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Study suggests overlooked reason why retail workers aren’t returning

It’s not just about the pay.

From wage increases and referral bonuses to free tuition, retailers and restaurants are employing creative tactics to lure new talent. But a study from Big Red Rooster, a JLL company, finds that the level of comfort in-store locations may be an underestimated factor in employee retention and attraction.

A store location that feels safe and comfortable ranked among the top three elements of a job in a study of frontline workers by Big Red Rooster, a JLL company. Pay and schedule flexibility ranked first and second respectively.

When asked to define what they meant by "safe" and "comfortable," respondents connected feelings of safety to their physical wellbeing, and comfort as an emotional factor.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 16.9 million leisure and hospitality jobs in February 2020, compared to the 13.5 million reported in September 2021—a shortage of 3.4 million workers.

“Knowing that employees have the greatest impact on brand experience and that they're in short supply, we aimed to uncover the root of why they aren't returning to the workplace,” said Emily Albright Miller, senior VP strategy, Big Red Rooster. “Overwhelmingly, we've heard there is a disconnect between employer and employee. Customers emphasize the importance employees have on their personal experience, but employees themselves are not feeling valued by the brands that employ them. And that lack of employee recognition has led to employees feeling like they aren't appropriately treated or respected, not only as workers but as human beings.”

When asked what would improve their workplace culture and overall experience beyond wages and benefits, many responses reflected the idea of comfort and feeling free to relax during break times as a chance to decompress. Survey respondents cited clean, inviting breakrooms stocked with snacks and phone chargers as simple ways to improve their work experience, emphasizing employee desire for a workplace environment that meets both physical and emotional needs. They also cited having a clearly defined career path.

“Respect, happiness, and even perks are all important, but if the employee doesn't feel safe, they're ultimately meaningless,” said Miller. “When looking at employee retention, businesses must critically ask themselves, ‘Are we creating environments that are comfortable for our customers while simultaneously ignoring the identical needs of our employees?’”

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