Where Have All The Retail Associates Gone?

Where have all the retail associates gone?


As a Store Manager and District Manager, I hired happy, motivated people who cared about customers and wanted to have fun with them.  I wanted a team who was committed to creating consistent store experiences.  Associates who “Got it”, “Wanted it” and “had the Capacity to do the work”.  

Once I found associates who had “GWC”, the key for me was to clearly articulate the role they played on the team and the difference they would make in our store.  To this day, I truly believe that people want to add value. They may not be able to articulate it, but when they are part of a winning team, they will stay.  For me, no store in the mall could pry them away from my team.  I had record low turnover.  

Today I hear many store managers saying they can’t have these high standards because they cannot find help.  They have to settle for whoever applies.  I know it appears that retail associates disappeared with COVID.  Retail isn’t the only industry that seems to have lost talent.  So how do you find holiday help that is willing and able to deliver on your brand promise? 

Yes, you can find talent.

I wish I had a magic wand that would help you hire the people you need to ensure you deliver your holiday results. Target is hiring 100,000 seasonal associates this year.  There is a war on talent for sure.  Perhaps Target pays more than you are able to pay.  This year, there is no waiting until November to start hiring.  Begin interviewing and hiring now. Be up front with new hires on the amount of hours they will get now and the hours they should expect BY WEEK.  Be flexible if they want a second job to augment income.  

Top 10 things you should do to hire talent.

  1. Start by looking at the volume you did last year each week from Black Friday to Christmas. Now apply this year’s trend and determine how many payroll hours you will spend each week. While last year may not be the best predictor of this year, it is what you have to work with.  Applying your current trend will help make it accurate.  
  2. Talk to your existing team.  Will they be adjusting their availability for holiday?  Can they work more hours?  Make sure to find out the start date and the end date.
  3. Gather the team’s requests off for the balance of the year now.  The sooner they tell you when they want to be off, the easier to grant the requests.
  4. Establish a hiring target by week based on actual availability needed.  It isn’t about body count.  You might be able to schedule for peak with less people if they have the availability you need to fill open shifts.
  5. Talk to each member of the team about who they know who might want to work at your store.  People love to work with their friends.  
  6. Allow the team to pick the shifts they want.  People want more autonomy on when they work.  Give it to them.
  7. Create a culture of being the BEST PLACE TO WORK IN THE CENTER.  
  8. Be flexible with the team.  COVID is still out there and people are getting sick.  Be patient and caring if someone calls off.  
  9. Be prepared to share talent with other locations in the center.  If you can’t give enough hours each week, give them a set availability that you will need so they can find a second job.  
  10. Be the leader others want to follow. If you get the reputation that you hire the best talent and develop them in their role, recognizing their performance along the way, others WILL want to work at your store. 

Time to take action.

This post is not intended to over simplify the challenges that are facing every retailer this holiday.  It does, however, provide you with things YOU can do.  Things YOU have control over.  

There is no sense getting caught in the victim triangle saying things like “there is no one applying”.  Follow the 10 steps above, engage your team, reward them for results and watch it happen!

Always in your corner,

Rachel Williamson Running Great Stores

p.s. If you think someone else you know would benefit from this post, share it!  After all, it’s nice to share. 

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