HR in Retail

  • Business Advice
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll discuss why HR in retail can be difficult, the challenges you might face, and how to manage them.

Every minute counts when running a retail business. It’s often fast-paced, so when a challenge arises it can cause problems. And not handling your HR correctly can be a catalyst for these issues.

For example, if you don’t have an effective recruitment procedure, it might be difficult to recruit seasonal employees quickly. As a result, you may find it hard to meet your business objectives during busy periods.

In this guide, we'll discuss why HR in retail can be difficult, the challenges you might face, and how to manage them.

Why is HR in the retail industry difficult?

HR in the retail industry can be difficult as it comes with unique challenges, often not found in other areas of work. For example, retail companies quickly hire a large number of new employees around the Christmas period - putting extra strain on their HR team to manage recruitment at short notice.

Across seasonal periods, retail businesses tend to be busier. This increases the need for extra workforce planning, such as creating rotas. This again can create extra stress and workload for HR teams, meaning they have to juggle more responsibilities.

Why is HR in the retail sector important?

HR in retail is of great importance, like other industries. However, in the retail sector, businesses are labour-intensive - so more training is required. Not to mention, you also have to ensure your Health & Safety compliance.

So, having an inadequately performing HR department with poor HR skills could lead to many issues, such as:

  • Employee conflict.
  • Non-compliance with legal responsibilities.
  • Toxic workplace culture.

HR processes should be in place to ensure none of the above happens, and your business can function smoothly at all times.

What are the HR challenges in the retail industry?

There are many challenges that HR departments in retail businesses have to manage. Whilst the list is not limited, the most common issues include:

Employee retention and high turnover rates

Keeping and retaining your best employees is one of the main challenges retail HR professionals have to face. These departments can sometimes have difficulty keeping employees at the company for a long time.

Several factors can cause this, such as employing a lot of students who move onto university, people using retail as a "stop-gap" in between jobs, or lack of job security.

Hiring and training new retail employees

Another HR challenge businesses in the retail sector face is the need to quickly hire and train new employees. This is especially the case during the lead-up to busy seasonal periods, such as Christmas.

For example, a large retail business may hire many part-time workers or seasonal workers in a short space of time. This means that a large number of employees need to be quickly trained on the job - which can take up a lot of time and money.

Employee engagement, experience, and wellbeing.

A further challenge in retail HR is managing employee engagement, experience, and wellbeing. Retail employees have to face problems daily, such as:

  • Working long hours in a fast-paced environment.
  • Low pay.
  • Dealing with difficult and rude customers.
  • Lack of recognition from management.

Poor employee experience can cause staff to resent their place of employment, leading to a decrease in employee motivation or morale. Consequently, the business might find itself having higher staff turnover as a result.

Lack of career development

A further HR challenge that companies in the retail sector can face is a lack of career development. A lot of the time, younger people working in retail don't see it being their long-term career choice. This is further amplified if there are no evident opportunities for career growth.

Consequently, if staff feel that they’re employed in a ‘dead-end’ job, they might be less motivated to work hard and ultimately become less productive.

Non-compliance with regulations

Another example of an HR challenge that retail companies face is regulatory compliance. Typically, retail businesses employ large amounts of young workers. This means different rules and laws apply for their breaks and rates of pay.

Within the retail industry, many Health & Safety laws must be adhered to. Non-compliance with this could lead to serious injury at work. For example, staff may fail to lift heavy loads correctly, and ultimately cause stock to fall onto employees or customers.

How to overcome retail HR challenges

Now we've discussed the overall challenges that retail HR departments face, it's crucial you know they can be resolved should one ever arise. Fortunately, there are many different steps you can take to ensure they are.

Let's discuss ways to do this in more detail:

Provide opportunities for career progression

You should aim to provide opportunities for your employees to develop their skills and careers further. This will help when retaining employees - as staff will be more motivated to work for a company with a clear pathway for their progression.

Work with your employees to create development plans, with goals incorporated within them. Ensure the goals you set are achievable and manageable; which will help your employees progress steadily to avoid overwhelming them.

Invest in employee training

Another common way you can overcome any challenges you face in retail is to provide employee training. The HR team within a retail business should devote both time and resources to workplace training to ensure standards are met.

Training should be provided so all employees are aware of what conduct they must adhere to. For example, they should be trained on how serious cases of harassment, bullying, and employee thefts are. Training on providing excellent customer service and customer experience should also be given, to ensure your business objectives are met.

Rewards your employee's hard work

As we know, your staff members face long hours in a fast-paced environment - and this is especially the case over the festive period. So ensure you recognise their hard work. Don't underestimate the effect doing so will have on your employees.

For instance, you could offer an early finish or an extra day's annual leave for their hard work over busy periods. Rewards such as these will help staff to feel valued at work. Remember, engaged employees are more motivated to work harder.

How Peninsula can help with HR in retail

There are thousands of retail businesses in the UK, with millions of people visiting and working in the industry. But, when running a retail company, time is money - so every minute counts.

That's why Peninsula is here to help. We can help with every aspect of your HR management.  We provide:

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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