How to Get Your Retail Employees to Engage With Their Benefits
Retail is one of the largest occupations in the U.S. with nearly 16 million employees, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The mean hourly wage of $13.20 is slowly rising, with companies like Amazon.com raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour and Target aiming to do the same by 2020. Despite this increase, the needs of retail employees are rising faster than their pay. Employers are in a position to offer better benefits to the workforce to address the specific needs of their employees and drive up engagement rates.
Why Employees Don’t Engage
Employees don’t engage with their benefits for a variety of reasons. They may not be aware of the benefits they have, or the benefits offered may not be relevant to employees or address needs that would help improve their quality of life, like childcare or financial wellness.
Increasing benefits engagement can help both employers and employees in a number of ways, including reducing stress and absenteeism in the retail space. It also gives employers insight into the needs of their employees, which can help tailor which benefits are offered. Luckily, there are several ways to help improve benefits engagement:
- Increasing awareness: Communicating frequently with employees in ways they’ll respond to is the simplest way to increase benefit awareness. However, this may be difficult for retail employers as most employees work in shifts. Communication should combine in-person and digital efforts to reinforce benefits availability in a way that's both effective and flexible. Employers should use emails, texts, flyers and handouts as helpful reminders of the benefits available to employees.
- Lead by example: Employees often look to their co-workers as an example of how to interact with benefits, especially if it’s their first time receiving benefits. Retail managers and seasoned employees who actively use and advocate for the benefits offered in the workplace are more likely to encourage other employees to check them out and see if they’re a fit. The opposite also holds true — if managers never discuss benefits with co-workers, other employees are less likely to use them as well.
- Gamification: Like the creation of contests, gamification is an easy way to make benefits interesting for employees and encourage engagement. Some benefit providers make it easy to roll out companywide contests that can act as leaderboard-style events with prizes or friendly competition among employees. If employers are unable to offer cash or physical prizes to employees, they can offer discounts on retail merchandise or a bonus day off.
- Encourage feedback: Even if employees are using their benefits, companies still need to find time to get their feedback. Employees will likely have opinions about their benefit package that may influence how other employees will interact with the package as well. It’s important to create a positive experience for employees regarding their benefits so that word will spread. To prevent negative peer feedback affecting the adoption rate of benefits, employers should address any employee concerns early on.
Adding New Benefits
Lack of engagement may also be due to benefits not being right for that particular employee demographic. As an employer, it’s important to pay attention to the demographics and needs of retail workers. Do some have kids and need childcare? Are they recent college graduates who are paying off student loans? Could they benefit from financial wellness? The answers to questions like these may also be the answer to which benefits should be added to a package.
The more relevant benefits are to employees, the more likely they’ll be utilized. If companies are unable to discuss these things with employees directly, they can send surveys with anonymous responses or enlist the help of managers to gather employee feedback on what benefits they would find helpful.
By adding relevant benefits that help out employees, retail employers can see better results in the workplace from less stressed employees.
Chris Whitlow is the founder and CEO of Edukate, a platform that amplifies financial wellness efforts through data-driven insights and solutions.
Related story: Starbucks Announces New Backup Childcare Benefits
Chris Whitlow is the founder and CEO of Edukate, a platform that amplifies financial wellness efforts through data-driven insights and solutions. Edukate drives user engagement, scales with any size organization and integrates with a company’s existing benefit providers and other third-party solutions to meet individual needs. Edukate is a one-stop destination for employees, providing guidance for challenges they are currently facing, and connecting them with the employer benefits that matter to them most – all while cultivating a culture of positive financial awareness.