Associate turnover – is it a problem to be fixed or is it baked into the system?

We all know that associate turnover is a problem. In fact, recent surveys have shown that employee engagement, which is a prime predictor of turnover is higher in retail than in any other industries.

I posed the following question in a retail oriented Linkedin group:

Associate turnover – is it a problem or is it just baked into the system

Is employee turnover a problem to be solved? Is the pain and cost of rehiring, onboarding and training worth making an effort to reduce associate turnover?

Or is employee turnover a fact of life for retailers where the processes and systems have been built to compensate for employees with limited experience or commitment to the overall goals of the business?

Training, training, training – but what about motivation?

A number of the responses focused on hiring the right people and training them to be effective. Here are several of the better responses:

Clarice Cutino – I believe it is a problem. One of the biggest complaints from employees is lack of training. Employees are on the front line engaging with our customers. Employees need to feel appreciated and given the tools to do their job properly. As a manager if I am constantly hiring and training new associates I am not able to perform other parts of my job. I believe if we can make the associates happy we will have happy customers who want to continue to do business we us.

Mitch Furman – High turnover is more costly than people think – put aside for a moment the cost of hiring and such and think about the long term damage to your brand……who will you attract as potential employees going forward once you have that rep of burning through people? OUCH. It very much is a problem worth fixing to the best of your ability and sooner rather than later. This coming from a guy who makes a living placing people.

Jon Dickens – A retailer once said, “What if I train my people and they leave?” To which a wiser retailer said, “What if you don’t train your people – and they stay?” …The bigger turnover issue is how much is the unproductive salesperson costing you a year? It’s probably a lot more than the cost of recruiting, hiring and training someone new. Most owners and managers keep unproductive or less productive salespeople much longer than they should, because they personally don’t want the pain of replacing them. You’ll get through the pain. We see stores increasing sales by $50-100,000+ per year by upgrading to a better salesperson. Multiple that by the number of unacceptable sales producers you replace in a year, and it gets very interesting.

OK – so these responses posit the need for more/better training. However, I have seen retailers who have extensive training programs that their associates do not use. Training is valuable but how do we motivate our associates to take training seriously?

And the idea that retail associates are not motivated to improve their skills is even more troubling.

There is an underlying motivation and engagement challenge that we have been accepting as part of the cost of doing business. Many of us don’t even see it as a problem anymore.

We believe that it’s time to turn this motivation problem over on its head. The work is the work and it can get repetitious and boring. But using proven game mechanics, we can wrap games  and competitions around completing the work. Thus making work feel more like playing a game.

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