The Deskless Report:
Retail Edition 2023

What do associates need to stay happy, productive, and loyal? What do retail managers need to effectively lead their associates without daily burnout? And what do retailers need to make the data-driven decisions to empower their workforce at scale? These are the questions we set out to address in The Deskless Report: Retail Edition.

The Deskless Report: Retail Edition 2023

As part of our frontline report polling over 1,200 corporate leaders and frontline managers and workers, The Deskless Report: Retail Edition explores the state of the retail world by delving deeper into the associate, manager, and corporate experience — and what these groups need to thrive. The resulting insights will forever redefine the concepts of associate communication, feedback, training and more.

Get the full report here, but here’s a glimpse at the insights we uncovered.

The retail manager is a critical intermediary — but they’re overburdened and burning out

The role of the retail manager in empowering and enabling associates has quickly become a trending topic. While the main Deskless Report exposed the pivotal role managers play as intermediary between corporate and workers, it’s even more prevalent — and urgent — when we look specifically at the findings within the retail industry.

Retail Deskless Report Manager Burnout 2

The fundamental needs of associates aren’t getting met (because there’s a misalignment on what matters most)

40% of retail workers want to quit their job

Retailers are often encouraged to start with “the why” when communicating with associates. But to truly engage, inspire, and retain retail staff, fundamental needs must be addressed before “the why.” Because right now, associates are struggling with livelihood and stability — and turnover rates are rising as they search for it elsewhere.

Ad-hoc communication is prevalent in retail frontlines — and it is negatively impacting everyone

While the full Deskless Report identified a communication cascade in frontline organizations that was similar to that of deskbound companies — a top-down approach focused on email and word-of-mouth — the retail cohort is even less structured. And as the retail world remains increasingly volatile, the focus on ad-hoc and verbal communication in retail may have finally come to a breaking point.

62% of corporate retail leaders believe their communication is effective, while only 28% of retail workers agree

Feedback is valued at the corporate level — but non-existent at the store level

32% of retail workers feel heard, compared to 63% in 2021

Exploring feedback within retail organizations uncovered an interesting anomaly. At the corporate level, leaders value employee feedback and see it as a strong indicator of an enabled frontline. However, retail frontlines don’t feel heard, or feel that they don’t have access to the right channels to provide the feedback that corporate values.

Ineffective and overrun technology stacks have led to misalignment — and skepticism

While digitizing the customer experience has been a steady talktrack in retail since before the pandemic, digitally enabling retail frontlines has gained less traction. Ineffective technologies and a lack of consolidation across tools and platforms have led to a higher-than-average level of skepticism about frontline technology that starts at the corporate level and continues all the way down to the associate level.

62% of corporate retail leaders believe their organization invests in new technologies for frontline workers, while only 37% of retail workers agree

Associates are fueled by training — but access is limited, and dated

43% of retail workers say adequate training and upskilling is one of the top drivers of success and happiness at work, but 31% of workers don't have access to it

Training programs in retail organizations still tend toward using “old school” systems built for deskbound workforces, if at all. Only 40% of corporate respondents and 30% of retail frontline respondents said they use a learning management system. The real training is happening informally and unstructured.