Survey Says: Retail Workers Feel Least Connected To Employers

While there are plenty of people working in all levels of retail who want to do a good job, a new survey shows that only half of U.S. retail workers have the sense that they are even moderately engaged with their jobs.

The folks at the Temkin Group, which does research and consulting about the customer experience, recently asked all manner of U.S. workers to rate how much they agree or disagree with the following three statements:
1. I understand the overall mission of my company.
2. My company asks for my feedback and acts upon my input.
3. My company provides me with the training and the tools that I need to be successful.

And while, on average, 57% of all respondents were found to be at least moderately engaged with their jobs, only 50% of those in the retail sector fell into these categories. Only 28% of those identifying as retail employees demonstrated that they were highly engaged.

The notion is that those employees who feel that they are an integral, engaged part of the companies that employ them will work harder, longer and better than those that feel disconnected.

The survey results seem to back that idea up, as 96% of workers who scored as “highly engaged” also stated that they always or almost always try their hardest while on the job. Meanwhile, only 71% of respondents who fell into the “disengaged” category also claimed to be giving it their all at work.

So why do so many retail workers feel disconnected from their jobs?

“Retailers often don’t look at employees as their brand,” Bruce Temkin tells Consumerist. “At the end of the day they’re paying someone 12 or 14 dollars an hour, but they aren’t realizing that, to the customer, these front-line employees are the total of their brand.”

He explains that many retail employers need to revisit how they view their staffers. “It’s not just about handling transactions,” says Temkin. “The need to invest more in training and maybe more in paying these employees more money.”

This is especially true on the lower-income end of the retail spectrum, where employers can get caught up in this vicious cycle of treating their workers like short-time employees because they don’t believe anyone would want to work for more than a few months.

Some of these businesses, notably in the food-service industry, “treat employees like temps,” says Temkin, and so they cut down on their investment in these staffers’ future, which all just leads to poor results for everyone.

“You can break the cycle,” Temkin explains to Consumerist, clarifying that small changes can have long-lasting ripple effects. “There’s a lot of value of getting the average turnover from six months to eight months.”

There are also simple things that don’t necessarily cost money, like asking employees for feedback and responding to it, and recognizing employees who show initiative and drive. These are all time-tested ways of getting workers to care about their jobs, but too many retail employers have lost sight of this.

•Of interest to employers and consumers is the survey’s finding that companies that provide quality customer experience are more likely to have engaged employees (75%) compared with only 34% for other companies.

So it’s time to turn off that nasty-go-round of assuming that retail employees don’t want to be retail employees so don’t provide them with a reason to care about their jobs, and instead start a positive cycle of investing in and engaging with employees.