The strain of inflation and the cost of living crisis has put a great deal of pressure on the retail industry. Retailers are grappling with rising food prices and labour shortages, while retail workers are bearing the impact of rising living costs. Considering the current conditions, it’s unsurprising that pay rises have been a key employee retention strategy. But what should retailers do if they’re unable to introduce pay rises, or if wages have hit their ceiling?
The Battle for Retail Staff
The choppy economic landscape has hit the retail industry harder than most. A disastrous recipe of mounting inflation, an ongoing cost of living crisis and a labour shortage mean that retailers need to work harder than before to keep their employees. A key part of this retention strategy is offering higher wages.
In February 2023, Tesco announced that it would increase its workers’ pay by 7 percent, which marked their third pay increase in just 10 months. In the same month, Asda offered its workers a 10 percent pay increase. As the year continues, we’re seeing more retailers follow suit.
In March 2023, Pret A Manger gave its employees their third pay uplift in 12 months, aiming to ensure they’re among the highest paid in their industry. Aldi also gave its store employees a third pay uplift in 12 months, from £11.40 to £12.85 in Greater London.
With so much pressure on the industry and considering that retail staff are essential workers, these pay rises are certainly necessary. Unfortunately, for many retailers, wages can only go so high. Organisations also need to support workers in other areas to supplement their monetary compensation.
5 Alternative Ways to Support Staff
Increasing pay is the most popular way to attract and retain retail employees. However, there are other ways to support staff, including some that will encourage their long-term engagement with your organisation.
1. Give Staff More Annual Leave
Giving staff one or two days of additional holiday, possibly as part of a company wellbeing day, is a good way to thank them for their hard work.
2. Consider Flexible Working
Flexible working can bring tangible benefits to your workplace. According to Slack’s Future Forum report, employees believe that flexible work policies are the number one reason their company’s culture has improved in the past two years.
Hybrid and remote working models may be unsuccessful if employees often need to be physically present at work. However, you can offer more flexibility around changing work hours, or the positions and locations employees work in.
3. Provide More Internal Opportunities
While pay is important, employees also want to stay at organisations that offer career progression. Map out clear pathways for long-term progression through your organisation to keep staff motivated and show your investment in their career.
4. Offer Funding for Further Education
Employees may need to pursue further education to progress their career. However, the prospect of paying for a university or college qualification is daunting and often inaccessible, especially at this time. Funding further education is a great way to support staff. In addition, when your employees upskill, it’ll benefit your organisation as they’ll bring in new skills and a new perspective.
5. Provide Coaching on the Fly and Focus on Soft Skills
Another way that staff can upskill without needing formal education is through training. Providing continuous training is a way to help employees progress faster and can increase staff morale. Consider tailored, role-specific training programmes or mentoring to support your employees’ long-term career goals.
Stuart Comer of Sainsbury’s recently cited the Covid-19 pandemic as an example of how soft skills emerge as drivers of productivity when organisations face large challenges. Speaking on an expert panel in March 2023, he said:
“Productivity isn’t about systems and processes, it’s about human beings.”
“Working through the pandemic forced business to think very differently and in many cases have led to new levels of productivity as a result.”
“Sometimes a major destabilising event can unearth latent potential that has yet to be tapped into. By working differently, businesses were often surprised by how much could be achieved in such a short period of time”
Mr. Comer was also keen to advance the idea of coaching as a driver of productivity and growth.
“Managers increasingly need the ability to coach and give good quality feedback. Feedback in the moment is what drives personal growth.”
Comer’s comments echo the findings of a government-funded study by the London School of Economics, the largest ever undertaken to assess the impact of applying coaching-related behaviours in the workplace. The study showed that a management transformation programme developed in the UK – STAR® Manager – helped managers to adopt an Operational Coaching™ style of management which in turn led to a 70% increase in the time that they spent coaching team members and less time doing tasks that could be done by others.
The study also found that the programme delivered statistically significant improvements in workforce engagement, productivity and capability in as little as six months.
On the study, Dominic Ashley-Timms, CEO of performance consultancy Notion, who developed the programme, said:
“Typically, traditional coaching models don’t lend themselves easily to being applied in the workplace as they are designed to support a coachee working on their own goals in line with their development needs. Within the day-to-day bustle of the workplace, the stark reality is that managers just don’t have the time to have multiple off-line ‘coaching sessions’. However, by learning how to use an Operational Coaching™ approach, the manager can provide effective coaching in a split second, in every interaction, on the fly.”
Ultimately, employers do need to incentivise staff to work and stay with their organisation. Due to current circumstances, pay rises are a vital way to achieve this, but it’s not the only option. Consider how you can support staff with their career aspirations and keep them engaged long term.