Retail workers want careers, not short-term jobs – it’s time to enable them

By Erik Fjellborg, founder and CEO at Quinyx

Covid-19 has – quite rightly – put the spotlight on the millions of people who work in frontline retail. During the crisis, they have kept working in order to serve us in supermarkets and keep the shelves stocked with essential supplies.

These workers have been critical to the UK’s response to the pandemic. And, as the country moves into a recovery phase and more shops start to open, they will be integral to this process.

It is, therefore, vital that retail employers are doing all they can to safeguard the needs of their frontline employees during a challenging and disruptive time.

Retail workers face a number of challenges – and not just during the pandemic. Our recent research found that, prior to Covid-19, 38% of deskless retail workers said that their job had negatively impacted their mental health over the past twelve months. Of those, 62% even considered quitting their job because they were unhappy with their work environment.

So, what can retail employers do to support the needs of their frontline workers and improve their working environment?

Progression and development are great places to start.

Our research highlighted that, where frontline retail roles were once associated with short, seasonal jobs for extra cash, this is no longer the case. Over half (55%) of deskless workers in the retail sector plan to stay in their jobs long term (up to 3 years), compared to under a third (29%) who view their job as temporary.

This is good news for an industry that is facing a period of disruption – economically and technologically. Behind this change lies a loyal workforce, eager to progress and nurture fruitful careers within the retail sector. And, for employers looking to nurture frontline talent in their business, there are a number of steps they can take.

Training for long-term development

Our data highlighted that while 41% of retail workers receive training and educational resources from their employers, only 28% were given a co-worker or manager to mentor them. Training doesn’t have to mean implementing formal and costly programmes. Peer-based training and mentorship can be an effective way of nurturing development and helping people grow in their roles and beyond.

Flexibility for all

Alongside this, assessing how to best support workplace talent, and allowing your employees to see you as a viable option for a long-term career, is also crucial. Our research found that 34% of deskless retail workers would prefer a flexible schedule over higher levels of pay. Thus, giving workers greater flexibility in their roles and more control over their schedules could be the key to helping them stay within the retail sector for the long term.

Recognition and appreciation

COVID-19 has highlighted the true importance of retail workers. It is more vital than ever that these employees know how much they are valued by businesses and society as a whole. In fact, our research revealed that before the outbreak of COVID-19 more than half (51%) of deskless retail workers who felt that their job negatively impacted their mental health over the last 12 months, said one of the main reasons was that they felt that they were not appreciated for the work they do.

It is imperative that retail businesses continue to show their support for their employees. And, presenting clear opportunities for progression, expressing appreciation and working with employees to help them seek career advancement, are all actionable steps retail businesses can take to reduce workplace dissatisfaction and instead, breed a loyal, engaged and happy workforce there to stay for the long-term.

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