Retail Workforce Management and the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is hitting home in the retail industry. Here’s why a renewed focus on workforce management (with worker-first scheduling leading the way) could help stem the tide.

The phenomenon has a frightening name: the “Great Resignation.” It’s the recent trend that’s seeing employees leave their jobs in record numbers in search of more meaningful work, flexibility, or better pay. Pandemic burnout is the spark behind the movement, and it’s caused many to question whether their current role or company is the right fit. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that 4.3 million people left their jobs in August 2021 alone. 

Retail is certainly no stranger to personnel change. It’s traditionally one of the industries with the highest turnover rate. Recruiting and hiring employees is more important than ever, so that’s challenge No. 1; keeping them engaged and empowered follows close on its heels. Frontline workers are essential to a good first impression for customers, but it can be a challenge to keep them equipped and well trained so they can focus on a great customer experience for everyone who walks in the door. 

Retail frontline employees had it especially rough during the pandemic—store closures caused over 2 million people to be laid off in early 2020. If you were lucky enough to keep your job, the stress level was extremely high as the virus spread and the situation changed daily. And to top it off, retail pay often isn’t enough to make it worth staying in these high-stress roles. So frontline retail workers are speaking with their feet; BLS reported that 721,000 workers in the retail category called it quits in August 2021, a significant jump from the 505,000 who did the same in August 2020. And with many employers finding themselves strapped for staff as stores return to pre-pandemic capacity and hours, many workers are not simply returning to the same situation—sharpening the need to increase salaries and improve the worker experience. 

Attracting and Retaining Frontline Workers

All this might seem insurmountable for retailers, but there are a few key aspects to the situation that, if improved, could make a big difference in attracting and retaining frontline workers. The critical piece is a better worker experience through better workforce management, which includes scheduling, payroll, time and attendance, and absence management. Paired with a focus on personalized learning experiences, career journeys, and skills building, retailers that make strides in these areas can stay ahead of the common reasons that employees walk away. And it’s vital that retailers do stay ahead of them, since the impacts of this movement are expected to be felt in the long run. 

While all of these areas are important, let’s zero in on scheduling. It’s especially important because of the shifting nature of retail store schedules. For many people, the rhythms of work and life have changed (perhaps permanently) since the start of the pandemic. Retail employees are no exception, and the ability to manage schedules easily when life happens is paramount. So retailers should consider systems such as Workday Scheduling, which makes it easy for employees to manage it all—and to do it on their mobile devices. 

For example, Workday Scheduling uses artificial intelligence to generate schedules that accommodate both employee preference and availability and business needs. Swapping shifts when needed is easy with open shift boards. This type of convenience and flexibility can play a key role in whether an employee stays on board or not.  

When thinking about how to offset the effects of the “Great Resignation” and build a workforce that’s engaged and empowered, retailers should focus their energy on improving their workforce management (with scheduling leading the way) to see the difference it can make.

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