The grocery industry has always been one driven by people. But in the new post-pandemic labor market, the industry (among many others) is finding it hard to fill much-needed positions. While the industry has long had high turnover issues, new technology and a simple refresh of strategy can encourage young and new employees to take a chance on what could be a very rewarding career.
Embracing New Roles
While it’s been said that a third of all grocery-related retail tasks could be automated in the coming years, only a small percentage of jobs could realistically be fully automated. Instead, this allows us to create new roles within grocery retail stores and exciting new opportunities for employees to learn and evolve with the technology as it is introduced.
As the shopping experience turns more and more towards a digital space each year, the roles that we know and are used to are evolving and shifting, creating demand for more advanced technical and analytical skills within grocery retailers. With this shift online, comes a demand for roles in digital marketing, strategic pricing, planning, ordering, and more. And while the decline in the need for checkout positions has been rumored since the increase in self-checkouts, the human touch of customer service is still in high demand.
The nature of retail grocery roles is experiencing a dramatic shift because of this change in consumer behavior. It’s become impractical and impossible to ignore this shift, and grocery retailers must change their approach to employee acquisition and the roles they must fill to fit this new shopping experience.
Despite an increase in average wages and benefits for full-time grocery store employees, the global attrition in the industry jumped from 40 to 60 percent in 2020 according to the Food Industry Association. This figure shows how little weight employees are putting on the transactional pay of money for hours from their employer at the current time and are now searching for deeper relational elements from their workplace and supervisors. There is a significant emphasis on workplace culture, feeling valued by the organization, schedule flexibility, career advancement, and future opportunities.
Employees are craving an investment in the human aspects of their work. The onboarding and training process is critical in the employee feeling capable and therefore valued in their work, as is the ongoing motivation from managers and supervisors. Taking the extra steps to ensure that your employees feel comfortable, valued, and acknowledged at work is key to reducing this turnover.
Reskilling and Upskilling
It’s been shown that an employer’s dedication to investing in upskilling their grocery store employees can be 20 to 30 percent more cost-effective in the long term, compared to a consistent cycle of hiring new talent. Not only does this investment provide the employer with a more capable employee, but it’s been shown to increase employee engagement and overall productivity within the company, while also touching on our last point of making the employee feel valued within the workplace.
This investment in skill can help future-proof your business and your employees and reduce time spent learning and adapting to these new technologies and processes on the job. Not only will your efforts towards an employee ensure that they feel important and capable in the workplace, but this effort can also take an employee in a low-demand, high-supply role and transition into a capable, high-demand, low-supply one. In a recent survey by McKinsey the number of retail employee hours spent on technological skills has increased by over 60% since 2016. Examples of technological skills included consolidating info on a tablet and completing e-learning training on a device. This shows not only a high return on investment when you choose to invest in not only the people in your workplace but the tools they prefer to use as well.
These are just a few of the strategies that grocery retailers can adopt to boost overall satisfaction and the retention of their much-needed employees. Over the past years, there has been a massive shift in employee priorities, which has made it hard for employers to understand why their employees are choosing to leave. Hopefully, with a forward-thinking mindset and a deeper investment in our employees (financial investment aside), we can reverse this spike in attrition that our industry has experienced.