After undergoing a transformation during the Covid-19 pandemic, the retail sector has met a new challenge: talent shortages and high turnover.

At Michael Page Retail, we have seen businesses struggle with their hiring – often due to a fundamental misalignment between the new expectations of retail professionals, and what employers are providing. 

To investigate the changing motivations and needs of the workforce, we surveyed 70,000 professionals around the world. The results make clear that we are in a new era of employer-employee relations.  

Download Talent Trends 2023: The Invisible Revolution

Today, we’re going to be drilling down into the data to find out exactly what the results of our survey mean for retailers and their talent strategies. 

High employee turnover is here to stay

Over the last couple of years, there has been much discussion about the ‘Great Resignation’ – the increased rate of resignations we’ve seen following the pandemic. While some commentators claim the worst of this trend is over, our research suggests something different.

We found that 86% of all respondents were open to changing jobs in the next six months. Among these, 50% were active jobseekers. This has created a recruitment market with great potential for retailers to attract new talent, especially if have the expertise and support to hire quickly. On the other hand, it poses a major retention challenge. 

The Work-Life Equation: Pay + flexibility + career progression

So, what are workers in the retail sector actually looking for? Well, our data shows that workers are not seeking any one single benefit or offering. Instead, they want a balance of three key things:

  1. A competitive salary
  2. Flexibility
  3. Career progression

Together, these factors make up what we call the Work-Life Equation. Getting this right will allow you not only to attract top retail talent, but also retain them in an era of increasing attrition. Getting it wrong will leave you struggling to recruit, and liable to lose your best people. 

Read on for a breakdown of each and how to optimise them within your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

1. Pay

The spotlight has been on the issues like wellbeing and job satisfaction in recent years. However, it’s important to remember that salary is still king in many respects. 

For instance, according to our research, salary is the most common reason to change jobs, and is also considered the single most important piece of information on a job advertisement.

As in so many other sectors, retail salaries are rising fast. Candidates have good reason to seek to maximise their remuneration, with half of all our respondents saying they have been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis, and one in three saying they have not had a pay rise in two years.  

Our recommendation: Get your salary offers right.

Without appropriate and well-benchmarked salaries, businesses will inevitably struggle to hire and keep the workers. Ensure that your offers – and the current salaries of your top people – are in line with industry standards. 

Our 2023 Guide to Salaries & Hiring Strategy provides a thorough breakdown of what retailers are paying for a range of different roles in 2023, from entry level to the C-suite.  

2. Flexibility

Flexibility is attractive to workers in all industries – and not just younger ones either. In fact, while 74% of workers in their 20s said hybrid working was important to them, so too did 69% of those in their 50s. We also found that flexibility was the second highest priority among all workers, after salary. 

Our data suggests that an increased focus on work-life balance is at the root of these responses. Indeed, our survey found that 8 in 10 workers would prioritise their mental health and work-life balance over career success.

Our recommendation: Make work-life balance a cornerstone of your EVP.

While implementing a hybrid working model can be challenging for some roles within retail, especially those on the shop floor, finding ways to enable some degree of flexibility can give retailers a big edge when hiring.

We would therefore encourage retailers to build flexible working and work-life balance into their ways of working. However, it’s important (especially in retail) to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Consult your people and learn where you can help different teams and individuals to carry out their responsibilities in the ways that suit them.

3. Career progression

The third critical factor in retail recruitment is career progression, which 10% of our survey respondents ranked as their number-one concern. Career growth is a big part of the "what I get" vs. "what I give" balance, and can work alongside salary and flexible working conditions to enhance a retailer’s EVP. 

Our research also revealed that career progression is a key motivator at work for one in two workers. Yet it seems that employers and employees don’t see eye-to-eye on this, with employers underestimating the importance of career growth to workers by 10%

Our recommendation: Stand out through strong progression pathways.

If retail professionals know you can provide compelling career advancement prospects, you’ll be in a great position to attract and retain high-calibre professionals without breaking the bank on salaries. 

We would encourage retailers to introduce dedicated training and development programmes to help their people reach their full potential. It’s also key to make sure this is being communicated in both internal and external communications. 

Access the insights you need to thrive in 2023 

The insights we have discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg – our full Talent Trends report provides detailed and actionable insights on today’s workforce. Don’t miss out on this unique, data-filled hiring resource.

Download Talent Trends 2023: The Invisible Revolution

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