How to Secure Your Retail Workforce for the Future

by | Feb 10, 2023

As you know, the retail world is constantly evolving, from omnichannel and mobile to BOPIS and AI. Amid all of these transformations, customers have developed higher expectations than ever before, and somewhere in the hyper activity of customer-centric efforts, the employee experience gets neglected.

“To remain competitive in the war for talent … you must start from within,” says payroll company, Ceridian. “Investing in your employees’ …  well-being will foster an environment where they can spend more time focusing on serving their customers, and less time worrying about the [future].”

This is where the conept of “harmonized human capital management (HCM)” comes in. Similar to harmonized retail—a term coined by Steve Dennis—in which the customer’s journey isn’t focused on the different channels offered, but rather the overall experience and how it’s communicated through those channels, harmonized HCM principles can be applied to the benefit of employees, or the internal “customer”.

“The harmonized HCM experience is the intersection between employees’ experience with their employers, the function of organizational culture, and the effective use of HR data. Harmonized HCM is about how this data is applied to the betterment of the employee experience. Finding the harmony in the way you manage your people will inspire and motivate your employees the same way music and food do through the harmonization of notes, melodies, and flavors.” ~Retail Dive

The core aim of harmonized HCM is to be there for your employees in meaningful ways throughout their workplace journey— from onboarding to retirement. So how do you achieve HCM to futurize your retail workforce?

Below are 5 key areas to consider:

1. Improve the pay experience for retail workers

Research from the 2018 Mercer U.S. Turnover Survey indicates that the average annual employee turnover rate in the U.S. Retail & Wholesale sector is 60.5% .

Ceridian’s Pay Experience Report discovered that employees’ experiences with getting paid—including their pay rate, how compensation is determined and the ease at which they can access what they’ve earned–directly affects what they think about working for an organization.

“Exploring the inner workings of how and what your employees are paid, especially in the often-unpredictable retail industry, is a key touchpoint in the harmonized HCM journey.”  ~ Ceridian

Don’t delay figuring out what a paycheck means to your employees because the pay experience can have a huge impact on your employees’ satisfaction, retention, and performance!

2. Reevaluate your retention strategy

“For retailers to thrive, they should assess and know what their associates’ needs, wants, and desires are when it comes to their associate experience,” points out Ceridian. “Don’t forget, you are dealing with potentially five different generations of associates, each having its own core values.”

Industry research shows that while the average turnover rate for all U.S. industries is about 15%, the retail industry’s turnover rate is above 60%.  Part-time hourly store associates have the highest turnover rate of all—reaching 81% as of 2018.

These figures point to the fact that the retailers of tomorrow need to prioritize and create an effective retention strategy. While many employers will look at these numbers and determine that turnover is inevitable, there are actually several ways to successfully address retention.

For example, you can identify candidates who have the traits and characteristics that align with a position at your organization, and you can cultivate an associate’s career longevity through training, ongoing support and face-to-face meetings.

3.  Accommodate your associates’ communication preferences

From day one, communication with your associates must be a priority that continues during their entire stay with your organization. Having a multi-generational retail workforce will present a variety of core values and communication preferences among your employees that need to be met.

Traditionalists—typically in their 70s and 80s—will have a strong sense of loyalty, with a preference for in-person interaction and formal written communication over electronic media when it comes to getting their tasks done.

Baby boomers (those in their late 50s and 60s) value working in the office, as well as having office “face time.” Not unlike traditionalists, they rely on written communication and one-on-one workplace meetings.

With Generation X members (individuals in their 40s and 50s), family time and work-life balance is highly valued. They’re hardworking but recognize the benefits of diversity, relaxed work requirements, and flexible schedules.

The Gen Y demographic (also known as Millennials, ranging in age from 20’s to 30’s), seek out challenges and tend to be very goal oriented, with a desire for meaningful careers. They’re used to—and prefer—to communicate via electronic media and enjoy working from home. They’re most likely connected 24/7.

Gen Z members (no older than 23 years of age) prefer flexibility and personal freedom but are definitely seeking the foundations of their careers along with financial stability. They typically value more formal in-person interactions.

With the varying needs that accompany a multi-generational retail workforce, you must invest time, energy, and the necessary resources to achieve effective communication and training programs that enable all workers to visualize a future at your company.

4. Management that cultivates & supports employee-based HCM

With the retail landscape evolving so rapidly, how can employers ensure they’re equipped with the right retail workforce for the future and help their staff members keep pace?

Selecting good managers who can uphold harmonized captital management with regards to your employees and company culture.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report reveals that 50% of associates leave their jobs because of their managers. On the other hand, when a manager and organization are engaged with associates, productivity and happiness increases. Well-informed managers can invest in associates’ growth and help them map out their future at your organization through customized learning recommendations and the right tools.

Empower your managers to be leaders who create a rewarding work environment for their people. An emphasis on the importance of people management, as well as the systems that support associate engagement and care will translate to customer care. Additionally, it will help decrease employee churn, boost employee engagement metrics, and increase productivity and overall profitability.

5. Embracing disruptive technologies

Retail organizations can better equip themselves for the future of work by adopting disruptive technologies, suggests Ceridian.

“With lofty ambitions of successfully retaining and managing a retail workforce that’s sustainable and well-equipped for the future, the implementation of these types of technologies can help streamline these objectives, and therefore enhance business results.”

~ Retail Dive

For example, mobile access for scheduling, pay information, benefits, communications, and development provides an open, ease-of-use environment for employees, allowing them to focus on their task at hand—focusing on customers. Plus, giving your associates the freedom and flexibility to view their information in real-time will transform your organization’s retail workforce into one that’s more trusting and content.

With machine learning and artificial intelligence on the rise in the retail industry, leveraging these modern technologies makes it easy and convenient for employees to change schedules or request time off through voice or chat features that use virtual assistants and AI.

Such technologies not only help the end-user with engagement, but they can also help your employees continuously streamline processes.


As previously mentioned, the retail industry’s turnover rate is over 60%—even higher if you factor in part-time, hourly employees.

If you want to prepare your employees for the future, you need to start applying the principles of Harmonized Human Captital Management (HCM) to your retail workforce to ensure that their overall experience at your organization is a happy and satisfying one.

Review and incorporate the five fundamentals discussed above and you’ll be well on your way to attaining best-in-class employer status in the retail industry, as well as retaining talented and loyal associates.

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