Engaging Retail Employees in 2016

Sophie Gane

14/04/2016
Categories: Industry

Along with our friends at EY and Nudge, we hosted a webinar at the beginning of April which gathered together some of retail’s biggest names for a discussion around how you can engage your widespread and diverse workforce.  In case you missed it, here are the best bits…

Some facts to get you started:

  • Only 14% of retail workers are extremely satisfied with their jobs, which is 5% lower than the national average.
  • One of the biggest challenges for 2016 is going to be the recruitment and retainment of staff, with 58% of retail employees likely to look for another job within the next year.

High engagement has been proven to increase productivity, customer service, and sales.  But how do you engage with a workforce who are, quite literally, all over the place?

Why is employee engagement so important to retail?

First things first – you want to do the right thing by your employees, and consider their welfare.  But surely their welfare isn’t up to you, right?  Well, think again, because 62% of employees feel that their work affects their physical health.  78% feel that a good work/life balance has a positive effect on mental wellbeing.  Engaged employees are five times less likely to have an accident at work.  We could go on and on!

What effect do these factors have on you as their employer?

It should come as no surprise to you that a happy workforce ultimately produces better work.  Retailers with higher engagement produce an average 2.5 times more revenue than those with lower engagement.  Organisations with greater employee engagement are 18% more productive, and this even filters through to customer service; an engaged, motivated employee will let their personality shine through in their dealings with customers, thus driving sales.

So, now we know why engagement is important, what’s going on in 2016 which will affect this?

The Budget

The Budget announcement in March discussed a couple of topics relative to your retail employees.  For example, there was a certain amount of chat around pensions.  There had been talk of radical change, but that didn’t actually happen.  Although some salary sacrifice schemes are being ‘looked at’, pensions are being left well enough alone, as are childcare and health-related benefits.

National Living Wage

The ‘minimum wage’ has undergone a makeover for those over 25.  So, now you can call it the National Living Wage for all your employees in their mid-twenties and beyond.  This has seen their minimum hourly wage jump from £6.50 to £7.20.  During our webinar, we conducted a poll among retail professionals, asking them if they’re planning on paying the living wage to under-25s, to which only 45% said they will.  One of the main concerns here for retailers is that those in more senior positions will also expect to see an increase to their wage to keep the difference in paygrades consistent, otherwise where’s the incentive to be a manager?

Financial Wellbeing

Employers are well-placed to deal with the issue of financial wellbeing.  In fact, 90% of organisations are considering, in the process of, or are already running financial wellbeing programs.  A chunk of these firms are, of course, retailers!  There are four key elements behind what’s driving this push to help your employees with their finances:

  • Wellbeing!  The third biggest cause of absence in the workplace is stress, the largest element being financial stress.
  • Engagement.  Traditional benefits packages, e.g. insurance-heavy benefits – don’t necessarily generate a lot of interest, particularly among your younger workforce.  The top-rated benefits among retail employees are finance-driven, like bonus and overtime schemes.
  • Risk.  There’s nothing wrong with working extra hours if you want to.  However, it should be a choice; nobody should feel forced into taking extra hours – risking burnout – just to make ends meet.
  • Culture.  Due to an increasing distrust of financial institutions, employees are regularly asking their employers for help.  Financial education is now also part of the school curriculum, so employees are taking on the responsibility of continuing with that education once the employee has entered work.

Over to you…

At the end of our webinar, we held a brief Q & A session, and our listeners were sending them in thick and fast!

Is the trend to deliver guidance or advice to employees?
There’s a common nervousness about offering financial advice, so most retailers opt for offering guidance.  Advice is often delivered face-to-face, which is made infinitely more difficult with such a diverse and spread-out workforce.

Is it the employer’s place to be helping employees with personal finances?
Employers would be missing out on a fantastic opportunity if they don’t do this.  By engaging with your people during the key moments of their life (buying a house, having a baby, paying for a wedding etc.) you can make the most of the moments that matter to them.  By showing you care, you’re more likely to generate engagement.

Is there any point in putting flexible benefits in place if many salary sacrifice benefits are disappearing?
Absolutely.  There are a huge number of reasons to put flexible benefits in place that have nothing to do with the tax and NI savings involved with salary sacrifice.  Flexible benefits engage employees and help you to remain competitive.

How can we effectively communicate to our employees about their finances with such a diverse and dispersed workforce?
The traditional face-to-face delivery of financial education is particularly difficult for retailers to execute.  This is where Nudge theory could come into effect.  By personalising the information you give to your employees – in both its content and timing, you’re more likely to generate engagement.

You can hear the webinar here...

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