If you’re stretched to the limits and feel like there’s hardly any time to just take a moment out to think, you’re not alone. Our retail clients are busier than ever these days, taking on more tasks and projects with fewer resources, less budget, and less time to get things done. It’s a frantic cycle that is exacerbated by an overarching issue that often ends up getting pushed further down the list: devoting sufficient attention and resources to sourcing, engaging, and retaining talent.

It's not intentional. We’re all so busy and, at the same time, things are changing rapidly, the pace is not going to slow down, and the stakes have never been higher. The problem, though, is when we’re not investing enough — emotionally, financially, and through resources like training for our frontline and leadership talent — it’s going to catch up with us. Many retailers are now grappling with the very real costs of higher turnover and lower engagement that result from failing to prioritize talent issues or relying on outdated methods of recruiting, engaging, and building bench strength.

We’ve all heard the mantra “People leave bosses, they don’t leave companies.” This is as true in retail as it is in any industry. And when leaders are too busy to engage with their direct report teams, everyone loses — the company, the leader, the associate, and, worst of all, your customers.

Yes, retail has always been a high turnover business, mainly due to the number of part-timers employed in the industry. Yet today it is harder to keep and engage talent across all levels of the organization. Amid staff shortages, there is also a greater need for job sharing and cross training to develop more skills and expertise. Associates need to be able to do more, contribute more, and cover more areas and job functions than they may have been originally hired for.

While this may seem like career-pathing, without vertical mobility, it’s really just stretching teams to their limits — and leading to record quit rates in the process. The results of a recent survey by Quinyx show just how significant this issue is: 59% of retail frontline workers said they’ve considered quitting their jobs in the past year. As staggering as that number is on its own, it’s also a stunning 22% increase compared to 2023.

The warning signs are flashing. How will you respond?

Addressing Retail Turnover: How to Attract and Keep Talented Workers

As the Retail Dive article summarizing the survey results notes, there’s no one single issue you can point to that is causing retail workers to quit; in fact, there are a host of reasons. Victoria Repo, CEO and founder of Better Me, recently posted 14 reasons why people are quitting. (One eye-popping stat she shares — a whopping 72% are leaving jobs due to a toxic work environment.)

The good news is, there are actions you can take now to stem the turnover tide within your organization and get ahead of these issues rather than constantly playing catch-up and dealing with the ripple effects after the fact. The underlying theme is one of “everboarding,” a practice and a process that continues long after a new hire goes through the onboarding process.

Everboarding is how you ensure your workforce is continually reconnecting with the brand and their role in the larger culture and customer experience. It demonstrates your commitment to them, their development, their goals, and their well-being. It creates brand advocates who will help you attract more customers and more talented employees who want to grow with your organization and build a fulfilling career with you.

With this theme of everboarding in mind, let’s take a look at some of the areas highlighted in the article and what you can do to address them.

Low compensation amid inflation and rising cost-of-living expenses

While compensation has been a persistent issue in the past, retail salaries actually jumped during and in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. Unfortunately, a “righting” of salary levels (along with reductions in staff) has since occurred, based on perceptions that compensation had been artificially overinflated.

Action steps:

  • You can’t compete for talent without providing competitive wages. It’s time to reassess your compensation structures and benefits packages based on the reality of the broader economy and the communities you operate in and serve. What bonuses and other opportunities can you offer to incentivize associates and leaders to reach goals?
  • The survey found that 20% of those who had considered quitting feel undervalued. Regularly recognizing and rewarding associates for their hard work and achievements can boost morale without necessarily adding to your payroll budget. This can be accomplished through formal programs like “Associate of the Month” and informal gestures like thank-you notes, emails, or a phone call.
  • Take another look at your benefit offerings. We ask retail workers to bring their whole self to work, so let’s make sure that whole self is physically and mentally healthy. Prioritizing mental and physical health through wellness programs such as fitness memberships, mental health days, and stress management workshops can help reengage and reinvigorate associates. They will present better to your customers and other associates and, best of all, feel great and take more pride in the work they do.

Scheduling and staffing challenges, including longer hours due to understaffed shifts

If you’re overloading certain workers because you know they have the commitment and the dedication and will get the job done, there’s a big problem on the horizon: Your most loyal and talented workers — the ones who are always asked to stay late, take an extra shift, or come in early — are going to burn out soon, if they haven’t already. Flexibility and work-life balance remain a key priority for workers, especially in retail, where 30% of the workforce said they might not have quit if scheduling had been more adaptable to their needs.

