Retail’s race to retain held back by lack of people tech


Research reveals that just 23% of manager-employee conversations are being tracked using software across the UK retail industry.
More than half (56%) of retail workers said their one-to-ones are either recorded using pen and paper (31%) or not tracked at all (25%) - sobering statistics that suggest the industry is failing to prioritise its investment in people technology. This is despite 7 out of 10 retail employees agreeing that technology is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for supporting effective conversations at work.

The research, which polled 500 UK-based retail employees in May 2022, was conducted by OpenBlend - the platform for effective conversations at work, and also revealed that performance-centric conversations are failing to address the issues that matter most to retail workers. Respondents cited ‘performance objectives’ and ‘performance ratings’ as the two topics that dominate one-to-ones, despite ‘work-life balance’ and ‘wellbeing’ being the top issues that employees most want to discuss with their managers. In line with this, 92% of retail workers agreed that manager-employee conversations should be balanced, two-way discussions, yet just 37% are encouraged to set the agenda for their one-to-ones. 
Commenting on the research findings, Anna Rasmussen, Founder & CEO at OpenBlend, said: “This research confirms that many UK retailers are lacking the tools needed to help managers really understand the issues that matter to their individual employees. And, when you consider how much the retail industry has invested in customer-facing technology in recent years, it’s even more perplexing. That investment outweighs expenditure in people technology many times over yet it’s simply not possible to create great customer experiences without first having a healthy, motivated, and engaged workforce.”
Survey results also highlighted the retail industry’s ongoing retention issues as 21% of respondents said they plan on leaving their job within the next 12 months while another 19% are still undecided - findings that threaten a collective churn rate of up to 40%. Of those who said they plan on leaving, ‘feeling more valued’ was cited as the top factor that might persuade retail workers to stay (60% of respondents chose this option), followed by ‘increased financial reward’ (56%) and ‘better work-life balance’ (51%). 

Rasmussen concluded: “In today’s employee-led market, retail workers have come to expect personalised employee experiences. The hard truth is that retailers who do not have the right culture and technologies in place to support this will find it much more difficult to ensure their employees feel heard and valued in the race to retain talent.”

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