Why retail needs young workers (and how to retain them)

Dec 4, 2023 | Blog

“Everyone should have to work in retail, at least once” – it’s a commonly held belief of anyone who’s ever worked in a supermarket or shop, and the sentiment tells you a lot about the reality of working in a customer-facing job. 

For an industry long-challenged by high turnover and facing unprecedented staffing issues, that doesn’t bode well. How can retail leaders attract (and keep) new talent, and shed its reputation for being a ‘last resort’ employment option? 

The retail labour market: old trends & new challenges

There’s always been a high turnover rate in retail. It’s not surprising: low overheads mean low wages, long but inconsistent hours, and limited routes for career development means people view retail jobs as temporary placeholders. That’s why they’re viewed as a rite of passage for young people. For some, it’s a first foray into working life that fits alongside other study, training, or vocational pursuits. 

But addressing high turnover is now a priority, thanks to staff shortages. In 2023, 87% of retail bosses were concerned about not having enough workers – with 53% saying it was their top concern – as globally, there were more job openings than prospective employees.

Why? There’s a lot of factors: COVID-19, Brexit, and the cost-of-living crisis to name but a few. But what’s clear is that retail leaders need to act fast, because the impact could be devastating: 

The impact of staffing shortages on…

Your people:

  • Mental wellbeing: 56% feel overworked due to talent shortages, as they’re under pressure to fill in the gaps – causing high levels of stress

  • Career development: 37% have seen less in-person training, and 26% had fewer chances to develop their skills – limiting their options to grow their career

Your organisation:

  • Service quality: resorting to hiring staff without any experience means service quality is impacted, but many organisations don’t have any other option

The solution: attract and retain young people

Retail needs new hires, fast. And it needs a steady stream of them. That means it’s time to turn their attention back to young people – a previously tapped resource. 

The challenge is that young people are less willing to tolerate zero-hours, minimum-wage jobs that don’t get them excited. More aware and purpose-driven than ever, retail needs to think about what young people really want. Here’s a few pointers:

Purpose and passion

Younger generations are increasingly aware of their principles and purpose, and don’t want to work just for money. And let’s be realistic, the low wages of retail don’t make that a draw anyway – so employers need to explore ways to engage and excite young people. 

Consideration of wellbeing 

Younger generations are more aware of employer responsibilities, and are open about discussing mental health and emotional concerns – so it’s important to show (not tell!) that employee wellbeing is a priority, and factor that into workloads. 

Flexibility, but security

A lack of flexibility was the main reason that retail employees left their work in 2022 – so offering this is absolutely key. But that doesn’t mean neglecting your responsibility to make employees feel secure in their work, and consequently invested in working for your organisation. 

Career development

Only 20% of employees believe the training they’re offered helps develop their career, and the move to online training has meant over 10% feel less valued by their organisation. But young workers want to learn and grow, and it’s the key to getting them to stick around

But first? Understand your existing employees, with our People Analytics Platform

40% of retail bosses recognise the need for HR software. We’re here to convince the rest – because using our People Analytics Platform to understand your employees is the key to creating both an effective retention strategy, and a more convincing employee value proposition

How does it work? 

1. Just integrate your HR system, and we’ll pull and analyse your data. You’ll see a lot of useful insights – including your retention rate, how it’s changed over time, and how it differs between teams and different demographics

2. After that, you can run an employee survey to understand what’s driving retention (positively or negatively) in different groups – like young people. That’s your key to defining a plan to improve retention, and make your organisation’s EVP better

3. Once you’ve collected the insights, you can quickly build reports and action plans to share with bosses and team leaders, to help tackle any challenges in your organisation

Get a free trial, and try it out for yourself

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