HR Management in Supermarkets and Grocery Stores

Margaret Lindquist | Content Strategist | July 11, 2023

Amid steep competition and narrow profit margins, grocery stores and supermarkets are constantly looking for ways to improve staff productivity and control costs—particularly challenging in an industry with high turnover rates that relies on mostly hourly workers. A recent study by food industry advocacy group FMI, The Food Industry Association found that 80% of grocery retailers say it’s difficult to hire and retain people, 77% have had to increase wages for part-time workers, and 85% have had to increase them for full-time employees.

Grocery staffers on the store floor are the face of the brand, more so than in most other industries. As shoppers walk in the door, choose products, and check out, those staffers need to be primed to seize opportunities to introduce customers to new products and strengthen the grocer’s relationship with them. That makes it all the more important for grocery retailers to attract and retain the right talent—easier said than done in today’s tight job market.

As grocery retailers scramble to find and keep workers, they must move beyond just paying them more if they want to win the talent war.

What Is the Role of HR in the Grocery Industry?

The main role of the grocery industry HR pro is to hire people and ensure that employees both experienced and new are trained and engaged so that they stay. In the past, once employees were past the onboarding stage, they typically had little to do with HR.

Now, industry HR managers help create better experiences for employees. That includes providing apps they can use to manage their shifts and check their benefits, establishing storewide employee recognition programs, promoting employee safety guidelines (and making sure managers are regularly trained on those guidelines), and conducting regional studies to ensure that workers’ salaries are competitive. HR managers also act as a pipeline to upper management on compensation, scheduling, wellness, and more. They not only communicate employee wants and needs to company executives; they also make sure that senior leaders aren’t blindsided by union activities and higher-than-usual turnover. HR managers also work with company executives to develop the next generation of leaders.

Key Takeaways

  • Grocery retailers compete mainly with hotels, restaurants, and other retailers for entry-level and midlevel job candidates. That competition is fierce amid a service industry labor shortage.
  • Because of the high level of employee turnover, grocer HR teams might be inclined to focus their training on recent hires, but they shouldn’t neglect training for other employees, who may need refreshers or want training to help them advance in their careers.
  • HR can improve retention by helping employees find their next opportunity within the organization. HR managers should include career discussions as part of scheduled check-ins.

HR in Grocery Explained

Grocery industry HR managers typically have all the responsibilities of their peers in other industries, plus ones that are specific to an industry that often provides first jobs for young people. Especially when unemployment rates are low, grocery retailer HR teams need to make sure that they’re making it easy for people to apply for jobs and that the physical environment and the staff at each store or warehouse come together to present the place as an appealing place to work.

For midlevel and upper-level job candidates, industry HR managers work with senior management to create competitive compensation and incentive packages, and they work with IT to ensure that employees have the tech tools they need to be productive. Perhaps most important, they’re responsible for fostering a positive work culture, one in which employees collaborate, feel comfortable sharing their concerns with management, and feel appreciated for their work—an environment conducive to reducing employee turnover and providing first-rate customer service.

Why HR Is Important to Grocery Stores and Supermarkets?

In an industry in which hiring and retaining employees can be extremely difficult, grocery store and supermarket HR teams play a crucial role. They must deal with steadily rising labor costs, turnover rates that can exceed 75% a year for hourly positions, and a workforce that ranges from high school students at their first job to senior executives responsible for hundreds of stores.

Grocery Store HR Responsibilities

In every industry, HR plays an important role in recruiting, training, and developing employees, but that’s especially important in the grocery business, given the number of young, inexperienced employees and the fierce competition for people, both within the industry and from other industries. Grocery store HR teams also face unique challenges related to worker safety. Store workers face dangers that include slip-and-fall injuries and kitchen burns and cuts, while warehouse workers have the highest levels of nonfatal injuries and illnesses of any industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Grocery industry HR teams are also responsible for balancing staffing needs to accommodate peak and off-peak times. As the responsibilities of grocery workers have expanded with the growth of online shopping and curbside fulfillment, they’ve taken on the role of brand ambassador in many cases. HR helps set the tone for each store’s customer experience by cultivating a workforce of service-oriented, well-trained, and engaged people.


