UK retail facing employee ‘engagement’ crisis

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New research has revealed that employee satisfaction amongst workers in “deskless” industries, including retail, is worryingly low following the pandemic.

Over a third (37 per cent) of workers state that their employee experience is worse now than pre-2020. There are numerous factors contributing to this dissatisfaction. The impact of ongoing staff shortages was found to be the most common reason for poor employee experience, with over half of deskless workers citing staffing issues as a key challenge. This was followed by less in-person training (37 per cent), worse communication (36 per cent), and fewer opportunities for development (26 per cent).

This is having devastating consequences for the UK workforce. 53 per cent feel less motivated, 32 per cent are unhappy at work, and 31 per cent are less productive. If left unaddressed, this risks exacerbating the ongoing skills shortages further, with one in five considering leaving their company in the next 12 months, and a further 17 per cent considering leaving their industry altogether.

The research from Cloud Assess, which was conducted amongst deskless employees, including retail workers, reveals that hangovers from the pandemic are behind many of the grievances cited by workers.

According to the study, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of businesses stopped some activities entirely because of the pandemic and have not resumed them since. Activities that facilitate in-person networking and learning are the most likely to have been dropped, including team parties, face-to-face meetings, and in-person training. This move away from face-to-face interactions is not supported by the vast majority of workers, with 84 per cent claiming they would like to see some of this activity return.

In-person training was found to be the activity that most workers would like to see reinstated. This is no surprise, given that almost three quarters (73 per cent) of the employees researched claim that the training they are offered by their employer has been affected by the pandemic in some way.

Rob Bright, CEO and Founder of Cloud Assess

26 per cent are being offered fewer training opportunities, whilst 38 per cent say that their training is being increasingly delivered online. This shift is not proving popular. 85 per cent of workers whose employees have moved towards online training or e-learning believe it has had a negative impact on them. 39 per cent say that training sessions are now boring, whilst 34 per cent feel that training is now being viewed as a tick box exercise by their employers.

Even more concerning, just 20 per cent believe that the online training provided to them is actually benefiting their career, whilst even fewer (18 per cent) think it’s making them better at their job. This is having a detrimental impact on employee satisfaction, with more than one in 10 workers stating that they feel less valued by their employer as a result of the move towards online training.

“The research reveals that key industries like retail are facing a major challenge when it comes to employee engagement,” said Rob Bright, CEO and Founder of Cloud Assess. “Workers are craving those in-person interactions and learning opportunities which they lost out on during the pandemic and employers are failing to meet these demands.

“This couldn’t be coming at a worse time for businesses which are already grappling with a severe skills shortage and simply can’t afford a drop in productivity or, worse, further resignations. Whilst it can be tempting to cut corners when resources are tight, these new statistics demonstrates just how vital it is that employers invest in employee engagement activities, like in-person training, if they want to build happy, motivated and loyal teams.”