By Fabrice Haiat, YOOBIC
Retail and hospitality workers remain loyal — but employers need to show they care
Economic storm clouds are gathering. Prices are soaring. The stock market is turbulent. And despite uncertainty about the future, the Great Resignation is still underway, with frontline employees in many sectors continuing to strike out in search of something new. Last year, around half of U.S. retail workers left their jobs, and reportedly as many as one in five current workers are planning to do likewise.
That’s why YOOBIC’s 2022 Frontline Employee Experience Survey is so eye-opening. According to the survey, frontline employees are feeling pressured — but also remain remarkably loyal to their employers. In fact, almost two-thirds of retail and hospitality employees plan to stay in their current jobs for at least another four years.
How does that square with the Great Resignation? It’s simple: frontline workers want to build lasting careers with their employers. But they also want to feel valued, respected, and empowered in their work and it’s the absence of those things that lead them to look elsewhere. That means retail and hospitality employers have an opportunity to beat the Big Quit — if they step up and show employees, they truly have their back.
Frontline workers were heralded as heroes during the pandemic. Day after day, they put themselves in harm’s way to support customers, keep businesses open, and provide vital services. Two years on from the start of the COVID crisis, though, praising frontline workers’ efforts isn’t enough. Employers need to find tangible ways to show they value their employees.
In our survey of over 1,400 employees from North America and Europe, we found that frontline teams appreciated their employers’ efforts to protect, engage, and support them during the pandemic. But we also found that around a third of employers aren’t yet doing this successfully, and many employers have significant room for growth.
A clear majority of frontline workers are deeply proud of their jobs. But over a quarter say they’ve seen training opportunities decline during the pandemic, and that communication from management has plateaued. Labor issues are also causing headaches, with almost three-quarters of employees saying they feel worn out at the end of their shift.
How To Support Your Teams
So, what can employers do to leverage their frontline workers’ pride and loyalty — while also supporting their teams through the challenges they’re experiencing? To start with, it’s important to recognize that short-term fixes aren’t enough. Workers want to be able to envisage themselves spending years or decades in their frontline careers, and that means finding lasting solutions.
Higher wages, of course, are always welcome. But pay increases alone won’t help all that much, especially with other industries also increasing salaries and the cost-of-living climbing. In the same vein, signing bonuses and other financial incentives to boost retention and recruitment are, at best, Band-Aids — they might provide a fleeting boost, but won’t deliver the lasting engagement and support that today’s workers crave.
One thing the 2022 Frontline Employee Experience Survey makes clear is that to retain frontline workers, organizations need to focus not just on bonuses and other transactional incentives, but on leaning into improving the employee experience in more meaningful and durable ways.
Employees want meaningful pathways to growth and career advancement, for instance, and that means providing real and ongoing training opportunities. It also means making sure your managers offer recognition when employees excel and communicate the value that they bring to the organization.
New Pressures, New Solutions
Supporting your frontline teams also means recognizing the pressures they’re now under — and not just by paying lip service, but by offering real solutions. Labor shortages are taking a real toll on the employee experience — but while that’s a problem, it’s also an opportunity for employers to step up with smart workload management solutions and task-management tools to ensure teams aren’t overburdened, and that they’re able to optimize their productivity without burning out.
Similarly, there’s no escaping the additional pressures that frontline teams are now under — but by providing suitable support and training, employers can help reduce the strain, while also showing they recognize the effort their teams are putting in. About 70% of employees say they appreciated the efforts their employers made to keep them physically safe during the pandemic, for instance — but many would also like to see their employers taking similar measures to support their mental health and overall wellbeing.
Finally, it’s important to recognize and build upon the deep sense of solidarity that many retail and hospitality workers developed during the tough times of the pandemic. Seven out of 10 frontline team members say they feel close to their coworkers, and more than three-quarters say that feeling connected to colleagues and managers is very important to them.
Importantly, the survey also sharply undercuts the mistaken notion that today’s workers are tech averse. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, close to one-third of frontline employees say they actively crave professional messaging apps to help them engage with colleagues and work more effectively. That creates a real opportunity for employers to level up workplace engagement, communication, and collaboration to elevate the employee experience.
The Future Of Frontline Work
The big takeaway from the 2022 Frontline Employee Experience Survey is that employees’ expectations are changing. Workers have been through the wringer in recent years — and the ones who’ve weathered the storm are proud of what they’ve achieved. They’ve found real meaning in their work, and they’re eager to build lasting careers in retail or hospitality work.
To build on that, and blunt the impact of the Big Quit, employers need to show that they, too, consider frontline work something to be proud of. That means recognizing employees’ achievements and contributions. But it also means investing in their future success and building out the tools, processes, and infrastructure needed to help frontline teams bring their best selves to work every day.
That means offering staff the same level of care provided to customers by investing in resources and technologies that make them feel connected, capable, and valued at work. If retailers do this proactively to engage and uplift their employees, they will be taking huge steps toward success in the months and years to come.
About The Author
Fabrice Haiat is the CEO and cofounder of YOOBIC, the all-in-one digital workplace for frontline teams.