Being Prepared for Turnover as More Retail Workers Say ‘I Quit’

By Rick Parker,

“Is there a better job out there?”

This is a question that hourly employees within retail industry are asking themselves more frequently, often leading them to say “I quit,” to their current employer.

Consider trends from the government’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey (JOLTs):

More quits: About 344,000 retail workers gave notice in February, which is up 38% from when workers were least likely to quit during the recession (January 2010).

More job openings: Approximately 377,000 retail jobs were available in February, 98% more than at the worst point of the recession (July 2009). 

Less candidate competition: At the toughest point of the recession, there were 6.2 unemployed people for every job opening (June 2009). Now, there are 3.7 unemployed workers per open position, a number that continues to fall.

This data shows less of a “buyers’ market” for employers as quits and job openings have been trending up – and things look to continue in favor of the worker. In short, even with relatively high unemployment, workers are realizing that there can be opportunity elsewhere. What’s an employer to do?

First off, understand that turnover matters, especially from a bottom-line perspective. Retail turnover can hover at 100% annually because most employees don’t last a year. If we assume, at a minimum, that it costs $1,000 to replace an hourly retail employee, with approximately 15 million retail employees in the United States, the industry is looking at a nearly $15 billion problem.

A gut reaction to combat turnover may be pay increases, but many employers may still be feeling tapped out financially – they trimmed costs during the recession and could be facing higher hard costs driven by labor costs, gas prices or other commodity price increases. But there are some relatively inexpensive or non-monetary efforts hourly employers can make to help decrease voluntary turnover:

Recognition: Never underestimate the power of a sincere “thank you.” It matters: Globoforce, which studies employee recognition, found that 78% of people are motivated in their job because they routinely receive recognition for a job well done.

If you have an employee who has gone above and beyond, let him or her know that it did not go unnoticed. Look for overt ways to call out those employees who consistently deliver. It’s much more rewarding to come to work for an employer who appreciates your efforts than one who doesn’t appear to know you exist.

Training: The majority of your workforce does not want to do the same thing, day in and day out for the rest of their working lives. Offer your employees cross-training opportunities that will allow them to learn new skills and change up their days. As your employees learn more about the business, they will become more engaged in their work and more likely to reach the next level.

Some proof: At The Container Store, which says its turnover is an industry-low 10%, first-year, full-time employees are known to log more than 260 hours of formal training.

Scheduling: Snagajob third-party surveys show that hourly hiring managers need workers who can be available for a particular shift. But, hourly workers also desire stability. A study from The University of Chicago reports that “employees with less predictable work schedules report higher levels of stress, greater work-to-family conflict and more interferences with non-work activities such as scheduling doctor's appointments, socializing with friends and eating meals together as a family.”

Keeping staff schedules consistent will lessen headaches for everyone involved. That said, the best employers also allow for flexibility when an employee’s situation changes. For example, Working Mother magazine ranks the Best Companies for Hourly Workers, and the 2012 honorees – Target, PetSmart and Best Buy among them – offer schedule flexibility using employee trading of full or partial shifts; shift time off that can be made up during the pay period; and volunteer overtime.

Hourly employers that use a combination of employee recognition, training and accommodating schedules to keep their employees happy will go a long way toward reducing costly employee turnover. Instead of looking elsewhere for that better job, your employees may find their next job within your own ranks, even as the job market continues to improve.

Rick Parker is senior VP of marketing for Snagajob, the largest hourly employment network for job seekers and employers and the only company to provide both sourcing and talent management solutions to the hourly industry. Contact him at

More Web Exclusives/Guest Commentaries

Login or Register to post a comment.