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Stop the Retail Revolving Door: The Strategy to Slash Turnover and Boost Engagement

By: Matt Mueller

In today’s retail landscape, high employee turnover and low engagement are critical challenges affecting both sales and customer experiences. Managing retail teams myself on the front lines, I was focused on hiring people who could just fog a mirror so I didn’t have to work double shifts and close the store alone. When I sent employees to lunch, I would pray they would find their way back to work—so many times, I would never see them again. It was frustrating. Staffing a retail department felt like a revolving door. For years, I could not figure out the problem. It turns out I was so close to the trees I could not see the forest.

 

Mindfully Aligning Our Approach 

Then I had the opportunity to start an innovation team tasked with evolving the retail experience. This is when I had the sobering realization of the complexity of the problem facing the retail industry. I learned that there are three major players in developing a retail experience. If all three players are not mindfully aligned—Company Stakeholders, Front-Line Employees, and Customers—there is very little chance for a successful retail experience.

For the first year, my team focused on interviewing company stakeholders, front-line employees, and customers, identifying the non-negotiables and pain points for each party.



  • Company Stakeholders – We needed to learn the company stakeholders’ goals and vision for the company. Understanding where we were going and why we were going there, rather than just the strategy, was essential. Knowing their goals as a landmark ensures we still get there even if we need to take a different route.

 

  • Front-Line Employees – We then needed to work in the trenches with employees to understand their interpretation of the expectations. We needed to hear from them what is working, what is not working, and why. Insights from this experience revealed what they enjoyed (e.g., serving customers) and disliked (e.g., cross-selling and having so many tasks they felt unsuccessful).

 

  • Customers – Lastly, we spent time in customers’ homes and shopped alongside them. These experiences provided context on what consumers’ expectations of the retail experience are. We learned where we were hitting the mark, underperforming, and overperforming. For instance, giving customers a taste of every single product they ordered was unnecessary and wasteful.

 

After this work was complete, it was like a three-circle Venn Diagram that painted the mindful middle where our solution lay the whole time but was unable to be discovered. We designed a program that aligned with the company stakeholders’ goals, delivered what consumers wanted, and created a retail experience that employees enjoyed delivering. We finally stopped the retail revolving door by aligning our approach.

5 Tips to Stopping The Revolving Door

The success for our team and many of my clients has been found in the 5R’s to a highly engaged retail team. To address these issues effectively, retail leaders need to adopt a holistic approach that integrates company goals, employee experience, and customer experience. The 5R’s strategy—Recruit, Right Work, Relatable Training, Resources, and Retention—provides a comprehensive framework to tackle these challenges and drive meaningful improvements.

Recruit: Hiring the Right People

High turnover often starts with hiring the wrong people. According to reports, turnover rates in the retail sector can exceed 60%, significantly disrupting operations and eroding customer satisfaction​ (Zipline)​​ (Eletive)​. This level of turnover is unsustainable and leads to increased costs, loss of institutional knowledge, and a constant need for recruitment and training.

 

The solution lies in focusing on recruiting individuals who align with your company’s culture and values. Implementing rigorous hiring processes ensures a good fit. For example, we knew that front-line employees that fit our retail experience liked fast-paced jobs and didn’t mind working late nights and weekends. We were able to recruit employees from adjacent industries that found this type of work appealing, rather than people that “just need a job.” Like, Starbucks it’s all about prioritizing a cultural fit that will result in improved retention and a stronger organizational culture​ (Tapcheck)​.

 

Right Work: Providing Clear Direction

Employees often feel disengaged due to unclear expectations and poor communication from management. A study found that only 29% of directions from HQ are executed correctly in retail, leading to frustration and inefficiency​ (Zipline)​. This misalignment not only frustrates employees but also hampers their ability to perform effectively, which ultimately impacts customer satisfaction.

 

Providing clear, concise, and consistent direction to employees is crucial. Regularly communicate company goals and how individual roles contribute to these objectives. Ensuring alignment between HQ directives and store-level execution can reduce frustration and increase productivity. Companies that prioritize clear communication see higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, leading to better performance and customer experiences​ (Eletive)​.

 

Relatable Training: Ensuring Understanding

Ineffective training programs lead to confusion, mistakes, and disengagement among employees. Reports indicate that inadequate training contributes to a significant portion of employee turnover, which costs U.S. businesses about $1 trillion annually​ (Eletive)​. This staggering cost underscores the importance of investing in effective training programs.

 

Develop relatable and comprehensive training programs to ensure employees understand their roles and responsibilities. Pal’s Sudden Service’s approach of providing 120 hours of initial training and regular recertification has resulted in significantly lower turnover and higher customer satisfaction​ (Tapcheck)​​ (Zipline)​. Companies with robust training programs see up to a 25% increase in employee retention and a 20% improvement in customer satisfaction​ (Zipline)​.

 

Resources: Providing Adequate Support

Employees often feel overwhelmed and unsupported due to inadequate staffing and lack of resources. According to a survey, 42% of retail employees feel stressed due to insufficient staffing, directly impacting their productivity and satisfaction​ (Eletive)​. Without the necessary support, employees cannot perform their jobs effectively, leading to burnout and high turnover.

 

Ensure that employees have the necessary resources and support to perform their jobs effectively. This includes providing sufficient staffing levels, appropriate tools, and access to information. Retailers who invest in adequate resources and support systems report higher levels of employee satisfaction and lower turnover rates​ (Eletive)​.

 

Retention: Keeping Good Employees

High turnover disrupts team cohesion and customer relationships, leading to a loss of institutional knowledge and increased recruitment costs. Studies show that replacing an employee can cost up to 20% of their annual salary, making retention a critical financial concern​ (Eletive)​. Therefore, retaining good employees should be a top priority for any retail business.

 

Implement strategies to retain good employees, such as offering competitive benefits, career development opportunities, and a positive work environment. Starbucks’ comprehensive benefits and career growth programs have significantly reduced turnover and improved employee satisfaction​ (Tapcheck)​​ (Eletive)​. But it can also be as simple as recognizing front-line employees for the hard work they do in a structured program—and not just done every so often.

 

Your Next Steps to Stopping the Revolving Door

 

Addressing the root causes of employee turnover and disengagement is essential for improving customer experience and boosting sales. By adopting the 5R’s strategy—Recruit, Right Work, Relatable Training, Resources, and Retention—retail leaders can create a holistic approach that integrates company goals, employee experience, and customer experience. Implement these strategies to transform your retail operations and see tangible improvements in both employee and customer satisfaction.

It can be overwhelming to think about renovating each of the R’s in your retail stores—I know. That’s OK. If you want to put this into action to increase your sales and employee engagement, and slam the brakes on the retail revolving door, there are two next steps that you can take right now:

 

  1. Have a Simple Conversation: Talk with a handful of company stakeholders, front-line employees, and customers to understand their expectations, needs, and pain points. Align their insights into one mindful approach. Essentially, what do we need to do to find the win-win-win?
  2. Evaluate the 5R’s: With this new understanding, reflect on the R that will give you the greatest improvements for the lowest effort.


By just mindfully approaching these two steps, the retail revolving door will come to a screeching halt. If you want to find out which R might be your area of focus, we offer a free assessment at https://themindfulinnovator.com/retail-experience/