Managing tough times: Why 68% of retail workers don’t call for help when they need it

Article by Olivia Robinson | 1st September 2020

Our recent white paper, Empowering the Forgotten Frontline, is available to download

VoCoVo has investigated the impact of coronavirus on UK retail. We found surprising trends, revealing the number of colleagues who’d dealt with abuse from customers or physical altercations. Over 75% had experienced a risk to their physical safety at work since March. This figure shows the extent to which working on the frontline over the past four months has affected colleagues.

As well as customer altercations, an additional trend emerged. Of the 75% of workers who experienced a risk to their safety, less than a third would tell their team leader. Similarly, only 43% of workers would report a physical challenge from a customer to their manager afterwards. This left us wondering, why aren’t issues reported?

Why are workers reluctant to speak up?

For many, raising an issue with management was not a priority because their job is a short-term choice. Of the colleagues we spoke to, an unexpected 96% did not see retail as a long term career. Retail is facing record job losses. Already 24,000 jobs have been cut in this sector in 2020. Our own statistics show that 50% of retail workers intend to leave in the next 3 years. When we asked why, 30% stated ‘job pressure’ as the reason. 

Download the full insight report

The pressures of the job

Working in retail is challenging for many colleagues. Our investigation showed several issues that leaders need to be aware of:

  • 32% of workers faced customer abuse
  • 28% of workers felt career progression was low

Yet, 78% of retail workers said they were happy with their job as it stands. These figures would seem to contradict themselves. This begs the question, what do colleagues want that they aren’t currently getting?

What do retail workers want?

  • More training – According to our data, most colleagues enjoy their role, yet see it as impermanent. What could help change this? 28% of respondents said they would prefer more training and development. Retail workers want to feel empowered. Giving more training to staff would improve their career trajectory and improve job retention.
  • More interaction with colleagues – Aside from training, the other key thing workers wanted more of were opportunities to interact with their colleagues. 29% said that greater communication with colleagues was their biggest desire for change at work. We know from our own experience that the more retail teams communicate, the greater their job satisfaction and higher levels of customer service.
  • More support from management – The final trend, which is key, shows 31% of retail workers would like more support from management. Clearly this interlinks with the previous two wishes, in that more training and more time with their team means more time learning from and engaging with their team leader. Feeling valued is important to retail workers.

At VoCoVo, we are trying to understand and support our clients with the challenges the UK retail sector is facing. With the demands for social distancing, and customer behaviour becoming challenging, now is the time to invest in better communication for your team. We work with the UK’s top retailers, to deliver more teamwork, more training and more support for colleagues when they need it most.

Speak to our team today

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