Growing the 21st Century Retail Workforce

As the nation’s largest private sector employer, retail supports more than 42 million American jobs throughout our diverse ecosystem. From first starts, second chances, and life-long careers, retail provides flexibility, upward mobility, and the power to choose one’s path more than any other industry. 

Leading retailers are building a 21st century retail workforce that is diverse, innovative, and skilled. To build this powerful workforce, leading retailers are committed to recruiting and retaining talent with innovative approaches to staffing, scheduling, benefits, and culture.  

RILA advocates for forward-thinking workplace policies at both the state and federal level that reflect the preferences and policies we know retail employees prioritize. It is imperative that as the demands of the workforce change, so must retailers, as well as public policy.

Preserving Existing Benefits and Creating New Opportunities

Issue:

RILA remains committed to ensuring that employer-sponsored health coverage remains a viable option for the industry. RILA members are developing new innovative approaches to encourage preventative health, improve outcomes, and lower health care costs. While simultaneously protecting the offer of employer-sponsored health care, RILA members are at the forefront of developing new and innovative approaches to expand benefit offerings such as health and wellness programs, higher-education reimbursement, and leadership development.  

Action:

RILA is urging Congress to enact streamlined, commonsense reforms to burdensome and costly Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer reporting requirements. RILA promotes a pragmatic approach to reforming our nation’s health care system by working in a bipartisan manner and bringing real-world, constructive solutions to the table. RILA will also be advocating for policies that enhance worker total compensation packages in order to attract new employees and retain existing talent. 

Promoting Flexibility

Issue:

With the emergence of the gig economy, the American workforce is evolving. Technology is empowering individuals to choose when, where, and how they work. Disrupters like UBER and TaskRabbit are taking advantage of this evolution and shaping how everyone views work. As a result, the expectations of retail workers are changing and the opportunities available to retailers to provide more services to consumers and flexibility to workers are evolving. Research shows that flexible scheduling is the hallmark of why millions of Americans choose to work in retail. From students to seniors, and everyone in between, those seeking part-time employment enjoy the flexibility that retail provides. 

Additionally, retail consumers are expecting more out of retail brands — whether it’s executing last mile delivery, fulfillment, or serving customers in stores, retailers are exploring new approaches to talent. However, workplace and labor laws in the U.S. are woefully outdated, restricting innovative working relationships and hampering economic opportunities for workers. Research shows that today’s retail talent is seeking the autonomy that is more accessible in the gig economy. Therefore, a modern public policy approach is needed that will benefit workers and consumers, allowing retailers to better compete for talent and sales.

Action:

The status quo is changing, and so must our approach to moving the needle on these issues. Through thought leadership and community and legislator engagement, RILA will ensure policymakers at all levels not only understand but promote policies that welcome positive changes that are empowering individuals throughout the workforce.

Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

Issue:

Retailers directly serve communities made up of individuals of many different ethnicities and backgrounds. RILA’s members work to ensure their workforce reflects the diverse nature of these communities, but too often corporate offices have failed to keep pace. Diversity in the C-suite is key to understanding and serving the retail customer, as research has shown companies that invest in gender and racial diversity outperform companies that keep with the status quo. That’s why RILA is leading an initiative to tackle this complex issue. 

This initiative is driven by a Diversity & Inclusion Leaders Council devoted to ensuring that all retailers have access to the tools, research, and benchmarking to improve policies around D&I that will ultimately drive sales and prosperity. Specifically, the Council has stated priority areas around talent recruitment and management, organizational inclusivity, and social engagement. The latter was exemplified by RILA and its member’s engagement and promotion of the historic passage of the EQUALITY Act in the House of Representatives.  Leading retailers will continue to lean into social issues that resonate with our core business principals and consumers. 

Action:

Through RILA’s Retail Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, RILA is engaging the retail C-suite to help the industry accelerate their growing D&I programs and position the retail industry as a leader in this important area. With collaboration and peer-to-peer insights, the Initiative is helping to position retail as a marketplace leader in understanding, adopting, and promoting strong D&I principles.

Employing and Supporting DACA Beneficiaries

Issue:

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was established in 2012 to allow individuals without lawful immigration status the ability to continue to reside in the United States if the applicant meets certain eligibility criteria. To apply for DACA status, eligible individuals must have been under the age of 31 as of June 2012 and arrived in the United States before the age of 16. Applicants could also apply if they resided in the United States since June 2007, either enrolled or graduated from high school, obtained a General Education Degree, or received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces.  To date, roughly, 700,000 DACA applications have been approved. However, in September 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was rescinding the DACA program and that decision has sparked legal challenges culminating with the U.S. Supreme Court reviewing DACA in November 2019.  The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in June 2020. 

Action:

RILA will continue to vocalize to Congress and the Administration the retail communities’ support for the program and encourage a permanent solution that protects this population. If the U.S. Supreme Court does allow for the rescission of DACA, RILA will be a steadfast advocate for Congress to act immediately because of how important DACA beneficiaries are for the U.S. economy. 

Deeper dive into our policy issues and workforce initiatives.

Public Policy Agenda

RILA works with policymakers of both parties to help shape a dynamic and growing economy that allows retailers and communities they serve to thrive.

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Workforce

RILA advocates for sound policies that support diversity, flexibility, upward mobility, and the power to choose one’s own path.

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Retail Talent Pipeline

Explore activities that allow RILA members to connect to a diverse, skilled and innovative workforce.

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Promoting Modern, Innovative and Flexible Workforce Policies

Issue:  

With the emergence of the gig economy, the American workforce is evolving. Technology is empowering individuals, and disrupters like Uber and TaskRabbit are reshaping how employers and employees view work. As a result, the expectations of job seekers are changing, as are the opportunities available to retail employees. Research shows that flexible scheduling is the reason why millions of Americans choose to work in retail. From students to seniors, and everyone in between, those seeking part-time employment enjoy the flexibility that retail provides. Flexibility is the key to catering to the wants of a 21st Century Retail Workforce and retailers must have space to innovative in all areas of their workforce.  

Action:  

Our employment laws must adapt to accommodate the evolving preferences of the modern workforce. RILA encourages policymakers at all levels to promote policies that acknowledge changes occurring throughout the workforce and to support reforms that recognize the different needs of job seekers. To promote this evolution in the marketplace to policymakers, RILA launched the Coalition for Workforce Innovation to highlight the need for a modernization of our federal workforce policies.

Preserving Benefits 

Issue:  

RILA remains committed to ensuring that employer- sponsored health coverage remains a viable option for the industry. RILA members are developing new, innovative approaches to encourage preventative health, improve outcomes, and lower health care costs.   

Action:  

RILA promotes a pragmatic approach to reforming our nation’s health care system by working in a bipartisan manner and bringing real world, constructive solutions to the table. RILA urges Congress to enact streamlined, commonsense reforms to burdensome and costly ACA employer reporting requirements.

Fully Stocked: Alternative Workforce Models for Retail Report

Fully Stocked: Alternative Workforce Models for Retail Report provides tangible thought leadership around the evolving talent marketplace and examines how retailers can successfully adapt.

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