One out of five people in the United States works in the retail and hospitality sector, and at least half of frontline retail workers are thinking about quitting. As people across the country reevaluate what they want and need from their jobs, retailers will continue to bear the brunt of the Great Attrition. What can they do to turn this turbulent period into the Great Attraction
In this episode of the McKinsey on Consumer and Retail podcast, three McKinsey retail experts share insights from their latest research on the US frontline retail workforce. An edited transcript of their conversation with host Monica Toriello follows. Subscribe to the podcast.
Most importantly, this translates into outcomes: retailers with lower frontline turnover have higher comparative-store sales by three percentage points. So this should be at the top of the priority list not only because of the competition for talent and the fact that employees are looking for new jobs, but also because it actually translates into business results.
Employees in frontline retail are looking for a broader range of things. Two reasons this is notable. First, when you compare retail to other industries, flexibility jumps out as unique. Retail is the only industry in which flexibility ranks as the number-one driver of why you might leave your job. This is counterintuitive, given that in a frontline retail job, you have to be in the store helping customers. Second, in most other industries, there are one or two drivers that really pop. The list for frontline retail is a lot longer; the top five that we laid out are all really important. In fact, in frontline retail, the top seven or eight drivers are all critical elements.
Monica Toriello: So the desire for more flexibility is the number-one reason that retail frontline workers go looking for a new job. But as you said, there are several other important reasons, and your research revealed that there are different motivators for different segments of the frontline retail workforce, right Different aspects of the employee experience are more important to younger employees versus older employees, for example. Say more about those differences.
In summary, understand your frontline labor pools and build a distinctive EVP that caters to them. Innovate to offer flexibility. Invest in strong managers and build a development culture. And finally, simplify frontline retail jobs and make them more engaging.
Most of us continue to rely on media stories and our experiences in daily life to identify frontline workers: butchers at meatpacking plants, bus drivers, grocery workers, and health care providers. But there are millions of more workers on the frontlines; we need clearer metrics to complement these broader narratives. We cannot afford to overlook workers some of us may not see, both now and after COVID-19. Failing to recognize and protect frontline workers harms our public health and economy.
Their size and composition only underscore the need to protect frontline workers. Without more specific definitions, it will be hard to prioritize their safety and determine the cost and eligibility for pandemic-specific benefits, such as additional equipment, insurance, sick leave, hazard pay, and other protections.
BLS Occupational Employment Statistics provide detail on wages and employment, but a variety of other labor market data, including the American Time Use Survey and O*NET, allow us to explore what types of occupations can work from home and the levels of exposure they face on the job. These data sources do not capture all the potential risks that frontline workers face, but they offer a start to more detailed conversations. Our analysis builds off of recent articles from the World Economic Forum and other organizations to consistently identify frontline occupations that often (1) cannot work from home, and (2) are concentrated in the essential DHS sectors identified above.
Pay levels and physical proximity do not fully reveal who these frontline workers are and why they may be more exposed to greater risks overall. Several recent reports have illustrated how COVID-19 disproportionately affects certain segments of the population by education, gender, race, and other demographics. The frontline workforce includes many of these groups.
Even with additional protections on the job, many frontline workers are susceptible to layoffs and may struggle to connect with other career pathways. COVID-19 has already cost millions of retail and manufacturing jobs considered essential by DHS, while essential jobs in construction, state and local government, and other activities may be lost in the coming months, too. Congress and the executive branch should continue to monitor these trends closely, including discussions of how to best support disconnected and other prospective frontline workers in training and skills development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already inflicted enormous economic and physical pain. Some of the most heartbreaking stories are those of the frontline workers, including people of color and those who have been consistently underpaid. Many of these workers have lost their jobs, contracted the virus, or continue to report to unsafe work conditions. The federal officials sworn to protect them can do more.
Creating formal definitions of frontline workers and the essential industries in which they work is an important, technical step to adopt policies that target the most vulnerable workers. With most experts indicating that a COVID-19 vaccine may not appear for months or years, there is tangible urgency to adopt such technical reforms as soon as possible.
Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific empowers 26,000 employees and 10,000 business partners with a digital workplace built on Unily's Digital Experience Cloud. The airline flies passengers to more than 230 destinations and required a sophisticated solution to support their workforce in delivering the highest service.
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Solvers, or optimizers, are software tools that help users determine the best way to allocate scarce resources. Examples include allocating money to investments, or locating new warehouse facilities, or scheduling hospital operating rooms. In each case, multiple decisions need to be made in the best possible way while simultaneously satisfying a number of requirements (or constraints). The \"best\" or optimal solution might mean maximizing profits, minimizing costs, or achieving the best possible quality. Here are some representative examples of optimization problems:
Roula Amire:Welcome to Better by Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture. I'm your host, Roula Amire, Content Director at Great Place to Work. On this episode, we speak with Rick Jackson, EVP Engagement and Enablement at Deutsche Post DHL Group. We are very happy to have you here.
Rick Jackson:It's a really tough question because I don't think they are. And I haven't had the experience to say, are they hard or it's been hard, if I'm honest. But then I suppose I could also say that I'm not in the operational side on that front line to engage them. But what we are doing is we are engaging them from the group level into the business. If we want to really engage the frontline, we need to speak to them in their language. Now that isn't just about what words we use, it's also about the language that they speak in. So we have to go into our population, if we want to engage our front line with anything we do, we make a point of translating anything into that front line.
Rick Jackson:Well, so we went to the company in the UK that makes the British passports, and the cover is the same cover that we use on passports. And the UK as a country ran out of passport paper when DHL placed their order because we needed to order over a hundred thousand of them-
Rick Jackson:And we printed them all in one place in London. Anyway, that's just a sideline story, but the whole premise of that is it allow... Everybody has one. So as you go through your journey, you're collecting stamps of completion, you're collecting awards of recognition within it. You've got managers of our groups and countries signing it and leaving nice messages once they've finished a program to show how much they've achieved. That creates some form of gamification. It allows people to have an identity, and it allows everybody to have the same thing.
Rick Jackson:There isn't. And this is where the connection element, for me, it's the comfortability and the connection of that which breaks all barriers and all boundaries. And for me, that's real true connection and engagement with our frontline. And that goes in their own environment, but with anyone who visits, with anyone who works with them, if they meet anybody around the world who works for DHL as well, they have a common discussion point, the passport.
Roula Amire:I think this is a great example because I'm going to make an assumption here and say many leaders might assume if we're engaging workers, hourly workers, frontline workers, they may think typically it's from manager to employee, boss to employee, which of course there's a large place for that in terms of employee engagement. But you're talking about connecting employee to employee.
Rick Jackson:That's in the leadership place. But when we start to talk about the engagement side, so if we start think about our onboarding, I'll just use that as an example. We have a sort of foundation program onboarding into the hearts and minds of our business. You sit for a day and a half, you get facilitated through what our company's all about, what are our products, what's our network, how big are we in the world, what's important to us, what are our values, how we want you to react, and how we want you to behave and what it means to us in the organization, how we change the world, how do we connect people and improve lives, which is our purpose, and all the good we do. And it really grabs the emotional element. We want to get to the heart of the people in the business. When you look at that, that's where we have our colleagues facilitating people within the business. 59ce067264