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6 Strategies for Managing the Retail Labor Shortage

How retailers can navigate ongoing labor shortages and position staff for success in a post-pandemic world

COVID-19 sent massive disruptions through global labor markets and accelerated a paradigm shift among North American workforces. Now businesses across the world are facing a serious labor shortage, and few industries are getting hit as hard as retail.

The combination of rising customer expectations, heavier work demands on associates, stagnating minimum wages, and the reality checks the pandemic inspired, have changed how retailers need to think about staffing their stores.

Many retailers have focused on innovative ways to recruit new associates, but that’s only half the equation. This guide will look at how to get additional productivity out of the resources you have. It will look at six key strategies that the world’s top retailers are using to thrive despite a constrained labor market.

1. Allocate labor for greater efficiency

Before looking outward for new hires, the very first thing retailers need to do is optimize the talent they have on-deck.

2. Keep store managers active on the floor

Getting store managers out of the office and onto the floor improves store performance during labor shortages, while also cutting down operational costs.

3. Train new hires faster and more effectively

New associates need to become brand experts across channels almost instantly and there aren’t always enough resources available to help train them.

4. Create stronger pathways for associate success

To deliver the unified experience customers want, retail associates require systems and processes that put deep domain expertise and endless product access at their fingertips.

5. Motivate talent to stick around

Workers across the country are leaving their positions and seeking better offers. Retailers need to focus on retaining top associates by providing fair compensation, advancement potential, and meaningful work.

6. Expect employee turnover and manage it systematically

Even when retailers do it all right, some turnover is inevitable. When those transitions take place, store tasks, processes, and customer relationships need to be able to continue without disruption.

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“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”

– Milton Friedman