HR Challenges in the Retail Sector

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The retail sector employees more than 15 million individuals.

The retail sector is a dynamic industry that includes many different employment positions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are more than 15 million retail workers in the United States. These retail workers are chosen by human resources departments to represent retail businesses to the public in their pursuit of profit. HR departments in the retail sector face unique challenges, including high employee turnover, constant recruiting and difficult training.

  1. High Employee Turnover

    • One challenge that HR faces in the retail sector is high employee turnover, which means that many employees voluntarily leave their positions at retail businesses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 570,000 separations in the retail sector during September 2010. Employee turnover can be credited to a number of factors. An employee could be unhappy with their pay, job duties, fellow employees or management. When an employee leaves her job, HR faces the challenge of finding another candidate to fill that vacant position. In addition, HR must constantly evaluate the reasons that employees are leaving the organization in order to reduce employee turnover in the future.

    Constant Recruiting

    • In the retail sector, HR must constantly recruit new employees to fill vacant positions including new positions, seasonal positions and positions left by former employees. The recruitment process involves searching for candidates, accepting applications, interviewing candidates and welcoming newly hired employees into the organization. The HR department must engage in recruitment activities constantly and quickly adjust to employment needs. For example, an employee could suddenly leave his job and HR must find a replacement for the following workweek to ensure there are enough employees working at a given time. HR must anticipate employment needs and have candidates ready to fill positions as needed. Quick adjustments and a fast response time make the recruiting process challenging for HR in the retail sector.

    Training

    • Most employees in the retail sector work face-to-face with customers, and they are the primary point of contact between a business and its customer base. This places a unique challenge on HR because the department must focus a large amount of effort on training employees to represent the business well. HR must spend time working training into the irregular schedules of new hires and the employees who are in charge of training them. Training in retail settings is often hands-on, which means that training times may affect the productivity and profitability of the business. As such, HR faces the challenge of arranging training without disturbing the regular flow of business. This training must prepare the employee to succeed in the retail business. Poor training could result in higher employee turnover, meaning the HR department will face more challenges in the future.

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