Beyond signing bonuses: how retailers can compete in the war for talent

The job market is bouncing back and expectations among employees on the frontlines are changing fast.

Not only are they leaving their jobs in record numbers (with the retail sector taking the biggest hit), but there’s also a very real war for talent as the economy rapidly reopens in the wake of climbing vaccination numbers. Now, with more power to choose where they’re spending their work lives and an emphasis on employee satisfaction and morale, there’s a widening gap between the number of open roles and workers willing to fill them. In fact, 94% of retailers say they’re having trouble filling empty roles

So how can retailers step up their game to attract the best employees and keep existing associates from jumping ship?

Here are some things to consider if you’re looking to become an employer of choice.

Boost employee morale by helping them fit in fast, investing in their performance and growth, and keeping the lines of communication open.  

How do you show up for your people when times are really challenging?

Frontline employees bear the brunt of organizational change in their day-to-day work. And they want to be fairly compensated and appreciated for dealing with the longer shifts, understaffed stores, safety stresses and difficult customers. 

Wage increases and bonuses aside, associates also want to feel safe, supported and informed at work. Of course, they always have, but the pandemic really intensified this dynamic. There are many inspiring stories of how companies supported their frontline workers through the most difficult days of the pandemic. 

Briscoe Group, New Zealand’s leading retailer of homewares and sporting goods, has a great story of how they stayed connected to their furloughed employees in both practical and engaging ways.

When employees are passionate about what they do and are well-aligned with your brand values, it shows in your company culture. And for prospective employees making the tough choice about where to work next, a values-based culture can be a major differentiating factor in their decision.

Is your employee engagement plan working day-to-day?

Winning over new talent in a hot job market can be a challenge in a world where retailers are offering incentives just for the privilege of interviewing (and signing bonuses for taking the job). 

Want to make a great impression on new hires and potential candidates? Fair wages and benefits, predictable schedules and safe working conditions are one way to stand out, but don’t underestimate the value of transparency, keeping them in the loop, recognizing them for their efforts and giving them right-fit tools to learn and grow. Making their experiences with your brand positive from the get-go with a streamlined onboarding process is another way to set them up for success right away.

There’s no shortcut to make hiring easier or turnover disappear, and one thing is certain: it’s not likely that either of these things will happen on their own. The essential workforce’s expectations and attitudes have changed drastically—it’s time for retailers to acknowledge these changes and adjust their recruiting and retention practices accordingly.

Once you do attract new hires, if you can get them performing confidently quickly, feeling like you’re there for them no matter what happens and aligned with your overarching brand values, you increase your chances of keeping them with you longer. And an engaged, stable, high-performance retail workforce is every brand’s  greatest source of competitive advantage in retail’s race to resilience.

Carol isn’t your typical leader. She’s driving a revolutionary approach to employee knowledge, but she’s also a doors-open, come-see-me-anytime kind of executive. Carol doesn’t just talk the talk—she definitely walks the walk. You can read more from her on Training Industry Magazine, ATD, CLO and as a regular contributor for Fortune.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.