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How Retailers Can Avoid the Employee Retention Cliff

Luke Kreitner
2/27/24 10:30 AM

The retail industry thrives off of the performance and efficiency of its frontline team. So you might ask yourself, “What is the retention cliff?”. The retention cliff is the time after your employee finishes their onboarding and begin to show signs of disengagement and lack of drive in their role. It is important to notice the signs of this cliff and determine effective counter-strategies to ensure that you are creating an engaging and motivating work environment.


The first step is understanding the cliff 

Before you can work on retention strategies, you need to understand what is causing your employees to leave. While employees could be leaving due to their salary or job security, looking at the internal areas of improvement could benefit your business greatly. Retention problems usually build over time. Take a look at some underlying causes that could push a retail employee to leave: 

  • Lack of Engagement 
    If an employee doesn’t feel as though they are being challenged or given work that aligns with their skills, frustration and boredom can grow. Work with your employees and understand what work motivates them. 
  • Inadequate Onboarding/Training
    When an employee doesn’t feel like they are properly trained for their role and are left to fend for themselves, they will often feel frustrated with the company and less engaged when working. 
  • Lack of Career Path 
    It is hard to feel motivated in your job when you know there aren't growth opportunities to work towards. Without those opportunities, employees are more likely to look for other roles where they can see long-term growth. 

Next, understand how to avoid the cliff

Now that you are able to see what could be leading your employees to quit, you can begin working on strategies to prevent employees from reaching that cliff. 

  • Measuring and Understanding Employee Satisfaction
    Showing your employees that you are actively listening to their feedback and want to make positive changes in the workplace, it shows them that your company cares about them and their well-being. Whether it is through surveys or ongoing conversations, you will be able to gather insightful data and use that information to make informed adjustments and improvements. 
  • Investing in On-going Training
    Training cannot be a one-time event during onboarding. To keep employees engaged and growing, invest in training through all stages of employment. Whether they are technical skills or soft skills, these training opportunities allow employees to grow in their knowledge and understanding of your business which keeps them sharp and engaged. 
  • Foster a Culture of Growth 
    Employees want to feel like they are growing in their careers, and becoming stagnant can be a driving force to find a job somewhere else. Providing opportunities for job development and laying out clear paths for growth allows the employee to see their future with your company. This will lead to employees feeling motivated to invest in the training opportunities offered and take on new responsibilities in their roles. 
  • Recognize and Reward 
    If an employee doesn’t feel like they or their work is valued or appreciated then it is less motivating to work your hardest. Small gestures of appreciation can go a long way. Building a recognition program to celebrate and reward employees is a great way to improve your workplace culture and provides a place for employees to feel valued. 


The retention cliff is an intimidating challenge but not impossible to overcome. In the retail industry, your employees play a large role in the success of your company and you must show them the respect and appreciation they deserve. By focusing on their well-being, growth, and knowledge, you are fostering a work environment they wouldn’t want to leave.  In short, it’s essential to individually plan out employee retention strategies for each employee - thus avoiding the retention cliff - and building a thriving retail environment.  

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