Action steps:

  • Business as usual doesn’t apply in a world that has changed so dramatically in the past few years. This is a great opportunity to start thinking more creatively, whether it involves instituting more part-time roles, job sharing, or remote customer service positions if that’s realistic in your environment. Offering flexible work schedules can significantly enhance associate satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Develop a strong employer brand that highlights your company’s values, culture, and career opportunities. Use social media, company websites, and job boards to showcase why your company is a great place to work.
  • Innovate your approach to recruiting. Implement associate referral programs to leverage your existing workforce in attracting new talent. Incentivize associates who deliver successful referrals with bonuses or other rewards.
  • Commit to diversity and inclusion in your hiring process and broaden your search to include underrepresented groups. A diverse, dynamic workforce will enrich the fabric of your organization and better represent the diverse communities in which you operate.
  • Take advantage of new technology, including AI-driven recruitment platforms and virtual reality for immersive job previews. These can streamline the hiring process and attract tech-savvy candidates.

Poor leadership and limited growth opportunities

And we’re back to that mantra. Your leaders are so critical to the talent equation. They set the tone, every single day, through their behaviors and actions. Are your leaders engaging, coaching, and inspiring their team members? Are they prioritizing talent recruitment, retention, and development? Do they have the skills, strategies, resources, and support to fulfill these critical responsibilities?

Action steps:

  • Get an everboarding process in place to reengage your leaders as well as your teams and bring back the spark and the reason they came to work for your organization in the first place. Continuous learning keeps people engaged, shows them you’re invested in their success, and motivates and equips them to contribute their best work.
  • Leaders need to foster a culture of transparency and open communication where associates feel heard. Regular one-on-one check-ins, surveys, and feedback sessions build trust, make associates feel valued, and can help address concerns before they escalate.
  • Reignite an associates’ commitment to their role and the company by providing clear pathways for career advancement, ongoing training, and professional development opportunities. Just as important, make sure your leaders are equipped to coach them and help them bring out their best.
  • Identify potential future leaders within your organization and provide them with the necessary training and development to prepare them for advanced roles.
  • Encourage cross-training to build a versatile workforce. Associates trained in multiple areas can step in as needed, which will reduce disruptions and ensure smooth operations while also giving them a chance to learn more about the business. Just be sure to keep an eye out for signs of potential burnout.
  • Establish mentorship programs where experienced leaders and team members can guide and support newer hires. This helps transfer knowledge and skills and fosters a supportive work environment.
  • Implement robust performance management systems to regularly assess and develop associate skills. Use data-driven insights to identify gaps and tailor development programs accordingly.
  • Equip your team with the latest tools and technologies that enhance productivity and efficiency. Investing in technology shows your commitment to innovation and can make your company more attractive to today’s talent pool.

Reengaging, recruiting, and building bench strength can’t be an afterthought — it is absolutely critical to helping your business stay ahead of retail’s disruptions, rapid changes, and continual challenges. Don’t get stuck in the rut of “tried-and-true” thinking; this requires a proactive and innovative approach.

By focusing on flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, career development, and cultivating a strong employer brand, you can attract and retain top talent. Likewise, prioritizing succession planning, cross-training, everboarding, and leveraging technology will help you prepare for future challenges and ensure long-term success. These are best practices that will not only strengthen your workforce but also position your company as a leader in the competitive retail environment.

For more great tips and advice, be sure to join us on Tuesday, June 18th for our webinar, Strategic Talent Revival: Re-Engaging, Recruiting, and Building Bench Strength.


About Mary Beth Garcia

ary Beth has worked with a variety of retail and hospitality clients as a strategic partner, delivering leadership, communications, retail programs, consulting, and executive coaching for such diverse companies as Academy Sports and Outdoors, Altar’d State, Amazon Fresh, Advanced Auto Parts, Bvlgari, Cardinal Health, Compass Group, Darden, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Foot Locker Group, Haggar Clothing, King Ranch, LVMH, Michaels, Saks Department Store Group, SMCP, Southeastern Grocers, TBC, TJX Companies, Ulta Beauty, and Whole Foods Market. Prior to her consulting work, Mary Beth spent more than 20 years in retail management and operations for companies such as Macys, g.Briggs, The Bombay Company, and Sunglass Hut International, holding numerous leadership positions in sales, store, district, and regional management and corporate communications, training, and operations. Based in Miami, FL, Mary Beth served on the Executive Advisory Board for the University of Florida’s Retail Education and Research Department from 2003-2014. She holds an A.A. Degree in Retail Management and Fashion Merchandising from Bauder College.