Struggling with Associate Engagement? Follow These 3 Tips

Two associates in a grocery store, engaged with their work and stocking shelves.
Photo credit: dusanpetkovic1 -

According to a 2022 analysis, the turnover rate for hourly in-store retail positions is 75.8%. In addition, 63% of frontline retail managers are thinking about leaving their roles soon — and some even said they want to leave the industry entirely.

The onus is now on HQ — executive leaders specifically — to ensure they’re investing in their store communities. After all, these are the people cultivating shopper relationships and driving the majority of retail sales. Not to mention that more Gen Zers are joining and progressing in the workforce — and these individuals have increasingly high expectations of their employers.

In a recent special report, industry experts shared their insights on how retailers can invest in the programs and benefits that will reduce employee turnover and chart associates on a path to progress within the organization. The top three takeaways are:

Address the core “hierarchy of needs”

Inflationary pressures and the rising cost of living mean associates are looking for roles that offer competitive pay. But it’s not just about hourly wages; it’s about creating a robust package that includes a variety of benefits, including health insurance packages, access to higher education and even the ability to participate in environmental and social causes. For example, Verizon has built its benefits package to ensure it addresses the financial, social, emotional and physical wellbeing of employees.

“We put great effort into ensuring that our benefits package resonates with employees’ needs,” said Kelley Kurtzman, SVP of Consumer Field Sales at Verizon. “Aside from a competitive salary, we offer health insurance beginning their first day, tuition assistance, stock program, paid time off and more. Our benefits package reflects a focus on wholeness as an individual, not simply as an employee.”

Offer leadership and soft skills training

Store associates are busier than ever. They handle in-store customer service issues, stock shelves and even pick and pack online orders. While they need to always be up to date on how to do these tasks efficiently and effectively, retailers can’t lose sight of the bigger picture — and that means investing in training that expands employees’ skills and sets them on a path to progression.

“We go through this struggle, this tension, where you have to equip your employees to be successful at their current role and under the current conditions, and at times those trainings might be tedious or mundane,” said Alfred Ishak, Senior Director of Research and Integration/People Development at Human8. “You also need to offer leadership and soft skill training — professional development opportunities to allow there to be visible career progression available to all employees, no matter what their level or what their specialty is. Finding that balance, I think, is tough. It comes down to [the question]: are you willing to invest in the future of your employees, knowing that that future might not be with you? To me, the answer should plainly be yes.”


Invest in technology that forges brand (and product) connection

In the hustle and bustle of their days, associates may feel like worker bees or pawns in a big game, not a valuable part of a brand community. Sure, certain technologies (like mobile devices) can ramp up productivity, but as importantly, they also can help associates feel more embedded into the business and that they’re actually contributing to a greater cause. The power of these solutions are amplified when they help associates automate and streamline mundane tasks so they can focus on connecting with in-store shoppers.

“Consider the power of productivity tools that help drive associates’ daily tasks and workflows,” wrote Duane Peck, Head of Industry Marketing for Retail & Consumer Goods at Slack in a supporting byline. “As one example, an associate could quickly pull up a tutorial on a new product or refresh their memory on customer service protocols, all without leaving a simple interface on their smartphone. Integration with other technology can also help automate routine tasks and free associates to focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience. Beyond the time efficiencies, automation also helps to reduce human error. Imagine a mobile platform that is seamlessly integrated with your other management and commerce systems to automatically schedule staff shifts or notify the appropriate employees about upcoming inventory shortages.”

Download the special report to learn more about how you can harness the power of culture and technology to unleash workers’ full potential.


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