With so many job openings in the retail, hospitality, and food and beverage sectors, and with each sector competing against one another for workers, it’s crucial that grocery stores and supermarkets stand out when appealing to entry-level and midlevel employees. In the grocery sector, the turnover rate for hourly in-store positions is 76%, according to a 2022 survey by organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry. For starters, HR managers need to make sure it’s easy for candidates to apply for a job, online or in person. Job postings on third-party sites must “sell” the store brand to break through the clutter of dozens of other retail postings. HR needs to provide precise job descriptions so candidates understand what’s required and interviewers can answer applicants’ specific questions. Store hiring managers must be flexible about job requirements and the types of workers they consider, as well as evaluate the demeanor of each candidate. As an old saying in the retail industry goes, it’s easier to hire nice people and teach them to sell than it is to hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.

Friendly, helpful, knowledgeable employees can make a world of difference in customer service. In fact, a study by Bain & Co. found that companies excelling in this area grew their revenues 4% to 8% above their market peers. Creating a welcoming atmosphere to compete with rival stores and gain the loyalty of local customers starts with thoughtful hiring and training of the following types of employees:

  • Store managers. Grocery store managers plan and direct day-to-day operations. They need to be flexible and customer focused—they may go from a disappointed customer to a disgruntled employee to a spill in aisle 5 in the course of an hour. Store managers are responsible for ensuring that customer questions are answered, complaints are resolved, and lines move quickly and smoothly. They also oversee product merchandising to maximize sales. Grocery store managers work with HR to forecast staffing needs, develop a recruiting strategy that considers seasonal variations and the strengths of current staff, and then interview and hire. This role typically requires at least five years of experience in a related area, including supervisory experience.
  • Cashiers. Grocery store cashiers scan items, receive and process payments, help bag items, and answer customers’ questions about product availability and location. They need to be able to operate a cash register, and they should be available for evening and weekend shifts. Cashiers are usually the last person a customer encounters at the grocery store, so it’s important that they greet customers, make eye contact, and efficiently process items to make a lasting impression. This is an entry-level position—a good attitude and the ability to connect with customers are more important than previous experience.
  • Stockers/inventory control personnel. Stockers are responsible for moving products onto the shelves so that customers can find what they’re seeking. They organize product displays, label items with price tags, and periodically check shelves to let inventory control specialists know when stocks are running low. They put up promotional materials and remove them once a promotion is over. Stockers should be very familiar with the store’s product placements since they’re most likely to be approached by a customer seeking an item’s location. A high school diploma or equivalent is preferred but not required.
    Inventory control specialists are responsible for tracking the store’s inventory, ordering supplies, and making sure the store’s inventory records are accurate and up to date. They work closely with the store’s vendors and warehouse workers. The role requires a mix of desk-based computer work and warehouse work. These specialists need to be able to lift up to 50 pounds and occasionally operate a forklift. This position generally requires a high school diploma or equivalent and experience with digital inventory systems.

Benefits and Administration

In a highly competitive job market, the benefits that grocery retailers provide to their employees can make the difference between a fully staffed store and one that’s struggling to stay open. An important role for grocery store HR teams is determining which kinds of benefits they can offer to differentiate themselves as employers and land the best available workers. In addition to providing benefits, such as health insurance and store discounts, many retailers offer their employees perks, such as free meals and community college subsidies.

Giving workers the ability to schedule their hours around their outside commitments can help grocers attract employees and build loyalty. Digital scheduling systems that make it easy for employees to sign up for shifts and trade them make workers feel valued and engaged, according to a survey by job site Indeed. In fact, 77% of onsite workers who were given the option of flex scheduling took advantage of it, the survey found. HR managers need to help determine which times during the day/week/year their grocery stores are the most and least busy so they can make sure that the right number of employees are available. To do this, HR needs to track customer traffic data over time, determine patterns, and hire and create schedules around those patterns.

