Retail companies are in hot water as high staff turnover rates from the 2019 slump, which saw shops close and sales dwindle, are expected to continue this year.

Research from quality assurance improvement platform EvaluAgent confirms what retail companies are concerned about – high turnover rates will continue in the industry. The survey found that more than a quarter or 38% of retail customer service staff are less happy and more likely to be looking for jobs this January. This can cost an additional £201,757,500 to companies in staff hiring, training, and business loss.

In this article, we will discuss the potential causes and threats behind the increasing employee turnover in the sector, and what your business can do to mitigate this risk.

UK Retail Decline and Staff Turnover

Last year saw the lowest point of UK retail in 24 years as sales dipped and high street shops went belly up. British Retail Consortium’s CEO Helen Dickenson told The Guardian that total sales growth slipped by 0.1% in 2019. Most notable is the 12% store vacancy in the high street, and thousands of shops closing, including 39 big names. This alone resulted in 140,000 staff losing their jobs, and more remain at risk. 

While there are numerous factors involved in this decline, including the rise of online stores and increasing industry consolidation, high staff turnover is both a factor and an effect of this “perfect storm” in retail. When a position is vacant, it costs companies 25% in overtime pay and another in hiring temporary staff. 

Moreover, being understaffed or having a large portion of your staff undertrained can tax your employees physically and mentally. Already, workplace exhaustion is creating costs and problems of its own. It has also contributed to the increasing need for quality mental healthcare in the UK. That’s why employee retention is pivotal for companies, especially in retail where brick and mortar shops require particular skills to navigate.

Improving Staff Retention

As mentioned above, high staff turnover can hurt your business as well as your employees’ wellbeing. Luckily, there are known strategies that you can employ to improve staff retention.

Retention Plan

A well-rounded staff retention plan should be in place. While financial incentives and an increase in remuneration packages are of great help, the EvaluAgent cited above notes that they only affect a portion of employee decisions. Only 51% of surveyed retail staff said that it could compel them to stay at the company they work in. What’s increasingly clear, however, is the direct correlation between employee engagement and retention. Numerous studies have shown that engaged employees are not only more productive but are more likely to be loyal to their company. So, retention programs should focus on increasing engagement.

Learn from your existing staff

Employee resignations and turnover happens. But when it does, you have to make the most of it. Barry Lenson of Comeet recommends paying attention to exit interviews and what employees say in them. This could prove insightful for making concrete steps and plans in improving relations and reversing staff turnover. Use it as a powerful feedback mechanism to guide your retention programs.

Staff training increases motivation

Long-Term research from UK’s Middlesex University for Work-Based Learning revealed that 74% of employees find the lack of training a demotivating factor. Staff feel less engaged when they’re not progressing in their career path in the company. This can also offset the impact of volume recruitments prevalent in the industry. Regular staff training helps employees discover and excel in the areas they are good at.

Non-financial rewards

Schemes such as loyalty bonuses, productivity incentives, healthcare coverage, and even tuition refunds have also helped increase employee retention in other retail companies. Programs such as apprenticeships and mentoring can also be utilised as a reward to employees with potential.

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