LOWELL, Mass., 18 Dec, 2018

While four out of five retailers worldwide (78 percent) say employee engagement is important to organizational success, many are challenged by the corrosive impact that rampant unplanned absence has on staff productivity (58 percent), manager stress (55 percent), and team morale (46 percent). And it’s a vicious cycle: more than half agree that poor employee engagement causes increased absenteeism.

These findings come from the second installment of the Global Retail Absence survey, “What Came First: Retail Absenteeism or Low Engagement?” issued by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and conducted with Coleman Parkes Research, which analyzed responses from 800 retail managers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. Part one examined the impact of absenteeism on store operations, while part two explores how absenteeism degrades employee engagement – and causes more absence – revealing opportunities for intelligent  scheduling technology to solve the problem.

News Facts

  • A vicious cycle: Unplanned absence and poor engagement fuel chaos, drive turnover.
    • Retailers worldwide estimate that 7 percent of labor hours are scheduled but not worked, and many view unplanned absence as one of their organization’s most difficult, complex, and time-consuming issues.
    • Retail managers in the U.K. (63 percent), U.S. (63 percent), and Germany (61 percent) feel strongest that poor employee engagement has a big impact on unplanned employee absence.
    • More than half of retailers worldwide (52 percent) see a direct correlation between poor employee engagement and increased staff turnover1, with retailers in the U.S. (61 percent) and U.K. (55 percent) seeing the strongest connection.
  • Employee engagement can drive – or degrade – store success.
    • Retailers worldwide believe absenteeism has a big impact on customer satisfaction (47 percent) and store revenue (42 percent) – which are the top two metrics retailers say they use to measure productivity.
    • Retailers recognize that a greater focus on work-life balance (62 percent) and workforce scheduling technology (59 percent) would have a positive impact on productivity.
    • Globally, nearly half of all retailers (43 percent) are not using an automated solution to manage individual work preferences and availability. Lacking an intelligent solution, retail managers in the U.S. (50 percent), Canada (42 percent), and the U.K. (40 percent) struggle most with managing employee preferences, citing this as one of their biggest workforce management challenges.
  • Shift-swap technology can solve absence woes, yet only half of retailers use it effectively.
    • One-third of retail managers (34 percent) say managing shift-swap requests is one of the biggest workforce management challenges they face as an organization.
    • France (59 percent) and the U.S. (53 percent) lead the way using shift-swap technology, but elsewhere adoption falls short – especially in the U.K. (44 percent) and Canada (40 percent).
    • Only 23 percent of retailers worldwide enable self-service shift swapping on a mobile device.
    • Shift swapping without manager approval is most common in France (32 percent) and Germany (30 percent), though, overall, one in four retailers manage shift swaps this way.
    • Retailers remain optimistically open to change: Many expect that an innovative shift-swapping solution would have a positive impact on employee and store productivity (67 percent and 65 percent, respectively), work-life balance (64 percent), staff motivation (58 percent), morale (55 percent), turnover (53 percent), and customer experience (50 percent).

Supporting Quotes

  • Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    “When making allowances for unplanned employee absence by over-staffing or over-scheduling – as 88 percent of retailers worldwide do – you react to the problem rather than correcting it. This reactive nature creates unnecessary work for managers and poses a risk to customer satisfaction. Best practice suggests retailers leverage advanced scheduling software to improve labor forecasting and proactively enable associates to pick up, drop, or swap a shift, giving them more say over when and how often they work. When automated with intelligence, this practice dramatically reduces the number of last-minute call-outs, no-shows, and vacant shifts, and effectively removes the need to schedule additional labor to cover for anticipated absences.”
  • Pauline Bennett, retail labor and planning manager, Sainsbury's Supermarkets
    “The business impact of absenteeism can be felt at all levels – from individual store results to the corporate bottom line. Sainsbury’s is addressing the issue by analyzing its root cause through labor analytics. We look at what factors can be driving unplanned absence – Is consistent understaffing leading managers to overwork employees? Do colleagues feel they lack flexibility in their schedules? – and work to address those factors one by one. With the ability to track absence patterns at each location, store managers can take swift action to reduce absenteeism, improve employee morale, and meet the forecast – turning a would-be problem store into a model store.”

Supporting Resources

About The Workforce Institute at Kronos

The Workforce Institute at Kronos provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute at Kronos is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforce effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute’s research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organizations. For additional information, visit www.workforceinstitute.org.

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos industry-centric workforce applications are purpose-built for businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and government agencies of all sizes. Tens of thousands of organizations — including half of the Fortune 1000® — and more than 40 million people in over 100 countries use Kronos every day. Visit www.kronos.com. Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works.


Footnote 1: The current rate of global turnover reported by retailers in this survey is 22 percent for part-time associates and 18 percent for full-time associates. France reports slightly-above-average turnover rates at 23 percent and 19 percent, respectively, while the U.S. reports the lowest rate of full-time turnover in retail at 13 percent.

Survey Methodology

Research conducted on behalf of Kronos Incorporated by Coleman Parkes Research, an independent U.K.-based research company. Survey data was collected between June and July 2018 from 800 respondents using an online quantitative methodology. Survey participants were sourced from multiple global markets, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S., and represent a variety of retail sectors, including grocery, department stores, warehouse, specialty, convenience, and discount. Survey participants included retail managers, store managers, and head of store operations from retail organizations with more than 1,000 employees. For further questions about survey methodology, contact [email protected].