by enabling retailers to build a digital workplace based on interconnectivity between departments:

Provide a “consumer-grade” experience for employees.

Just like shoppers, merchants must give employees the right technology to have all the information they need to succeed.

“Employees use their own smart devices, whether it’s a phone or tablet, and applications on those devices in their personal lives, so they expect that and need that type of tool in the workplace,” Mr. Reilly said. “Generally, they don’t get it” in a retail work environment.

Use personalization tools to provide employees with context for their jobs.

Personalized dashboards that contextualize knowledge articles, task lists and content based on an employee’s role, location and job title can improve the workplace for retail employees, all while making the job less confusing.

“Thanks to Amazon, people expect their preferences to be known, and information that they get back to be related to those preferences,” Mr. Reilly said. “In the employee workplace, a lot of retailers don’t provide that level of personalization for their employees. It’s very general information that they provide their employees, so the employees wonder, ‘Do they really care about me?’”

Embrace workplace flexibility through consumer-style communication channels.

As many as 77 percent of companies believe that e-mail is no longer a viable tool for effective communication, according to a survey from Deloitte and Facebook. Retailers must be more conscious of the communications channels they are using to interact, especially when it comes to manager-to-employee interactions or scheduling.

“The internet is always on for consumers,” Mr. Reilly said. “They want to be able to interact with their company where, when and how they want to.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that retailer employers can reduce turnover by incorporating digital tools and communications into the workplace that associates are used to as consumers? Which of the suggestions mentioned in the article — enabling with technology, personalized communications, consumer-style communications — would do the most to reduce turnover of associates?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Treat employees like you want the customer treated – maybe better. That sets the tone for how employees treat customers."
"Common sense teaches us to treat employees the same as customers are treated, however in many retail businesses, customers are not treated too well..."
"...also enticing your customers to be your future store associates is just as productive!"

Join the Discussion!

15 Comments on "Retailers can reduce turnover by treating employees like consumers"

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Mark Ryski

There’s no need to over-think this. Retailers can reduce turnover by paying their employees fairly, providing decent benefits and creating a work environment where they can learn, grow and advance. Technology is a helpful enabler, but it’s not a panacea. Ultimately it comes down to creating a culture where employees feel valued and care about what they do.

Al McClain

Bingo. Retail employees generally work in small groups and have one or two managers, so in-person communication works better than dashboards or whatever. What’s needed is for the chain-of-command to pay attention and reward store-level employees. Unfortunately, many retailers pay lip-service to the value of store associates while paying top execs 100x what associates make, if not more. Pay a living wage, give the occasional raise and bonus, provide work schedules more than a week in advance, allow for flexibility of schedules, talk to employees the way you would customers. It’s all basic stuff that isn’t done in many cases.

Art Suriano
Whereas I firmly believe technology has a role in today’s retail environment and employees should have access to the internet, technology is not going to reduce turnover by that much, if at all. Why is turnover so high in retail stores? For many, low pay but for most poor working conditions where the employee gets bombarded with a task after task and often are not even allowed much face time with customers. How does that part-time employee feel when all they want is more hours so they can pay their bills, but instead their hours get cut so managers can meet payroll? And how do employees feel when they cannot get a raise, and they read about how their top executives took home bonuses in the millions? We can delude ourselves all we want thinking that technology is going to solve all of our problems, but it’s not. Look at the companies with a low turnover like Wegmans. Why is the turnover low? Because they have the right employee culture. The company is run by… Read more »
Shep Hyken

Treat employees like you want the customer treated – maybe better. That sets the tone for how employees treat customers. It sets the tone for the culture of the business. There is an emotional paycheck that an employee receives. It’s how they are treated, how fulfilled they are in their jobs, etc. That’s every bit as important as what they are paid.

Frank Riso

I have spoken to so many retailers over the years about technology in the retail work place. So I absolutely agree that employers can reduce turnover with technology. Simple questions like, how much is this? Do you have any more of these? Can you tell me where the jelly is? All of these can be answered but, more importantly, they can be answered by everyone with a mobile device. This can reduce the frustration a sales associate feels when they cannot help the customer.

Enabling with technology helps store managers and their employees stay as connected as the customer is. If an item is out-of-stock, having a mobile device helps the associate place the order online so that no sale is ever lost. I can go on and on with this topic. Empowering the employee with technology is a step in the right direction.

Chris Buecker

It is much less about technology but much more about knowledge and fair treatment. Take the technical consumer goods retail or the DIY sector — if you purport as a retailer to provide consumers with excellent service, you need to have knowledgeable sales associates. A good example is B&H Photo. They train their staff very intensively. As a result, the staff on the sales floor can give superb product advice. This is what the customer is looking for. Service and excellence in advice.

Neil Saunders

Low staff turnover is a function of treating people well, ensuring they are engaged, giving them the opportunity to contribute and allowing them to share in the rewards of success. Digital tools may help accomplish some of these things but they are a means to an end, not the end in and of itself.

Ralph Jacobson

Not only do I agree that treating employees as your customers is a great thing, but also enticing your customers to be your future store associates is just as productive!

Lee Kent

Treating employees with respect, giving them the tools they need to get the job done and a good “Voice of the Employee” program go a long way. For my 2 cents.

David Biernbaum

Common sense teaches us to treat employees the same as customers are treated, however in many retail businesses, customers are not treated all too well. I think there is a direct and indirect correlation. If the retailer has a culture where the customer is treated like royalty, then customers will behave nicer to employees, and employees will enjoy working in the store.

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
4 years 9 months ago

The formula here should be simple — treat store associates well + pay them a fair wage + provide decent benefits + give them opportunities to contribute and provide input + give them feedback = happy associate that delivers a great customer experience. Retailers should ask themselves, if I’m willing to provide something special to my customers, why shouldn’t I provide it to my store staff that directly interacts and serves those customers? Technology can and will help, but it won’t replace any of the items I just listed. It’s just the icing on the cake.

Kai Clarke

In short the answer is “yes” treating your employees like your customers will reduce turnover. However, it will also make for happier employees, a better workplace and higher performance levels. Focusing on satisfaction, rather than costs, for employees, shifts the corporate balance into a high-level employee environment where happiness and satisfaction, become key measurements rather than pay or expenses. Peripheral components like great training, onboarding, positive workplace environments, etc. all become part of this approach, since they are indirectly or directly linked to employee satisfaction. What is not to like about this approach?

Craig Sundstrom

Turnover can reduced by paying more wages. Unless this article is implicitly acknowledging that and offering these as follow-ups, I don’t think the suggestions will prove much more than window dressing.

Rebecca Fitts

This is such an important topic as retail continues to evolve. Now more than ever the retail employee plays a critical role in the store experience and treating them as the critical player they are on this team is hugely important. I like the personalization tool — this could also measure how much they’ve sold and connect in-store sales to online sales and incentives for staff.

Allison McGuire

I do think technology plays a big role for the next generation of retail employees. Encouraging them to photograph products and post online, creating social groups for local customers, and sharing on their personal accounts gives them ownership and fits into their comfort zone. I often see Millennials posting about sales and events happening at their workplace. Those people are invested and likely to remain at their jobs for a longer period of time.

"Treat employees like you want the customer treated – maybe better. That sets the tone for how employees treat customers."
"Common sense teaches us to treat employees the same as customers are treated, however in many retail businesses, customers are not treated too well..."
"...also enticing your customers to be your future store associates is just as productive!"

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