Tips to recruit and retain talent in todays retail landscape.

April Sabral

/ Leadership, Teamwork

Great staff is hard to find.

But so is holding on to them.

Are you a retail manager that is trying to figure out how to retain and recruit a fantastic team? Hiring and staffing are one of the biggest challenges for retail managers today.

Hiring the right team of people in today’s retail landscape is tough because there are fewer hours and more competition in the job market. Retail used to be the PT job of choice for students. However, the tech industry and newly created careers such as YOUTUBER’s, Uber drivers, Influencers and gamers are capturing a large part of the market. 

Today, you can even turn your closet into a store by posting instantly on facebook market place (which I secretly LOVE) and other apps.

So why would someone want to work in retail today? What are the benefits, and what can retailers do to attract a new generation of future retail leaders? Hiring practices that are status quo are no longer an option; as retailers try and figure this problem out, we should look at the basics that start with the application process.

One of the problems with the current application process is the long-form that most retailers expect this tech-savvy generation to complete online. In a world where we can now swipe left and right to find a date, then there should be a better way to source for jobs. 

Last week while doing some research, I came across an app called SWOB, which is genius it is an app where you set up a profile like any dating app and then swipe to apply for jobs, it matches your profile to the position in one touch. Brilliant! SWOB is a real solution to a real problem. 

SWOB is improving the application process. However, this is just one part of the journey. 

Most employees when asked in an exit interview why they left their job, say it is due to these three factors;  

  1. Lack of opportunity for growth.
  2. Lack of training and development 
  3. The manager that they work for. 

Pay is always the last reason. However, I do believe in paying people for the value that they bring to the role.  

Creating a place where people look forward to coming to work equals retainment. If you think you can improve retention by pay alone, think again, this will not stop your people from migrating to another retailer.  

I was fortunate when I was a store manager, that a Director at the time told me this, and taught me the significance of these three truths. He taught me always to ensure my team felt valued, appreciated, and that I was teaching them something that mattered to them. Note I said mattered to them, not what mattered to the company and my own opinion.

Early on in my career, my annual performance was measured based on my customer’s feedback and employee engagement scores through surveys. I think this shaped my leadership style early on in my retail management career. The companies I worked for believed in retail management training and invested heavily in the front line employees that delivered the sales and customer experience.

This is why at retailu, we are so passionate about providing the best retail management training programs to help develop managers into leaders. We teach leaders how to inspire a culture of growth and engaged employees. When your team is happy, it creates a powerful ripple effect. Happy people equals satisfied customers; this is not new information. So why then is it so tricky for retailers today to get this right?  Working in retail for over two decades is where I discovered my purpose and passion for people. I learned that building teams and developing leaders was my talent, which has created a following of people that want to join my team. Recently, I was asked if we are hiring at retailu? 

When I think about this, I didn’t do anything magical. I didn’t offer more pay than other retailers. I didn’t provide more significant bonuses or more vacations. BUT what I did offer was the opportunity for every person on my team to be themselves. Finding a place where you can be yourself in a world where everyone wants you to be someone else is rare. Leaders that accept people for who they are create a safe space for them to learn.  

So how do Leaders create this? And why?

Everyone, deep down, wants to feel valuable and worthy. To be accepted by others and connected to others. Retail Managers have the power to accept, create and teach this every day. Think about this in the context of your customers for a moment. Making your customers feel valued matters for your business to thrive.

This is why a retail manager’s job is far more than just selling clothes, stocking shelves, mastering operations, and managing daily tasks. A GREAT retail manager creates a space for people to be themselves; they understand how their actions can and will influence how people feel about showing up every day. They know that the way their employees feel translates to the environment and, therefore, the customer’s experience. Kindness, having a positive attitude, excellent communication, and a desire to help others are the fundamentals of delivering Great customer service.

One of the most rewarding things for me is when I am creating an environment for others that bring out their best. While I do believe that not everyone is born with natural leadership qualities, confidence in leadership traits can be learned.Take my experience, for example. 

I didn’t go to university and take the traditional route. I started my retail career as a Part-Time sales associate; I had the right managers that believed in me. They encouraged me and built my confidence, and in turn, ignited my passion for helping others. They never judged me and coached and mentored me along the way.

Throughout high school, I had a strong lisp and was extremely shy. I also undervalued my ability to connect with others for a long time. I didn’t realize the significance of this until my last role, a Senior VP role that managed over 2000 employees.

I remember speaking to a group of District Supervisors at an annual sales conference. I asked them to consider their leadership, actions and language, and that I was trusting them to treat everyone on their team with respect, care and support. Why? So that our customers would feel the same. I asked them to consider that they had the power to develop their team’s leadership skills in retail and to look at this as a huge responsibility. WE and THEY could create this together. I asked them to consider themselves as the leader that people wanted to work for and what that looks like. I asked them to consider what everyone on their team would answer if asked these three questions. (even a PT associate that worked 4 hours a week).

  1. Does my boss care for me?
  2. Can my boss help me?
  3. Can I trust my boss?

These questions are three simple questions that John C. Maxwell wrote about in his book “Good Leaders, Ask Great Questions.” This is not a complicated leadership model; it is three simple questions that every leader should care about. But again, this is where retail management training helps. I believe there are three attributes/pillars of leadership that, when developed and practiced, create a healthy social context. Retail Managers must be able to develop and demonstrate the following actions.

Accept, Create, Teach

Leadership starts internally; growth is a journey within and then projected on the outside. Not the other way around. This means developing yourself so that you can be better for your team. Read any self-help book or listen to any podcast, and it will always steer you to self-care.

Step 1: ACCEPT yourself and value yourself means to be happy and grateful for who you are. Developing this translates into confidence and compassion, accepting others where they are in the second step. Accepting others for who they are means to have no Judgement and to hold others in positive regard. It sounds simple but takes practice. 

Step 2: CREATE means to create your reality, your thoughts be mindful transfers throughout every stage. I have read a lot of leadership books about mindfulness and how important this is; it has always been part of my personal development journey. I genuinely believe we can create an excellent environment for our people, and it’s our responsibility. CREATING an environment that brings out the best in others and the best in customers. Leaders what we say and how we say it influences how your team feels every day coming to work. Do they look forward to it? Or do they dread it? 

Step 3: TEACH Find mentors and role models and learn from others to become a better leader, then pass it on by coaching and mentoring others. Be kind, be helpful, and share your knowledge and experience to help others.

There are many leadership models, and what I have learned is no one is better than the other, you need to study the one that resonates with you!


Leaders are learners. Our mission at retailu is to inspire and develop retail management into retail leaders.

We started retailu. ca because of our passion for retail and to help retailers develop the generation of future retail leaders by creating the best in class training programs. Our online courses develop retail managers skills and build GREAT bosses.

To end where we started; To answer this crucial question. How do I attract and Retain Talent in today’s retail environment?

Start with answering these questions, 

  • What am I doing to develop my people? 
  • And what am I doing to retain them?

When I was developing myself through the different levels of retail management, the training and development I received helped me gain confidence, knowledge and the skills needed to progress.

Taking it one step further and investing in myself through certifications also continued this journey. There is no magic formula to attract Talent and then retain it. Be the best BOSS you can be; invest in yourself whether that be online training programs, coaching etc. And then follow the three pillars of leadership. Accept, Create and Teach. If you want to learn more and have our team help yours, contact April at


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