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Retail Employees Not Entirely Happy

New Hay Group Insight Research Shows That Product and Service Quality Are Significant Areas of Concern for Retail Employees

February 21 2006 - Workers in the retail industry provided one of the lowest ratings of their company as a place to work compared to other industries, according to a recent Hay Group Insight Employee Survey Benchmark Report. Retail employees also gave lower ratings for product and service quality with just over a half (53%) responding favorably on whether their company adapted well to changing market conditions. This compared to almost 60% as a general industry average.

"As retail becomes more and more competitive, stores are open longer hours, staffing is stretched and associates have to work harder and more varied schedules -- mandatory weekends, late hours, and split schedules," said Craig Rowley, vice president and head of Hay Group's Retail Consulting Practice. "This clearly has an impact on working conditions and climate."

Despite these relatively negative views, however, employees in retail also reported job satisfaction that was clearly favorable and slightly above the general industry norm. Contributing to this (contradictory) feeling was a strong understanding of how their jobs related to their companies' overall direction. They also gave high ratings for the interesting and challenging work provided by their jobs.

Retail respondents gave higher rankings than the general norm in two key areas:

  • that they had a clear idea of expected results (88%)
  • that poor performance was not usually tolerated (53%)

"Retail is one of the few industries that can and does measure performance down to the store level (even down to the department level) on an hourly basis and takes action based on this information daily," continued Rowley. "And because of this ability to monitor and track performance so closely, it's not uncommon to see a 'two bad seasons and you're out' culture in retail."

But the lowest scores in the retail industry were given for the competitiveness of their salaries, with fewer than 20% responding favorably. This was approximately half the general industry norm.

"This is not surprising," said Rowley, "given retail's focus on cost control, and the heavy use of part time employees in the industry. Best practices retailers deal with this by having very effective career progression programs that rapidly promote the best performers to higher paying jobs."

Career counseling excepted, retail supervisors are rated on par with the norm. But the esteem with which employees hold other members of their work group, especially regarding cooperation received, is rated lower than the average across all industries.

"Human resource executives should take a look at compensation, turnover, tenure, and career advancement opportunities in their organizations and analyze how they compare to their competitors and top performing companies," said Tom Agnew, a senior consultant with Hay Group Insight ( "This was not a one or two question 'quick poll.' In these employee surveys, we ask a broad set of questions, helping companies better understand what drives their performance and results."

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