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Attraction and retention of top retail talent

We are delighted to have Danielle McFadyen, Agency Manager from Retailworld Resourcing as a guest this month to share insights from their annual Salary Guide and the implications for attracting and retaining top retail talent.

As retail professionals enter discussions and negotiations with unions on the subject of pay and their strong desires to be rewarded with the living wage as opposed to minimum wage, I feel that the timing of our annual Retailworld Salary Guide couldn’t have been better.

I’ve always found it fascinating how people in some of the arguably toughest front-facing roles are in my opinion, paid so poorly. To clarify, when I say tough, I’m talking about the requirement for all retailers to possess the very uncommon trait of ‘good people skills’.

Good people skills are defined as “the ability to listen, to communicate and to relate to others on a personal or professional level. Good people skills also extend to include problem-solving abilities, empathy for others and a willingness to work together toward the common good.”

While this is a trait that’s rare to find, most retail professionals will possess this skill and look to continue to develop in this area as people are their passion. Retailers are also the face of a business, bearing the brunt of product failure, unsatisfied customers, and promotional failures. However, retailers rarely receive positive reinforcement or recognition when it comes to providing a solution for a disgruntled customer or, managing difficult customers. Retailers are also the people driving product sales and educating customers on the brand, resulting in profitability for the business. However, in many cases, retailers aren’t remunerated or at the very least, recognised for their success. Sure, a Store Manager might receive the recognition, but not your casual, part-time or full-time sales assistants. So is it any wonder that retail professionals are demanding more? Is it any wonder that they feel undervalued? And, is it any wonder that employees are using your time to get attention?

On the flip side, it’s also understandable that retail businesses are currently feeling the financial pressure with the recent 2019 minimum wage increase to $17.70 per hour, and the Government’s indicative future increases from $18.90 per hour in 2020 to $20.00 per hour in April 2021. Combine these with the living wage recently increasing to $21.15 per hour and the laborious predicament retailers are in, and, unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Economist Brad Olsen highlights "if the pay of those on the minimum wage increases, the pay for those currently paid above the minimum wage decreases in relative terms. So, someone earning $5 above the minimum wage may want their pay to increase by the same [percentage], to keep their pay the same in relative terms", highlighting that this extends to other employees too.

Retail in New Zealand is a growing industry, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Late last year it was recorded retail sales grew at a faster rate than that of Australia, the first time since 2013, and our industry was now worth $92.3B per year, with 8% of all shopping completed online, this latter statistic highlights the continued importance of brick and mortar presence as customers are motivated by in-store experiences; touching, feeling, and learning about new products in-store. Shopping has become a social activity that most kiwis partake in on a regular basis. So the question is, what can you as a retailer be doing differently when it comes to attracting and more importantly, retaining your staff?

Competition for talent remains an issue as local supply is stretched and immigration policies restrict offshore sourcing. A strong employment brand has never been more important for attracting and retaining people. (2019/20 Retailworld Salary Guide)

Keeping in mind that your retail staff are the face of your business, remuneration will continue to be a large driver in employee satisfaction, and it should be. Our 19/20 Salary Guide highlights that “54% of Shopfront respondents are not happy with their pay”, comparing that to our Executive/Support Office respondents where “55% are happy with their pay”, the disconnect between shopfront and support office employees is clear.

That being said, when reviewing and developing your employment brand to attract and retain employees, there are other factors to consider; reviewing your incentive programme for all levels of staff is critical, and rewarding employees on exceeding certain behaviours that benefit your business is a sure-fire way to increase engagement. Your employees will devote loyalty and dedication to your brand if you combine incentives and rewards with clear and genuine succession planning.

Year on year we are seeing an increase in the promotion of retail as a career of choice, and it’s important that as industry professionals we take pride and ownership in this growth of our industry. Implementing professional internal processes that advocate long term career development and growth are supportive of raising the industry profile.

Shopfront specific data reveals the top three factors determining job satisfaction and engagement are: work-life balance, remuneration, and training opportunities. The top three reasons for changing jobs is: remuneration, work-life balance, and career progression. (2019/2020 Retailworld Salary Guide)

Imagine the success your retail business would have if you ensured that every permanent staff member in your stores was or is satisfied with their remuneration, and felt valued through bonus/commission structures, and had a clearly outlined career path supporting their motivations and therefore, increased their engagement with your business? The key to maximising the potential for your business starts with having the best people in your teams. If you’re looking for a fresh perspective, or ideas around attracting and retaining employees across shopfront and executive levels, Retailworld is here to assist.

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