This article was first published on Inside Retail Australia.
 With job mobility at a 9.5% peak for a second year in a row, the highest rate in a decade, leaders everywhere are searching for solutions to help them retain staff.

While good remuneration packages can help attract quality staff, labour shortages and the lingering impact COVID has had on retail employees—especially reports of increased abuse during what was already a stressful time—means today they are looking for more than just a good pay packet and work perks.

Paying staff appropriately is of course essential but employees are no longer willing to accept subpar workplace cultures—even when compensation is above satisfactory. In fact, according to a 2021 survey by Glassdoor, toxic work culture was identified as one of the primary drivers prompting workers to quit. So how can retail employers create a positive work culture and in the process boost retention?


Gain an understanding of why people are leaving

Staff retention starts with an understanding of the specific reason or reasons why employees are leaving. Armed with this intel, employers can obtain a clearer view into their culture and the areas requiring review and potentially improvement. An effective and relatively straightforward way to get these insights is by conducting well thought out exit interviews with departing employees. Feedback is a gift and these interviews are a golden opportunity to gain valuable perspectives about what your business is doing well and where it might need your attention.


Develop strong professional relationships among team members

Where authentic, strong professional relationships are encouraged and established between employees, it leads to an environment where colleagues build mutual respect and trust. A culture that advocates and supports respectful and healthy relationships is one where people feel happy, supported, and connected. Strong interpersonal relationships can shift attitudes from “this is just the job I do”, to “this is what I’m responsible for.”


Build an agreed behavioural framework for the team

A key foundation to building a culture that enables people to thrive in their jobs is to establish an agreed behavioural framework. This framework sets the minimum behavioural standards expected in a workplace and is an enabler of genuine effective conversations around performance. Strong professional relationships must be in place prior to building a framework and it’s critical that it is agreed to by all team members.


Facilitate open dialogue and genuine conversations

Genuine conversations are open and honest discussions, where good behaviour is rewarded and encouraged, and counter-productive behaviour is respectfully challenged. Open dialogue across an organisation is key to maintaining a strong culture. Often organisations have teams or departments that are siloed and function independently from the rest of the organisation and this can create opportunity for disconnect and tension. By creating a culture across an organisation where people are actively encouraged to hold genuine conversations with each other, staff will feel safe, heard and empowered to address issues as they arise.


Trust between leaders and employees is crucial

When trust in a relationship is absent, individuals tend to turn inwards and focus on their own responsibilities rather than considering how their actions might impact others. To develop trust as a leader it is crucial to not only live the behaviours agreed on by the company, but to accept feedback from the team when behavioural standards are not being met. Leaders should operate with care and compassion, stick to their word and communicate authentically – trust is hard to earn and easily lost.


How to develop strong professional relationships

It goes without saying that strong professional relationships between colleagues within a company will have a direct impact on its culture. While there are no exact rules for fostering good relationships between team members, leaders, and departments, there are a few things employers can prioritise.


  • Employees value leaders that perform in line with cultural aspirations. The more leaders are willing to live the agreed behavioural standards and accept genuine feedback, the greater the depth of professional relationships which can be built.
  • Leaders that invest in building strong professional relationships with staff are better placed to have productive conversations around performance. By dedicating time and effort to engage with team members, leaders can demonstrate care and connection.
  • Create time for employees to check in as a team and share information of a personal and/or business nature. It may be as simple as “name one thing that is weighing you down at the moment and one thing that is lifting you up”. The more we know about each other the easier it is to build mutual trust and respect. Importantly, a leader’s capacity to share details about themself is critical for a team check in to be effective.
  • Facilitate social occasions for employees to build relationships while at work. Simply creating the time and space for team members to get together is crucial for connections to grow. This could be as simple as a team lunch once a month.

 Strong professional relationships, agreed behavioural frameworks and genuine conversations are key to achieving a high-performance culture that fosters staff retention. Put simply, if employees don’t feel supported, valued or connected with their team, they’re unlikely to stick around – no matter the salary.

Dean Anderson

Dean Anderson

Dean is the CEO of Leading Teams joining the business in 2022 after a career in banking and finance and as an AFL premiership player.
Learn more about Dean.