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Disconnect Between Retail Workers and Head Offices in Canada a Major Issue Leading to Turnover: Report

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A new report by Nudge, a mobile communications platform, has found that there’s a big disconnect between retail workers and their head offices.

The Deskless Report: Retail Edition found that 68 per cent of retail workers said feedback is very or extremely important to them, but 37 per cent of workers don’t feel heard by their organization.

Other key findings include:

  • 81 per cent of retail leaders feel they’re sending out meaningful, quality communications, while 59 per cent of retail workers said the communications they receive are somewhat to not-at-all useful; and
  • 27 per cent of retail leaders stated turnover was their biggest challenge, with 37 per cent of polled retail workers saying they want to quit their jobs due to a combination of poor management, pay and benefits and poor communication.
Jordan Ekers

“Retail can’t escape the impact of The Great Resignation and corporate leadership is finally catching on,” said Jordan Ekers, Co-founder and COO of Nudge. “Turnover and resignations are still on the rise because frontline retail workers want better. Better communications, better feedback, better engagement and a better employee experience. It’s time retail leaders listened and it seems that they now are.

“It’s absolutely been a long-standing issue. If you look at any employee engagement survey in retail over the last 15 to 20 years, communication engagement, recognition and relationship with managers are the three largest drivers of an individual’s likelihood to stay with the business. So it’s been a very long-standing issue.

“The reason why it has now been prioritized is with the introduction of COVID the need to invest in tools to support your frontline employees to have them be more engaged at work is now the number one priority that retailers are trying to solve for because of the labour market that they’re operating in. I think it’s been a foundational problem that’s existed which is we need to find better ways to engage, communicate, empower our workforce. Introduce COVID, massive strain on this workforce. We now have a labour market that every brand is trying to figure out how they attract, retain and develop their talent.”

Uniqlo Hiring Sign at CF Toronto Eaton Centre – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Ekers said retail brands have recognized that they need to prioritize the way that they support their people and that is no longer just competitive compensation. 

“There’s so much more to it. Fortunately for us, we started our business eight years ago on this premise and we’ve seen some pretty substantial growth since COVID landed,” added Ekers.

Lindsey Goodchild

In the report, Lindsey Goodchild, Nudge CEO, said retail organizations have been forever changed coming out of the pandemic.

“There’s a need for operational agility like never before. The expectations of consumers have been heightened to a level we’ve never seen. There’s a labor shortage impacting virtually every organization. And, of course, frontline workforces are finally in the spotlight as the essential, incredibly hardworking employees that they’ve always been,” she said. 

“These workers can do incredible things with the right tools, knowledge, and support. So, what’s the state of the retail workforce? We have some work to do. As we come out of this challenging period, it’s time to take a hard look at who this workforce is, what they want, and how we can support them to help us rebuild – and thrive.”

The report said turnover is the number one challenge facing retailers with 27 per cent citing that problem. Revenue and productivity are also top of mind, with 23 per cent and 17 per cent of retail leaders choosing them as their top challenge, respectively. 

“This highlights the struggle of organizations to return to ‘normal’ post-pandemic. Retailers also indicated communication remains a major challenge; in fact, they said it’s the number one barrier between head office and workers. More specifically, the biggest communication challenges facing leaders are knowledge retention and finding ways to share real-time info – two critical hurdles to overcome for any frontline organization,” added the report. 

Ekers said the needs of retail workers have evolved. They have career goals, a hunger for community, and opinions about how to make organizations better. 

“To get the most out of workers, we need to treat them like partners – like the vital assets they are. It’s time for retailers to finally shake off the deskbound legacies that have stuck around for far too long. Time and time again, we see deskbound technology causing problems in frontline organizations: it’s too slow, too computer-focused, too ill-suited to the needs of the retail worker. For retailers to truly thrive, they need to embrace the two-way, real-time information sharing that their workers desperately need. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.”

Ekers said frontline workers in retail have become somewhat disenfranchised with their love for retail because of the pressure that was placed on them with all the safety protocols during the pandemic.

“Every single brand out there right now is trying to find unique ways to build their brand in the marketplace so that it becomes a place of choice where workers want to go . . . Not only is it compensation but it’s building a culture where you have a sense of purpose. It’s providing workers the tools so that they can better communicate and provide feedback. You just want to make work easier, more fun and more connected to the brand,” he said.

Ekers said the labour issue is going to be a longer-term situation than a short-term blip in time. Employees have heightened expectations today for what their relationship looks like with their brand that they have ever had before. As a result, brands are now needing to invest a lot more money in the way they support their people and empower people in order to attract and retain them.

“The cost of attrition in the first 30, 60, 90 days is such an impact on a brand,” he said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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