Frontline workers have been repeatedly praised over the past year-plus for being the heroes who keep things together at retail despite the dangers and job challenges created by the pandemic. Many of those associates, however, feel that they are not being heard by management when it comes to important issues affecting their jobs, personal wellbeing and company performance overall.

A new SafetyCulture survey finds that 23 percent of frontline workers in the U.S. feel they are rarely or never listened to by management when it comes to organizational concerns. Add in 42 percent that say that management sometimes hears their concerns and you have the makings of a communication breakdown that could lead to employee turnover.

The research found that the issues most important to associates are operations (51 percent), safety (44 percent), health and wellbeing (40 percent), general issues observed (32 percent), management style (30 percent), inclusion and diversity (23 percent) and social issues (22 percent).

Twenty-two percent of workers say that communication within their organizations is from the top-down only. Thirty-four percent feel discouraged from providing feedback, assuming that nothing will get done.

Workers also express concerns over reprisals for reporting issues to management. Thirty-six percent of frontline employees say that alerting management to safety or quality management issues could lead to their dismissal, including concerns over COVID-19 protocols.

“It’s clear that these critical workers want a say in the operations and running of their workplaces,” Bob Butler, general manager of SafetyCulture, said in a statement. “Two-way communication between frontline workers and management is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is a business imperative. Leaders need to be arming their teams with the right tools to allow them to add value, be heard, and stay safe.”

Retail has been one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic when it comes to employee turnover with the industry still down more than 140,000 jobs, according to government statistics cited by Footwear News. This is the reality despite furious recruitment activity that includes signing bonuses, higher hourly pay and other perks.

In a recent RetailWire survey that asked retail employers to compare their current challenges associated with employee turnover to two years ago (pre-pandemic), 48 percent said fatigue and burnout have risen sharply higher. Among items the retailers saw in high demand among job applicants was schedule flexibility, second only to higher wages.

Workers today considering a new job say they are looking for a voice within their organizations, according to SafetyCulture’s survey. Eighty-eight percent rank that as important in their decision-making, as are pay, competitive holiday allowance and training. Seventy percent of workers rank training as important in their job satisfaction.


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