Adam Lukoskie of the National Retail Federation (NRF) is a leader within the NRF Foundation, which offers RISE Up, a training program designed to help people develop the skills to build careers in retail businesses of all types. Lukoskie provides insight into how independent business owners can help employees or prospective workers see retail as a profitable, rewarding career track.
Hardware Retailing (HR): How can small businesses combat the perception that retail only offers entry-level work?
Adam Lukoskie (AL): One way is to help correct that perception by showing people what’s possible. You can say, “At my business, if you come in as a part-time employee, here are the different steps you could take to make this a career.” There are real career paths in retail that can provide a healthy income for families. It’s just a matter of sharing what those paths look like and having people who have made this their career share their stories and talk, not just about the pay of retail careers, but also about the flexibility and other benefits. Does your company provide on-the-job training? Tuition reimbursement? Time off to do things like professional development? It’s really important to help workers understand how a company will invest in them.
HR: Why is it important to show employees potential career paths?
AL: We talk a lot about career ladders, but in retail, it tends to be a career lattice because there are a lot of different paths available. It is really helpful for people to see that pathway, but that’s not unique to us in retail. That’s relevant to any worker. If people want to stay in a company, they want to see what paths exist. At minimum, having conversations with your workers about it is really helpful— talking with each person and understanding what their interests and skills are and how those can work within the business. Having a couple of examples of career paths to share is important. It’s also really helpful to have champions within a store—an assistant manager or manager who’s been there for quite awhile and loves it and can talk about their career.
HR: Does communicating about career tracks help with recruiting and retaining retail workers?
AL: Definitely. It also shows that you as an employer are one step ahead. You can say, “Here are the opportunities that exist for you.” That can help a business stand out for workers. They’re not just doing a six-hour shift and then leaving. Obstacles to people building careers in retail include not knowing that these careers exist. Employees need to be able to work with their retailer, manager or boss to consider their skills and interests and where they fit in the larger business.