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There’s No Place Like Stores for the Holidays

Today’s post comes to us from the Executive Director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Have you started your holiday shopping yet, or have you even begun to think about it? Retailers have — and they’re already busy navigating how to attract talented associates who will help meet consumer demand this holiday shopping season.

Lingering supply chain issues and labor challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact global industries, especially retail. According to new research from UKG, labor shortages left 68% of retail stores struggling to meet sales goals this past summer, and 88% of retailers are concerned about burnout and fatigue among store associates as we enter peak-selling season.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. While 63% of retailers feel this could be the worst holiday hiring season in memory, according to the study, almost all are confident they can still deliver a positive experience for associates (93%) and shoppers (94%).

That’s good to hear, because the National Retail Federation predicts in-store retail sales could exceed $3.35 trillion this year, which is up from $3.10 billion in 20201. All the more reason retailers will need to find innovative ways to not only recruit employees for another busy season, but also ensure their people remain happy and willing to stay through the holidays, and beyond (95% of retailers surveyed by UKG believe it’s more important to fill permanent positions rather than to hire temporary seasonal staff).

What can retailers do? According to the UKG study — titled “Retail’s 2021 Holiday Season Outlook” — it’s about more than just increasing employee pay, though that’s critical too.

While the research shows that about 70% of retailers made direct, long-term investments in their people in 2021 — i.e., raised wages or offered innovative and impactful benefits — others have committed to providing schedule flexibility, job stability, and development opportunities.

Furthermore, as the UKG study cites:

  • 75% of retailers cross-train associates to thrive in multiple roles
  • 56% provide professional development to help people advance within their company
  • 54% engage in labor sharing and allow employees to work across multiple store locations
  • 54% guarantee associates a minimum number of scheduled hours per week
  • 40% accommodate employees’ availability and preferences when building staff schedules

Retail is just like other industries — business success is directly tied to employee happiness, even more so during a pandemic. It’s a simple concept, but not exactly the easiest to execute on.

As we plan for another holiday season, and the joy that often surrounds it, let’s think of the ways we can keep workers happy. And while you’re out in the stores shopping for those must-have gifts, remember to be kind to all of the hard-working retail associates, and maybe even take a moment to thank them. Kindness is a gift we can all appreciate.

Are you struggling to recruit and keep great employees? Register for our October 20 webinar: “Beyond the Great Resignation: An Action Plan for Hiring and Retention.” I’ll be joined by Workforce Institute advisory board members Sarah Morgan and John Frehse. It’ll be a great discussion, and we hope to see you there!

1 Based on the National Retail Federation’s June 9 projection that 2021 retail sales could total more than $4.44 trillion, including an estimated $1.09 trillion in non-store and online sales, and that total retail sales in 2020 reached $4.02 trillion, including $920 billion in non-store and online sales.

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