London, UK, 19 Dec, 2018

While four out of five retailers worldwide (78 percent) say employee engagement is important to organisational success, many are challenged by the corrosive impact that rampant unplanned absence has on staff productivity (58 percent), manager stress (55 percent), and team morale (46 percent). And it’s a vicious cycle: more than half agree that poor employee engagement causes increased absenteeism.

These findings come from the second instalment of the Global Retail Absence survey, “What Came First: Retail Absenteeism or Low Engagement?” issued by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and conducted with Coleman Parkes Research, which analysed responses from 800 retail managers across the UK, the USA, Australia, Canada, France and Germany. Part one examined the impact of absenteeism on store operations, while part two explores how absenteeism degrades employee engagement – and causes more absence – revealing opportunities for intelligent  scheduling technology to solve the problem.

News Facts

  • A vicious cycle: Unplanned absence and poor engagement fuel chaos, drive turnover.
    • Retailers worldwide estimate that 7 percent of labour hours are scheduled but not worked, and many view unplanned absence as one of their organisation’s most difficult, complex and time-consuming issues.
    • Retail managers in the UK (63 percent), USA (63 percent), and Germany (61 percent) feel strongest that poor employee engagement has a big impact on unplanned employee absence.
    • More than half of retailers worldwide (52 percent) see a direct correlation between poor employee engagement and increased staff turnover1, with retailers in the USA (61 percent) and UK (55 percent) seeing the strongest connection.
  • Employee engagement can drive – or degrade – store success.
    • Retailers worldwide believe absenteeism has a big impact on customer satisfaction (47 percent) and store revenue (42 percent) – which are the top two metrics retailers say they use to measure productivity.
    • Retailers recognise that a greater focus on work-life balance (62 percent) and workforce scheduling technology (59 percent) would have a positive impact on productivity.
    • Globally, nearly half of all retailers (43 percent) are not using an automated solution to manage individual work preferences and availability. Lacking an intelligent solution, retail managers in the UK (40 percent) struggle with managing employee preferences, citing this as one of their biggest workforce management challenges.
  • Shift-swap technology can solve absence woes, yet only half of retailers use it effectively.
    • One-third of retail managers (34 percent) say managing shift-swap requests is one of the biggest workforce management challenges they face as an organisation.
    • France (59 percent) and the U.S. (53 percent) lead the way using shift-swap technology, but elsewhere adoption falls short – especially in the UK (44 percent) and Canada (40 percent).
    • Only 23 percent of retailers worldwide enable self-service shift swapping on a mobile device.
    • Shift swapping without manager approval is most common in France (32 percent) and Germany (30 percent), though, overall, one in four retailers manage shift swaps this way.
    • Retailers remain optimistically open to change: Many expect that an innovative shift-swapping solution would have a positive impact on employee and store productivity (67 percent and 65 percent, respectively), work-life balance (64 percent), staff motivation (58 percent), morale (55 percent), turnover (53 percent), and customer experience (50 percent).

Supporting Quotes

  • Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    “When making allowances for unplanned employee absence by over-staffing or over-scheduling – as 88 percent of retailers worldwide do – you react to the problem rather than correcting it. This reactive nature creates unnecessary work for managers and poses a risk to customer satisfaction. Best practice suggests retailers leverage advanced scheduling software to improve labour forecasting and proactively enable associates to pick up, drop, or swap a shift, giving them more say over when and how often they work. When automated with intelligence, this practice dramatically reduces the number of last-minute call-outs, no-shows and vacant shifts, and effectively removes the need to schedule additional labour to cover for anticipated absences.”
  • Pauline Bennett, retail labour and planning manager, Sainsbury's Supermarkets
    “The business impact of absenteeism can be felt at all levels – from individual store results to the corporate bottom line. Sainsbury’s is addressing the issue by analysing its root cause through labour analytics. We look at what factors can be driving unplanned absence – Is consistent understaffing leading managers to overwork employees? Do colleagues feel they lack flexibility in their schedules? – and work to address those factors one by one. With the ability to track absence patterns at each location, store managers can take swift action to reduce absenteeism, improve employee morale and meet the forecast – turning a would-be problem store into a model store.”

Supporting Resources

About The Workforce Institute at Kronos

The Workforce Institute at Kronos provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organisations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute at Kronos is uniquely positioned to empower organisations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforce effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute’s research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organisations. For additional information, visit

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos industry-centric workforce applications are purpose-built for businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and government agencies of all sizes. Tens of thousands of organisations — including half of the Fortune 1000® — and more than 40 million people in over 100 countries use Kronos every day. Visit Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works.


Survey Methodology

Research conducted on behalf of Kronos Incorporated by Coleman Parkes Research, an independent UK-based research company. Survey data was collected between June and July 2018 from 800 respondents using an online quantitative methodology. Survey participants were sourced from multiple global markets, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the USA, and represent a variety of retail sectors, including grocery, department stores, warehouse, speciality, convenience and discount. Survey participants included retail managers, store managers, and head of store operations from retail organisations with more than 1,000 employees. For further questions about survey methodology, contact [email protected].