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5 Key Employee Motivators for the Retail Labor Shortage

The 2021 Retail Labor Shortage

Retail turnover is skyrocketing. With many restaurants and retail stores looking to staff up as reopening moves forward, they are facing a new kind of labor shortage, one where employees are quitting the entire industry as better job opportunities become more prevalent. Citing low pay and difficult customers, this mass exodus has prompted an entire rethinking in some circles of what jobs are needed and what workers want to be doing.  

5 Key Employee Motivators

However, most companies are working with what they’ve got, and it’s not always clear what the future holds. As reopening efforts continue in earnest in several parts of the country, they’re are eager to see what can be done to stem the tide of an unusual labor crunch that threatens to upturn their entire industry. Here are five key motivators for retail employees that will be crucial in the coming months:

  • Investing in Employees – The labor shortage isn’t hitting all retailers equally, and the ones weathering it well are doing it through making proactive increases in wages and employee wellness. As better-paying jobs in other industries siphon off retail workers, retail stores that proactively raised their minimum wage and made investments in health and wellness, like Target, are reporting little to no difficulties in hiring.
  • Recognition and Praise – Recognition and positive reinforcement have remained top motivators throughout the pandemic and will bear even more weight on employee satisfaction moving forward. Avoid negativity at all costs and seek opportunities to call out excellent work and reinforce actions that contribute to your desired culture. Now is the critical time to be of service to your service staff and heap them with genuine kindness.
  • Regular Communication – Beyond recognition and praise, regular communications and feedback will be essential to a sustainable reopening. No one knows quite what to expect as more people go back to a somewhat normal routine, but it’s far from business as usual. Proactively checking in on mental health and wellness and ongoing sensitivity about pandemic-related issues are important to retail staff, who will be on the frontline.
  • Vaccine/Safety Incentives – Even though stores have a greenlight to reopen, the CDC is still advising continued COVID-19 precautions as the virus is still not completely suppressed yet. Maintaining a steady commitment to incentivizing safety gives employees a better sense of security and solidarity, and now that companies are authorized to incentivize vaccines, it can help make things safer for communities, too.
  • Fun Amenities – Livening up the workplace and creating the best environment you can for returning employees can mitigate a lot of stress and create a more engaging daily experience. This can be as simple as providing meals or extra amenities in the break room, giving a token gift to everyone, creating some reopening incentives, or providing quality-of-life improvements.

Rethinking the Retail Experience

Retail workers are some of the many unsung heroes of the pandemic, and as the economy ramps up toward reopening, they are being asked to do even more than before. It’s easy to forget about them when all the shelves are stocked, but we’re now feeling the pinch of not having them around, and it’s left us considering the retail employee experience. This retail labor shortage can be a great opportunity to rethink everything and make meaningful moves – you might find a whole new way to work.


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