Policies and Compliance

Grocery store HR teams need to monitor and ensure compliance with a vast array of federal, state, and local laws. Some of the more common regulations include the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes minimum wages and overtime pay; the Equal Pay Act, which makes it illegal to pay men and women different wages for the same job; and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which sets standards for safe workplace conditions, has guidelines specific to grocery stores and supermarkets that focus on ergonomics and machine safety. The Fair Labor Standards Act limits the types of jobs people under age 18 can do and how many hours they can work.


Grocery store HR teams are responsible for training employees at all levels, including warehouse workers, store employees, and senior executives. Because of the high turnover for many grocery store roles, training for new employees may seem like the highest priority, but HR shouldn’t neglect training current employees, who may need refreshers on crucial issues or want training to advance their careers. Continual, role-appropriate training can help employees fulfill their job responsibilities more effectively and position them for advancement.

In general, training for grocery store managers and executives should include soft skills, such as communicating, team building, and building interpersonal relationships. For lower-level employees, HR should create training plans that outline what employees should know at different stages of their work life—at one week, a month, six months, and so on. Providing new employees with a peer mentor can help get them on track and keep them there. HR managers should identify staff members who are particularly good at their job and give those people staff-training and -oversight responsibilities. It’s a great way to assess an employee’s management potential. Training in the following practices is particularly key:

  • Customer service. Good customer service means different things to different shoppers. Some want quick answers to their questions so they can get in and out of the store quickly. Others seek recommendations on cooking techniques for certain products, or they want answers to questions about the ingredients in premade meals. Data compiled by retail advisor Invesp shows that 89% of businesses see a positive customer experience as a key factor in driving customer loyalty and retention. When training grocery workers on customer service, start on a day when the store isn’t busy so that the trainee isn’t overwhelmed by customer demands. Be patient when your trainee makes mistakes and when reinforcing guidance. Make sure you impart to the employee the store’s core values as part of the training process. The two most valuable things you can provide are a training checklist that employees can refer to and a more seasoned employee who trainees can “shadow” as they go about their work.

    The customer experience associated with online grocery shopping is growing in importance as more customers opt for the convenience of store pickup or delivery. Research firm Mercatus found that shoppers who have a positive experience with a grocer’s online service—ordering is simple, pickup or delivery is seamless, and the items are of high quality—are 2.2 times more likely to use the service more often than those who had a negative experience. Grocers need to train employees who handle online orders to prioritize accuracy and careful selection of products, especially produce and packaged meals. No customers want to think that they got second-rate items because they weren’t shopping in person.
  • Food safety. Food safety issues touch every part of a grocery store, not just the meat counter and deli. Grocers need to train stockers on keeping shelves sanitary and give kitchen workers allergen training so they label prepared food correctly. Governing food safety are federal and state regulations, including the Food Safety Modernization Act, which oversees the entire food supply chain from grower to store. At least one employee at every grocery store is required to obtain food protection manager certification—that individual is then responsible for developing training materials and overseeing food safety practices at the store.
  • Food handling. Grocery stores sell all kinds of food, including items packaged in a manufacturing plant or grown on a farm and food prepared for delis, hot bars, and salad bars. It’s crucial that retail food handlers receive training on the principles of personal hygiene, proper food handling and storage, and the cleaning of equipment and preparation surfaces. They must understand how their training applies to preventing food contamination and spoilage. Many grocery stores have both food handlers and food safety supervisors—each role has different training courses and levels of responsibility. Trainers should focus on practice rather than theory. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides free educational materials on food safety that grocers can post and distribute in the workplace.
  • Stocking methods. Grocery store stockers make sure that shelves are full and that products are neatly arrayed. They’re also responsible for setting up special displays to attract customers’ attention and persuade them to make a purchase. Stockers new to the job usually receive several weeks of on-the-job training on store policies, the store’s layout, and how to use its inventory management software. As the person most likely to be approached by a customer looking for an item, the stocker should also receive the same customer service training that cashiers receive.
  • Cash register operations. All cashiers require training on a store’s point-of-sale hardware and software. The skills involved include logging into the software, scanning products, accepting mobile and credit card payments, and handling cash, which includes making change and checking for counterfeit money. Cashiers also need to know how to reload receipt paper and fix a paper jam.
  • Loss prevention. Among retail products, grocery store items are the most likely to be shoplifted, with cheese having the notorious distinction of being the most stolen food in the world, according to the UK’s Centre for Retail Research. Other items commonly stolen are fresh meat, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, and seafood.

