Improving compensation may seem like the obvious place for retailers to start when they are attempting to retain employees. For the majority of workers who were on the way out the door in July and August, however, it was not about money, according to a new study.

Many retail workers who reported that they were planning to leave their jobs over the summer were doing so primarily because of burnout, this year’s annual Global State of Frontline Work Study from Axonify found. The survey of 2,500 frontline retail workers in the U.S., UK and Australia found that half were planning to leave their jobs and that 58 percent cited burnout as the top reason. Lack of appreciation from management and peers came in as the second most popular reason at 53 percent. Low pay came in at 52 percent, tied with a lack of interest in daily work.

A soon to be released RetailWire study of employee engagement found similar sentiments. Compared to two years ago, prior to the pandemic, fatigue and burnout was cited by retail management as the number one challenge causing employee turnover (48 percent).

In August, 4.3 million U.S. workers left their jobs, according to CNBC, representing 2.9 percent of the workforce. This was an increase over July’s 2.7 percent. Among those who quit their jobs were 892,000 foodservice and accommodation workers and 721,000 retail workers.

News sources have dubbed this mass churn across the U.S. job landscape “The Great Resignation.” While August was the biggest single month for quitting on record since 2000, more than 20 million workers have left their jobs since April.

In a piece discussing the phenomenon in The Wall Street Journal, Danny Nelms, president of the Work Institute, said that the physical and mental toll of the pandemic has caused workers to start reflecting on their life and their career and consider making changes.

The shakeup comes even as major retailers and QSRs have begun boosting minimum wages. Retailers had been moving in this direction after years of pressure from labor advocates, but have acted more quickly in the wake of COVID-19’s reshaping of the employment landscape.

Other reasons for a lack of job satisfaction in retail have also come to light. For instance a recent New York Times article reports that much dissatisfaction stems from retailers failing to provide a clear career path for low-wage employees.


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