The Canadian retail market is a dynamic slice of the economy. In 2020 alone, the market was valued at $515 billion. Retail companies — 29% of which are small businesses — employ over 1 million Canadian workers.1 But compounding labour supply issues paired with retail workers’ changing attitudes and priorities put employers in an unsteady position.

A recent job survey found that 88% of retail workers are considering changing jobs – and another 12% have already done so.2 While many employees want better wages and advancement opportunities, a majority are looking for greater work-life balance with employers who emphasize workplace happiness, mental health, and overall wellbeing. 

We identify the factors driving retail workers away from the industry and explain why employee wellness is the key to leveraging a thriving recruitment pool. Satisfied retail workers can offer an improved customer experience and bolster your recruitment pipeline.

A labour supply in flux

The ongoing labour supply issue impacts all business sectors. Waning lockdowns, layoffs, and the anxiety of a global crisis got the 2020s into a much slower start. And despite a rebounding unemployment rate, which soared to nearly 14% in 2021, Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) still hasn’t recovered to 2019 levels

The economic challenges of the last three years were accelerants to existing cracks in the Canadian labour supply market. As of 2021, the majority of the 1.1 million retail workers are ages 25 to 54, but over 410,000 are 55 and older. As Canada’s population ages and the percentage of retirees increases, labour supply will remain an issue for years to come. And despite historically low unemployment numbers hovering at 5%, inflation and a cost of living crisis point to a looming recession. 

With an imminent worker shortage, employers need to understand how to find and attract top talent. 

Wellness remains a top concern for job seekers and employees

While Canada was mostly unaffected by the “Great Resignation,” Canadian workers did, however, experience the “Great Realization” — the desire to reimagine the traditional 9-5 schedule in favour of autonomy and work-life balance. 

While past workers prioritized linear career paths and staying with one company until retirement, newer generations have a different model of employment and success. Indeed’s “Welcome to the Revolution” report identified this fast-emerging happiness-focused workforce. They are workers who value flexibility, agency over their schedule and location, appreciation beyond just pay, family and life balance, and a passion for their jobs and careers.

Canadian Workers Want Empathetic Employers Who Promote Wellbeing 

Over the last year, 34% of Canadian workers say their expectations around happiness at work increased. 

More than eight in 10 workers say they’re willing to leave their current role — not for money, but for a more empathetic organization.

Indeed, Work Wellbeing Insights Report, 2022,
Indeed, Jobseeker Survey, June 2022

Employees still care about pay, especially in the retail industry, where 34% of retail workers live in the low-income band.3 Indeed’s 2023 Meet the W+E Workforce report found that 60% of workers said their search for a new employer was motivated by wages, and another 38% were seeking better benefits. 

If employers don’t adapt to their workers’ changing needs and values — and pay them fairly — the retail industry may continue to experience turnover, as four in 10 employees say they are unlikely to still be in retail in five years.

What your employees want from you

Change can’t come soon enough for the majority of retail employees, as seven in 10 want to change jobs immediately, and many are looking for flexibility and a “quality” employer they can grow with. But uncovering exactly what your teams and potential hires want and need to thrive doesn’t need to be difficult. 

Your workers are your best source of guidance. Encourage open, honest dialogue and keep the conversation going. That, paired with these simple strategies, will ensure your pipeline is full of talent who want to join and stay in your organization.

  • Keep an eye on pay and benefits. Over half of retail workers could stay at a job if given paid vacation, 37% would stay for partly subsidized private health insurance, and another 34% would stay for better training opportunities, according to Indeed’s 2022 Jobseekers report.4 Transparency around job responsibilities, the hiring process, wages, promotions, and benefits will create an environment where workers will stay loyal.
  • Reward loyalty. For your employees who have stayed with you, make sure they feel valued. Consider rewarding an employee with a long weekend, thank you note, or deserved promotion. For the modern retail worker, feeling appreciated is important, as some might feel their efforts weren’t fully recognized during or after the pandemic.
  • Invest in your customer’s experience. If you make your employees feel great, chances are, their satisfaction will improve customer experiences too. Word-of-mouth is also invaluable, as your employees will recommend your company to both customers and their personal network, expanding your recruitment pool.
  • Leverage branding hubs and sponsored job posts. Provide current and potential talent opportunities to see upcoming roles and a sense of your positive workplace culture and worker-first mentality.

Three in 10 retail employees are looking for a “quality employer,” so showing potential applicants you’re committed to fair, transparent compensation, competitive benefits, flexibility, and training opportunities5 will likely go a long way in your recruitment efforts. 

With these strategies — and an eye on employee happiness and values — employers can expand their retail talent and keep dedicated workers happy and moving forward. 

  1.  Indeed, Jobseeker Survey, June 2022
  2.  Indeed, Jobseeker Survey, June 2022
  3.  Indeed, Jobseeker Survey, June 2022
  4.  Indeed, Jobseeker Survey, June 2022
  5.  Indeed, Jobseeker Survey, June 2022