    Grocery retailers need to guard against three main types of theft: customer, employee, and cyber. Customer theft includes shoplifting the kinds of items cited above, as well as fraud at the self-checkout aisle—for example, by keying in the product code for carrots and walking away with three pounds of filet mignon. Grocers also need to guard against employees stealing items to keep or sell, or manipulating sales, refunds, and voids at the cash register to pocket cash. Then there’s cybertheft, whereby hackers access customer account and payment information or steal the data stored in loyalty accounts.

    Although store security has the primary responsibility for preventing all types of theft, HR can help mitigate product loss by training employees on the importance of loss prevention. Workers who understand the controls in place to identify offenders are less likely to steal and more likely to help prevent loss and fraud.
  • Store security. According to a 2022 AFL-CIO report on workplace safety, retail locations are the most likely places for workplace homicides to occur. Stores are starting to implement scenario-based training to prepare employees for dangerous situations. Outside the grocery sector, Verizon plans to send 15,000 of its store workers through a virtual reality training program to give them a realistic sense of what it’s like to experience an armed robbery or a smash-and-grab episode. Research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicates that workers who undergo scenario-based training score better on information retention exams and have a more positive attitude toward training materials in general than individuals who don’t take such training. At a minimum, grocery store employees need training on their responsibilities to themselves, their peers, and customers during any type of criminal event.


In a 2021 survey by training company Axonify and Arlington Research, nearly half of the frontline-worker respondents said they were planning to quit their jobs soon, with 56% of grocery workers citing burnout as their top reason, followed by insufficient compensation, at 50%. There’s no question that retaining employees, especially entry-level cashiers and stockers, can be challenging.

Savvy grocery store HR teams are taking a variety of steps to retain key people, including providing free meals, childcare stipends, and help with transportation costs. HR teams might also work with a store manager experiencing high turnover rates to uncover the warning signs before employees leave. Or an HR team member might shadow a store manager with a good retention track record to understand what that manager is doing right. Equally important, HR managers need to continue to support employees past the onboarding stage to ensure they’re keeping up to date on their training. Once employees put in their resignation notice, HR needs to conduct an exit interview to understand why they’re leaving and where they’re going.

Here are eight other strategies that HR managers can use to improve retention at their stores.

  • Competitive wages and benefits. While some grocery retailers have boosted wages and salaries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, across-the-board pay hikes can be difficult to absorb in an industry that has averaged 2.9% profit margin over the past three years, according to the Food Marketing Association. In 2023, 27 US states and 59 cities and counties will raise their minimum wage. In four states and 36 cities and counties, the minimum wage will reach or exceed $15 per hour for some or all employees, according to the National Employment Law Project. Although some stores will raise prices or cap overtime to accommodate the increased wage costs, they stand to benefit from the higher wages in some ways. For example, studies show that employees who are satisfied with their pay are less prone to absenteeism and tardiness and more likely to stay with their employer, reducing hiring costs. Furthermore, veteran employees tend to be better at their jobs than recent hires, and they can help train new team members.
  • A collaborative working environment. Grocery store workers are the face of the store, gaining the kind of unique insights that deskbound executives at corporate headquarters often don’t encounter. Those insights will remain undiscovered unless deskless workers—those who don’t have a designated place to work—are given a way to share ideas. Research from McKinsey shows that what grocery workers want most is to be valued by the organization and their direct manager, to feel a sense of belonging, and to have caring and trusting teammates. Grocery workers also need to understand how their job connects to the larger vision of the company.

