Retail: the Employer of Choice

There aren’t many sectors more competitive than retail, where competing businesses sit literally door to door. It’s always been key for retailers to maintain a competitive edge in the goods they sell. But, in this new era of the national living wage, retailers must turn their focus to being competitive as an employer, too.

After all, how will employers ensure they attract and retain the best staff, if their competitors offer the same wage? What will differentiate them, if they cut benefits packages to fund a pay-rise for the lowest paid?

Becoming an Employer of Choice is now as important as having the right product, in the right place, at the right time.

The good and bad news stories flow through each day. Ikea are committed to paying the “real” living wage. The House of Commons chastise M&S for slashing other historic benefits to fund the national living wage.

But, none of these sensational stories give a real insight into what employees can really benefit from.

I recently attended at a conference of Retail Finance Directors. From conversations I had there, it’s clear that retailers recognise the need to improve the productivity of their workforce. They need to employ workers who continuously work at their optimum level. To achieve this, they need to engage, motivate and encourage loyalty in their employees.

Cutting benefits will not achieve this.

Every person I spoke to at the conference was committed to upskilling their workforce through training, development and mentoring. They could all see the bigger picture – a better experience for the consumer and higher productivity, because of better-motivated staff.

As consumers, we prefer to engage with a knowledgeable and friendly sales assistant. Now that double pay on a Sunday is not going to be the factor that sparks that assistant’s enthusiasm, retailers need to focus on the overall employee experience to retain and attract the best people.

Retailers that take a strategic approach towards employee well-being, while improving efficiency productivity, may have better long-term results. Rather this, than using the short-term tactic of reducing the reward budget.

Esyllt Green, Associate & Monica Newton, HR Consultant