The Great Resignation: 8 tips on how retailers can attract and retain employees

While it’s true that more people are quitting their jobs – that’s only half the story. Far from leaving the workforce entirely, most “quitters” are switching roles, using the tight labor market to their advantage as they seek better employment opportunities. That is certainly the case in the retail sector, where 721,000 US workers left their jobs last August as part of record departure numbers. But rather than being viewed as a disaster, the “Great Resignation” is an opportunity for retailers to reconfigure their services, communication, culture, and other parts of the employee experience to attract and retain their most valuable employees.

Ruben Wieman

The Great Resignation: 8 tips on how retailers can attract and retain employees

Table of contents

What is The Great Resignation?

A quick look at any labor market analysis will show that 2021 was the year of The Great Resignation. Essentially, The Great Resignation is a short-hand way of describing the record number of individuals quitting their jobs. Across several markets, many people are voluntarily quitting their jobs – with sectors like retail among the most affected. In fact, Boston Consulting Group estimates that around four percent of the retail workforce quit their jobs each month in 2021. This has led to a huge number of job vacancies that employers are struggling to fill.

Why is The Great Resignation happening?

The Great Resignation is the result of several factors – with the COVID-19 pandemic certainly among them. The pandemic forced many businesses to close and caused a career re-think for many workers with government support packages often providing the motivation to quit even in a time of economic uncertainty. In the retail sector, lockdowns were particularly damaging for certain outlets, with non-essential shops forced to close at points during 2020 and 2021 – with sales dented even when restrictions were lifted. In this climate, it is hardly surprising that 1.9 million store-based retail workers were made unemployed as a result of closures in June 2020.

If the pandemic is the main driving force behind The Great Resignation, it is a nuanced one. Health and safety concerns may have pushed some employees to resign, but others will have seized an opportunity to leave their workplace if they have encountered a toxic culture, a lack of engagement, or a reluctance to embrace innovation. In many markets, The Great Resignation has contributed to extremely tight labor markets where the power lies with workers, not employers.

What can retailers do to attract and retain retail employees

Although the current state of the labor market in the retail sector may mean that workers feel more comfortable changing jobs, this needn’t be a cause for concern among employers. With more staff changing roles, there is an opportunity to capture the best talent available (and convince your current workers that they have no reason to leave).

Here are our tips to attract and retain top talent:

1. Create a welcoming environment

First impressions matter – so that means creating a welcoming environment for each employee’s very first day. A third of all employees leave their role within the first six months – highlighting the importance of early workplace interactions. Our onboarding checklist should help ensure both worker and workplace get off to a good start.

2. Be transparent

Remember that transparency is highly valued by your employees. During a period of unprecedented uncertainty for the retail sector, transparent internal communication has taken on added significance. Employees are 23% more likely to remain in their current roles if their manager clearly explains their roles and responsibilities. Honesty is the best policy.

3. Improve your brand image

Branding does not only affect customers – it has an impact on employees too. A staggering 72% of recruitment leaders agree that the employer brand has a significant impact on hiring. Your brand consists of your values, strategy, and reputation – and can have major pulling power.

4. Acknowledge good work

For deskless workers, in particular, it’s easy to feel underappreciated. They may not have regular interactions with their managers – and more worryingly, 63% want additional help with physical exhaustion, while 58% need more mental health support. Making time to acknowledge good work – even if it’s via a short message – can provide a significant employee retention boost.

5. Value responsibility and trust

When employees are given a sense of responsibility, they will feel more empowered and engaged within your organization. Trust in your workforce, and your workforce will trust in you.

6. Encourage a healthy work-life balance

Despite the importance of good communication in recruitment and retention, don’t be tempted to spam your workers with messages. Instead of adding frontline retail employees to a company WhatsApp group, for example, consider a bespoke employee platform that lets workers switch off when necessary so they can maintain a good work-life balance.

7. Gather feedback

Use employee feedback to give your non-desk workers a voice in the running of your organization. Use mobile-friendly solutions so retail employees can answer surveys even if they aren’t desk-based.

Example: Employee Satisfaction Survey in Oneteam

8. Offer training

Just because your employee is in frontline retail doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for personal progression. Less than half of deskless workers receive training once a year. If they feel as though they aren’t making progress, it’s no wonder they want to leave. Provide digital employee training opportunities, such as eLearning programs, to fit the needs of your deskless employees.

Increase engagement and loyalty with an employee app

If you want to engage with retail workers, you cannot simply employ the same strategy that you would with your desk-based staff. They often work variable shift patterns, work at different locations, and may not even have a company email address. That doesn’t mean you should forget about them, however.

Employee engagement is still possible with non-desk retail workers – and employers will notice the benefit in terms of their recruitment and retention. Oneteam’s all-in-one employee app helps retailers transform their employees into loyal and engaged brand ambassadors.

Ensure your retail workers don’t become just another statistic during the Great Resignation. Get started with the tips, retain your top employees, and make sure your organization becomes a popular workplace for new recruits.


Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman is the founder of Oneteam. He mainly writes about the future of deskless employee experience and key frontline HR trends. Fun fact about Ruben: He started his professional career as a deskless employee at supermarkets and a pizza delivery guy. The frustrations he encountered lead him to build an employee experience app focused on making the deskless workforce successful and engaged.

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