    HR can take the lead in developing comprehensive messaging plans, using pulse surveys delivered from their human capital management (HCM) applications to connect with employees. Online time management portals accessible with a mobile device can give grocery store workers a better sense of control over their work-life balance, while “touchpoint” software fosters open communication between managers and employees.
  • Advancement and development opportunities. Retail leaders sometimes underestimate the value of creating career development strategies for their hourly workers as a means to boost retention. A 2022 study of LinkedIn data shows that employees who make a lateral move or are promoted within three years of being hired have a 64% chance of staying with their current company, while those who don’t change roles have only a 45% chance of staying. HR can help grocery store and supermarket chain employees find their next opportunity within the organization by having career discussions as part of scheduled check-ins and developing individual training plans.
  • Clear goals. Grocery store leaders owe it to their employees to set clear goals for the organization and communicate them to employees. HR can help with this strategic planning by providing senior management with data on employee turnover, training, compensation, and benefits.
  • Employee recognition. Employee recognition programs acknowledge employees’ contributions to the success of the store and/or company, instilling in those people a sense of belonging and fulfillment. Employees who feel appreciated are more productive and more likely to continue and enhance the actions that brought them recognition. Acknowledging employees for their innovation, customer focus, and collaboration also encourages others to model that behavior. The reverse is true. Letting employees get away with being rude to customers or coworkers helps embed that behavior into the store’s culture. The best part of employee recognition programs that come with rewards is that they’ll still have a positive effect regardless of whether those rewards are large or small, public or personal. HR teams can create programs for formal recognition and bonuses, and they can work with managers to ensure that employees are recognized informally on a regular basis.
  • Technology for efficiency. Grocery store technologies that make work life easier on employees can reduce turnover by eliminating or simplifying mundane tasks. For example, self-checkout systems let customers avoid long cashier lines, and they can free up some workers for customer assistance and other value-added work. HR is responsible for making sure workers have the training they need as their roles change. Some retailers are starting to use “gamified” digital training to help employees better retain educational materials. Workforce planning and scheduling applications can predict staffing needs based on several variables, including weather and traffic, so workers get a better idea of when they’ll be needed. Self-scheduling tools let employees choose when they want to work, within certain parameters. HR teams can also use data, gleaned from the company’s HCM system, on employees’ attendance, tardiness, benefits usage, and training participation to identify those who might be considering leaving the organization and intervene before it’s too late.
  • Incentives, bonuses, and promotions. To compete for talent with other retailers—and service sectors such as lodging and restaurants—some grocery chains are developing employee appreciation programs that include special events, T-shirt giveaways, free food, and, of course, cash. One grocer has doubled its referral bonus to $200 and added signing bonuses of $500 to $1,000 for certain positions. These efforts can motivate workers and increase their productivity. HR teams aiming to improve employee recruitment and retention need to help develop exciting and consistent incentive programs that workers can count on, including a path to promotions.
  • Flexible work schedules. Like the coal miner who tells his foreman he’ll be working from home tomorrow (hat tip to an old “The Far Side” comic strip), most grocery retail employees don’t have the option of working remotely. But the industry can offer workers some scheduling flexibility, one of the top ways to retain them, according to the National Grocers Association. Options include offering split shifts that let workers handle childcare and family responsibilities, and cross-training so employees can get a change of scenery and diversify their skillset by working part of their time in a different department. This is an area where technology is crucial—workers can request schedule changes, pick up shifts, and track their hours through an online time management portal accessible from their mobile devices, rather than having to call or email a supervisor.

Performance Evaluation

Grocery workers need ongoing feedback on their job performance, both during their workday and as part of a structured review cycle. Meantime, managers need to take time to listen to their employees’ feedback and support their career development goals. HCM systems can help management keep track of employees’ performance reviews, goals, and the progress they’re making. HR needs to partner with store managers, who may not have the leadership skills required to develop strong relationships with team members. Even good managers need feedback and some level of mentorship and training to improve, as well as their own charted career path. To engage and retain employees, managers must create a problem-solving atmosphere, get to know their employees as people, and promote open communication and trust.

10 Best Practices for Grocery HR Management

Rapid turnover and a never-ending hiring cycle can make it difficult for grocery HR managers to step back and focus on the big picture—actions that improve the customer experience and store culture. Here are 10 best practices that HR managers need to prioritize.

