February 10, 2022
We frequently hear about the toll that the pandemic has taken on frontline workers, but the scale of the problem can be hard to grasp without seeing the numbers. The monthly job report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows a record number of employees leaving their jobs— 4.5 million resigned last November alone. It’s a trend so persistent that it had to be given a name: The Great Resignation. But even these jaw-dropping numbers don’t tell the whole story, leaving employers who are feeling the impact of the talent drain with more questions than answers. Why are these employees quitting—and more importantly, what can be done about it?
Retail has been one of the sectors that has been hardest hit by employee resignations. Zipline went straight to the source and surveyed more than 500 full-time retail associates to better understand their mental health, working conditions, and perspectives on how their companies could better support them. What we found in our results will likely resonate with anyone who has spent time working on a retail floor in the past two years, and ideally act as a catalyst for change across the industry.
Anxiety, Burnout, And Second Jobs…The Trifecta Leading to a Breaking Point
If there is one main takeaway from our survey it is this: mental health is declining as burnout increases at a rate we’ve never seen. It’s a problem that, left unchecked, shows no signs of abating. Based on our survey, 2 out of every 5 retail associates report their mental health has declined over the past year, and nearly 1 in 4 workers reported high levels of anxiety on the job. More disturbing still, more than half of all retail associates surveyed said that their mental health was either not a concern to their manager or that their manager was harmful to their mental well-being. It’s no wonder that approximately half of the respondents considered quitting their job in the past year, up seven percentage points from Zipline’s 2021 Labor of Love Report findings in May 2021. Even more concerning, more than half of those who considered quitting their job in the last year also considered leaving the industry altogether.
There’s a grim situation on the floor of retail stores across the United States. But now is not the time for retailers to get despondent. It’s time for them to listen to their employees. Here are 5 steps that managers can take to improve their employees’ mental health and job satisfaction:
1. Be Proactive About Creating Mental Health Infrastructure: Sixty percent of the associates surveyed reported that their employer either didn’t have a mental health program in place or they weren’t aware if such a program existed.
2. Offer Paid Mental Health Days (At Least): More than half of retail associates said the service they want most from their employer was paid mental health days with counseling and therapy coming in second place (18%) and paid gym memberships right behind (17%).
3. Increase Pay: Increasing an employee’s pay can lessen or eliminate the pressure to take on a second job. This not only increases employees’ dedication to their company, it also gives them more time to relax and take care of themselves, which translates into improved mental well-being.
4. Demonstrate Support for Employees: Zipline’s survey revealed that 64% of retail employees had noticed an uptick in verbally aggressive or confrontational customers during the pandemic, but fewer than half of the respondents felt they had their manager’s support during these interactions.
5. Acknowledge Contributions: Fewer than half of the survey respondents felt that their managers frequently acknowledged their hard work. Managers should make a point to show appreciation for their employees’ contributions to the team to build morale and boost job satisfaction.
There is no silver bullet when it comes to stopping talent drain in retail. But there are relatively straightforward remedies we know will work. By listening to their employees’ concerns, supporting their mental health, and valuing their contributions, managers can do a world of good for both their workers and their business.
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