How to rebuild retail employee trust after The Great Resignation


It’s been called “The Great Resignation.” Over the past two years, COVID shook up the workplace so thoroughly that employee turnover reached epidemic proportions. Now, as we attempt to return to some form of “normal,” employers in the retail industry are looking for ways to retain their front-line employees.

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) held an online forum in March to discuss human resources best practices as we all try to put The Great Resignation behind us.

One of the biggest challenges right now is how to repair the damage that the pandemic did to morale, said Jackie Ross, principal, J. Ross Retail Recruitment. During the past two years, many employees saw some of their peers quit their jobs. “This has potentially eroded trust,” Ross said. “So, as things begin to normalize, how do we rebuild that trust?”

Vicki Bradley, another speaker at the RCC online forum, said that the simple act of senior managers listening to shop-floor employees is key. “Listening does not necessarily mean you agree with what is being said,” Bradley said. “But you need to hear it. And then recap those conversations to your employees, so that they know they have been heard. This is how you begin to rebuild trust.”

In retail, front-line employees are the lifeline that connects customers to management decisions. “So as an owner of a business, or a senior executive, you need to look at your communications style to make sure it’s effective,” Bradley said. “It’s not about dictating (to employees on the floor of the shop). It’s about getting curious about what they think, finding out from them.”