Money and Hours is Not the Cure-All for Retail

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So the answer to improve the retail workplace is more money and better scheduling. This would reduce turnover and create more productive and happy associates. This is a solution from various fiscal experts and researchers, but is not based on the reality.

There are some good points, but in practice, higher starting wages will not produce exactly the results that the different studies have indicated.

The Fiscal Policy Institute in New York City released a report that found that retail jobs “hold a distinction in the industry as the city’s largest low-wage employer.” Among the findings, the Institute concluded that higher wages would result in “increased worker productivity and higher quality service for customers.”

Is this in the wrong order? Most businesses want to see productivity and quality service then pay more. Offering a higher hourly wage would definitely make retail jobs more appealing, but does this result in better employees and better service?

As managers, we are responsible for the training to make employees productive and provide top customer service. 

And if we see it, we want to pay those associates more to retain them. This is the purpose of a probation period. 

Most new hires are teenagers in their first jobs so expectations need to be explained clearly and early. In his book, “The Profitable Retailer: 56 Surprisingly Simple and Effective Lessons to Boost Your Sales and Profits,” Doug Fleener cites poor management as another reason for turnover.

Fleener says, “Employees who work for a store manager they like and respect wind up liking and respecting the company they work for.”

In most instances, young employees “like” a store manager if they get a desirable schedule. What that means to most 20 year olds is no evenings and no weekends, a retailer’s most profitable times.

Retailers are often criticized for not providing adequate predictable hours and “forcing workers to open up their availability just to keep their jobs, while slashing their hours.”

There is some guesswork, but managers know what hours every week we need staffing. We also understand rotating associates for a life-work balance, but when employees constantly call out, we are left with no choice but to call the same reliable workers who will get burned out.

We can provide “predictable” hours if we have “predictable” employees. Open availability is only a problem when employees keep reducing it themselves. Most of the time, we are not “forcing” anyone to change anything, we just want them to stick to the original times that were agreed upon when hired.

The hours we are slashing are the daytime requests of employees. We are not cutting the less desirable evenings and weekends. We have hours to give, but employees don’t want to work those hours.

At this point, other businessmen are crying out to just clean house and hire others who will work the necessary times. As managers will attest, every applicant agrees to everything in the interview, but then things change once they are actually on the job. If we actually fired every employee who changed their availability, turnover would be much higher.

So the conclusion of several sources that higher wages will make for happy and better workers is not accurate.

Money and better scheduling seems like the solution to the retail workplace. It sounds like a nice idea in the confines of an educational or research setting but does not hold up in the daylight or nighttime of brick-and-mortar stores.

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