Store associates are vital assets to memorable and successful brick-and-mortar experiences: They help stock shelves, check out consumers that are completing transactions and most importantly, guide visitors along the shopping journey by offering assistance and item suggestions.
However, a recent study from the Kenexa High Performance Institute (KHPI) indicates that employee engagement with their retail organizations is deficient, leading to poor customer experiences. In addition, lack of senior leader effectiveness was the primary reason for employee turnover in the retail space.
According to “The 2011 WorkTrends Survey,” retail industry employees demonstrate the lowest engagement rate among all industries. Engagement is especially low among workers who operate in customer-facing positions, such as cashiers and sales associates.
Results are based on insights gathered by KHPI from 30,000 full-time employees working for organizations with more than 100 workers. Industries analyzed included high-tech manufacturing; healthcare services; banking and financial; heavy/light manufacturing; government; and retail. Respondents worked across skill levels and jobs within the world’s largest economies, including those in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K., U.S. and 19 other countries.
In the survey, employee engagement is defined as “the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to the achievement of organizational goals.”
Scores were determined through the Employee Engagement Index (EEI), which consisted of the following areas; each was rated on a five-point scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree: ”
• I am proud to tell people I work for my organization;
• Overall, I am extremely satisfied with my organization as a place to work;
• I would gladly refer a good friend or family member to my organization for employment; and
• I rarely think about looking for a new job with another organization.
Findings from KHPI’s WorkTrends survey point to the strong connection between employee engagement, customer experience, organizational outcomes and overall results, according to Rena Rasch, Research Manager of KHPI. In fact, the study also revealed that employees who are engaged in their jobs rate their organizations’ performance and quality almost twice as high as unengaged employees.
“We can see the direct correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction,” Rasch told Retail TouchPoints. “In fact, if employees were engaged, they had a greater willingness to go above and beyond what was required of them. Engagement is based on the level of commitment and pride in an organization. Therefore, the more dedicated an associate or store worker is to a brand, the better experience they’ll create for shoppers.”
Top motivations for employee turnover also were explored. For the retail industry, the five key reasons store employees left their positions included:
• Senior leader effectiveness (57%);
• Work life balance (56%);
• Training (55%); and
• Compensation packages and opportunities (50%).
“Senior leaders and managers are not perceived as trustworthy; they’re not providing the necessary training, listening to employees’ ideas nor being creative in any way,” Rasch said. “Retailers need to encourage their store managers to be sincere, convey competence, initiate programs to help employees manage workloads and, most importantly, provide the necessary training for employees to do their jobs well.”
Implementing new technology, such as mobile devices, and exploring more interactive training tools will help improve engagement and enthusiasm, according to Rasch. Employees will have the necessary information to serve customers more effectively, and in turn, have the resources to complete tasks.
“There definitely are indications that implementing new technologies and innovations help retailers meet most of the key drivers of employee engagement,” Rasch said. “With such enhancements, employees won’t feel like their company is lagging behind. They will have new ways to access information and do their jobs better, and they will view their employers as willing to try new things. It makes sense that implementing new technology will have a big hand in building engagement.”