Retailers are feeling the squeeze. So are their frontline employees.
On the one hand, the Great Resignation has only gotten worse. Korn Ferry now reports a 75.8% turnover rate for hourly in-store positions across the board. On the other hand hiring to fill empty frontline roles is well below what’s necessary to keep locations running smoothly. “It’s a tough labor market and younger generations are exploring other career paths,” according to Deloitte’s Rod Sides. Retailers need workers on the frontline, but it’s harder than ever to keep them from quitting. Is something new going on?
As the CEO of Glassdoor, Christian Sutherland-Wong, observes, “now millions of workers are reevaluating their expectations of employers.” For the last few years, frontline employees have been reminded of how essential they are — and now they want more. To keep workers from quitting in ever greater numbers, retailers need to find out what that is.
McKinsey asked associates and managers to rank their top workplace dealbreakers. Their answers provided an impossible wish list for retailers to fulfill. The number one frustration was the lack of flexibility inherent in hourly shift work. Little opportunity for career growth or advancement was next on the list. The need for better support for employee health and well-being was third. Compensation, generally assumed to be the primary concern, ranked lower than these three aspects of the frontline employee experience.
Future-focused retailers are turning to mobile employee communications apps in hopes of providing a more attractive workplace that will help them improve retention. High turnover is expensive, disruptive, and destabilizing. Mobile technology makes it possible for companies to improve employee experience to maintain a positive customer experience.
Real-time mobile access to schedules redefines flexibility for frontline retail workers
The survey revealed frontline employees want more flexibility above everything else. The fact is, shifts need to be filled and schedules abided by to keep locations functioning and profitable. Last minute absences make life miserable for managers and coworkers alike. Providing flexibility doesn’t have to mean allowing employees to work whenever they want. It’s providing the option to have the ability to accommodate family emergencies, doctor appointments, or sick days without getting one’s salary docked or being fired.
The main beneficiaries are the schedulers. Businesswire reports managers overwhelmingly feel scheduling would be more efficient if they had the ability to connect directly with employees through the same app that posts schedules. The Legion WFM mobile app gives managers the ability to send alerts when shifts become available, and reach out to team members to fill them in real-time. Mobile-friendly workforce management platforms like Beekeeper provide a central workplace hub team members can access 24/7 right from their phones.
“Retail is the only industry in which flexibility ranks as the number-one driver of why you might leave your job.” – David Fuller, Associate Partner at McKinsey
Mobile employee communication apps enable managers to adjust schedules and connect with team members in a centralized digital space. This means more schedule stability, and less shift ghosting, and most importantly, less quitting out of frustration.
Mobile-first learning solutions support associates on their first day and every day
Retailers rely on fast, effective onboarding to get new hires up to speed quickly. Retailers wonder if a comprehensive approach to career development for frontline employees is a worthwhile investment.
It can be, according to Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner Craig Rowley. Frontline employees appreciate the chance to grow to build a better future for themselves and their families. “Our survey found that the top reason people leave their retail positions is for a better opportunity or promotion.” Employers who tout upskilling and career development opportunities improve both recruitment and retention. Career development enables organizations to move people with frontline knowledge and experience into management roles.
Lowe’s is an example of a large retailer that invests in career development as a retention strategy. They partnered with frontline learning leader Axonify to create Lowe’s U, a one-stop shop for personalized, bite-sized training, communications, and on-demand job aids and resources. Associates have access from the devices they’re already using, so they can keep the learning going without leaving the floor.
Among the growing list of frontline-friendly mobile LMS platforms, eduMe and Yoobic stand out for how easy they are to use. They enable learning leaders to track progress, refresh training, and update content to quickly upskill employees on new technology and tasks. A central hub allows tracking, reminders, and timely recognition to keep employees engaged. Micro-learning modules employees easily access on their own devices are an easy way to help workers level up during the workday.
“We’ve really adapted a mentality at Lowe’s that training is continuous.”—Jamie Furey, VP of Talent Management, Learning and Diversity at Lowe’s
Mobile employee communication reimagines employee health and wellness initiatives
The pandemic brought the importance of health and wellness support to the forefront for everybody. As stores reopened it became clear that a general sense of uncertainty at work and at home had taken a toll on customer-facing workers. Mobile apps designed to address health and wellness make it easy for retailers to support customer-facing employees with empathy and without adding to the burden of frontline managers.
Wellable is a frontline-friendly platform that connects employees to ways to support their health with self-evaluations, encouragement to schedule preventive health care visits, wellness challenges, and incentives. Employees appreciate subscriptions to apps like Calm or Headspace to help them handle stress. Social tools, bulletin boards, and feedback portals in employee intranet apps like Blink and Beezy help associates connect with the company, the brand, and each other.
“If compensation becomes table stakes, employees look for additional pieces—like well-being and flexibility—to stay at a job versus go look for a new one.” —Annie Valkova, McKinsey associate partner, retail operations
It’s easier than ever for retailers to provide frontline employees the schedule visibility, career growth opportunities, and health and wellness support they need to stay
Frontline workers know they are essential to their company’s success. They can’t help it if retailers are feeling the squeeze between high turnover and the challenge of recruiting replacements in the current labor market. They simply can’t afford to settle for a job that makes them feel invisible, disposable, and burnt out—and they don’t have to.
New mobile tech that is developed specifically for the frontline worker creates an employee experience that inspires loyalty. They make it possible to offer flexibility, upskilling, opportunities for a better future, and holistic wellness support. The number of technology choices is growing and provide future-focused retailers more ways to thrive now and into the future.
This is an original piece of work from Barb Shimasaki, B2B writer. Find Barb on LinkedIn.