Hiring non-desk employees? Make turnover work for you.

October 10, 2018 - 5 minute read

You can’t eliminate turnover completely, but it's becoming easier to manage your business against it. Really...? Despite employed millennials hopping around more than people in an 80's workout video, you say? Yes, really. And it's all in the technological tooling that will help you keep up.

It costs the average American grocer $3,637 to replace a supermarket cashier. With the average turnover rate amongst grocers hovering near 50%, turnover ends up costing you a minimum of $67,000 a year... And the retail industry experiences even higher turnover rates, averaging 59%. 

These are costs that companies simply cannot afford. Across the supermarket industry, employee turnover costs are an astounding 40% greater than profitsWith supermarkets in the negative month after month, it’s no mystery why stores go out of business. And sadly, this trend is seen across many service industries. 

Previously, it was commonplace to suggest that workers quit simply because the pay and/or insurance coverage wasn’t enough. Though today, we know the formula for staying at a job is much more holistic. But with all this knowledge, why do non-desk employers still get subjected to death by turnover? Though non-desks workers are seen as more “temporary” than desk workers, there’s no reason for this outdated thinking. If you plan ahead, cultivating your non-desk workforce can greatly extend the tenure of your workforce,  saving you significant cash.

Desk-heavy companies have a (seeming) leg-up

The difference in whether an employee stays or leaves is no longer just about salary, but about belonging. Today, more desk employers than ever have had the employee experience “aha!” moment. Companies with desk employees are running more stand-ups, work events, and general communication than ever before. Why? One major component is that it’s easier to rally your troops if you have a common office space. This provides desk-heavy companies with a huge advantage in providing a holistic employee experience. Having a common physical space houses your culture, promoting feelings of validation, community, access to management and feedback.

No physical common space? No problem

Communicating your culture and appreciation in a desk-less company is admittedly more challenging. There’s seldom a physical space that all your temporary and part-time frontline employees occupy at the same time. Without a consistent physical space setting the stage for communication and transfer of culture, you have to use an alternative “space”. This “space” is critical for letting your non-desk workers know that they belong.


Digital space as your alternative

After years of research into employee pain points, technology has caught up to help alleviate work-related grievances. When asked what matters most to convenience retailing employees, these four "engagement drivers" stand out; company concern for well-being, opportunity to use personal strengths, clear expectations and encouragement to find better ways of work.  By providing a digital place for sharing, technology is filling the "shared space" dilemma, driving behavior that directly contributes to fulfilling these four drivers.  This is welcomed news for desk-less companies, as being "dispersed" is no longer an obstacle in providing a connected and culture-driven environment. 

So who's taking these engagement drivers to heart? Take a look at the major American grocery store chain, Trader Joe'sWhereas providing a decent salary and insurance coverage used to be seen as a luxury, these days it is bare minimum in winning the war against turnover. On top of surpassing these basic living standards, Trader Joe's makes sure to hire employees that share company values. This is followed by heavily imparting these values into employee work life through extensive training and feedback loops, including the show of appreciation. The shared sense of community, across all Trader Joe's locations, is palpable. 

Supermarket chain Wegman's is also leading the pack in low turnover. In addition to competitive wages, their turnover rate of just 7% is attributed to a high level of employee autonomy regarding decision making. Making employees feel valued during decisions contributes to a sense of belonging in a shared space. Providing technological tools for employees to do their jobs enables them this degree of autonomy, previously unthinkable. 

The gains

When companies critically evaluate and invest in their culture, technological tools, and space, they experience 40% lower turnover. And now that technological tools can act as a "space", lacking a physical hub for all employees is no longer the obstacle it once was to running a well-connected business. 

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Campbell Owens

Written by Campbell Owens

Challenging conventional corporate practices, Campbell explores what it means to truly invest in people at work. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio of the art, yoga, or apartment variety.