Retail has one of the highest turnover rates in any industry. The Hay Group reports a median turnover rate of 67 percent for part-time retail employees.[1]

I doubt any of us would be too challenged to list the problems driving this high turnover:

  1. Retail jobs are considered boring and repetitive, with little training and low pay or benefits
  2. Schedules may change without notice and are hard for workers to live with
  3. Associates have few opportunities for advancement

Yet turnover is just as bad for the store as it is for employees.

A study by the Center for American Progress found that it costs, on average, $3,328 (or 16 percent of one year’s salary) to find, hire, and train a replacement for one minimum-wage employee. Of course, the actual costs are much higher, including lost funds for hiring, onboarding and training costs, the cost of errors and lower productivity during the training period, and the impact on the company culture and other employees’ productivity.[2]

Many of these problems are increasingly solvable through today’s workforce experience tech. In fact, a study showed that from 1997 to 2014, companies considered employee experience leaders outperformed the broader stock market, generating an annualized return nearly double the SAP 500 index.[3] And Gartner quotes a 2015 Aon Hewitt study that finds that “a 5 percent increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3 percent increase in revenue growth in the subsequent year.”[4]

4 Ways to Help Your Employees Engage

Retailers need to take four important steps to help employees engage in a way that drives the customer experience:

  1. Invest in Wi-Fi. It’s time– you need to connect your associates to product information. Even today, many retailers hesitate to deploy a wireless network because they’re afraid employees will “play games all day.” But the result is that no fewer than 73 percent of customers believe they’re more informed than sales associates[5] simply because they can jump online at any time. By not giving your employees access to the same data as customers, you lessen their efficiency, lower your reputation, and diminish the chance of a sale.
  2. Bring in the experts (virtually). Take advantage of Wi-Fi in the store to enable new kinds of personalized tools. For example, you can install in-aisle kiosks that give both customers and employees immediate access to virtual experts via video-based, live interactions. A quick conversation with such an expert, usually part of a customer contact center, helps to answer questions, resolve problems, and drive the purchase process.
  3. Encourage online collaboration. Help your associates use new tools to work as a team. Technology can boost customer and employee communications, which not only helps associates do their jobs better, but also lets managers more easily attract, develop, and retain the best talent. In a recent survey, 82 percent of store associates agreed that improving in-store communication between staff and managers positively impacts the consumer shopping experience.[6] Onboarding new employees becomes both more thorough and less costly through interactive or recorded sessions tailored to the practices, duties, and tools experienced on the job.
  4. Focus on developing talent. Perhaps the most important role that the new worker-experience technologies play is in developing employee talent. According to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) report “Bridging the Skills Gap,” 41 percent of employees in companies that invest little or nothing in training said they’re likely to leave within one year. By contrast, that number dropped to 12 percent for employers who invested significantly in training and development.[7] Cost-effective, always-available trainings help to identify employees who are ripe to move toward promotion, giving them access to new skills that hone their talents.

All these capabilities make the store a more congenial environment for today’s employees of every age and level. By following these four steps, stores are preparing to drive a better customer experience through a better associate experience.

For more information, take a look at our new white paper, “Transforming Retail Associate Productivity with a Customer-First Experience.”


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[1] “Hay Group Study Finds Employee Turnover in Retail Industry Is Slowly Increasing,” Korn Ferry/Hay Group (May 2012).

[2] “Employee Retention – The Real Cost of Losing an Employee,” by Christina Merhar, Zane Benefits (February 4, 2016).

[3] “Digital Business Requires an Excellent Associate Experience to Drive Retailer Success,” Gartner.

[4] Gartner, ibid.

[5] “Shoppers Would Rather Consult Smartphones than Consult Store Associates, Survey Finds,” Internet Retailer (December 2010).

[6] “13 Reasons Why You Hate Shopping,” by Gary Ambrosino (2016).

[7] “5 Best Practices for Workforce Productivity,” by Emad Rizkalla.



Mary Freeman

No Longer with Cisco