1. Develop an onboarding process

Make sure new employees have everything they need to start on the right foot, such as a name tag, uniform shirts, a tour of the premises, and introductions to the team. If possible, provide lunch for the first-day employee and a seasoned coworker. If selecting benefits is part of a new hire’s first day, make sure someone is present who can answer questions. Most important, keep your door open and stay particularly accessible for the first few days in case any issues or questions arise. According to Harvard Business Review, companies that implement a formal onboarding program can expect to see 50% greater retention of new employees

2. Establish clear job descriptions

Creating comprehensive, clear job descriptions is crucial to the recruitment phase, when candidates, who are likely looking at several different job opportunities, need to determine whether they’re interested in the positions you have available. At the same time, don’t make the description so detailed that you scare off candidates who might imagine themselves having to do all those tasks all the time. The job description is also an opportunity for grocers to showcase their store’s culture and values. If you prioritize customer service, make sure you list that first—for example, by writing “Give every customer immediate attention.” Larger stores have different departments, and the job description for a meat cutter will be different from the one for a bagger. Floor managers know best what each job entails, so tapping their expertise will help keep job descriptions realistic. HR should make a point of reviewing and updating descriptions periodically.

3. Establish performance management plans

Well-designed performance management plans help motivate employees, cultivate talent, and establish goals and accountability. Grocery workers need ongoing feedback on their job performance, both during their workday and as part of a structured review cycle, and managers need to take time to listen to feedback and support career development goals. Performance management programs need to be transparent and consistent so that workers feel they’re being evaluated based on the same criteria as their peers. Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations recommends that HR teams set up group “calibration” meetings for managers of hourly employees so they can come to a consensus on low-, medium-, and high-performance characteristics. Include 360-degree feedback loops that involve managers, peers, direct reports, and even customers. Make sure employees can visualize a career path within the store or larger organization.

4. Implement a compensation structure

Knowledge is power when developing a compensation structure—knowledge about how competitors compensate their employees and which people within your organization would be most difficult to replace. There are two main salary structure types. With traditional structures, pay levels are divided into different grades based on specific criteria, such as length of tenure or performance levels. With market-based structures, salaries are based on current market rates for comparable positions in the area. The type of compensation structure that grocery retailers set up can make a huge impact on their ability to hire and retain workers. In the 2021 survey by Axonify and Arlington Research, 56% of grocery workers said they planned to leave their jobs soon, and half of those people cited poor compensation as the main reason.

Grocers are responding by raising salaries, in some cases significantly. One German grocery chain announced it was increasing staff salaries by 7.5% starting in early 2023. Another grocer in the UK recently announced a 10% increase for more than 100,000 employees. You can bolster your retention rates by adding in the benefits of a good employee culture, such as growth opportunities and flexible schedules, but ultimately for most hourly employees the pay level will be the deciding factor in taking a job or staying in it.

5. Provide training opportunities

It’s important that grocery retailers provide all employees with training that not only improves their performance and complies with industry regulations, but also helps them advance in their careers. That training runs the gamut, from soft skills such as how to respond to customer queries and how to communicate with managers, to technical skills such as how to operate a cash register and enter items into an inventory control system. One US grocery chain has developed an educational program that teaches associates skills such as product merchandising and how to read a profit-and-loss statement. Another grocery chain has developed a management training program that includes classroom sessions and hands-on experience shadowing store managers. HR teams are also developing training programs for senior managers to improve communication, organization, and feedback skills. Across industries more than half of US workers who quit their jobs in 2021 cited lack of advancement opportunities as a top reason, according to the Pew Research Center. Grocery HR teams need to pay special attention to making training opportunities available to their deskless workers, who may not have ready access to such information on the company intranet.

6. Promote workplace diversity

According to data compiled by Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor during their search, and more than 50% of those currently employed want their workplaces to do more to increase diversity. Given that context, it’s important for grocery retail HR teams to cultivate a diverse workforce, one that reflects the demographic makeup of the local community, and not just in entry-level positions such as cashiers, stockers, and food service personnel. HR teams need to mine data in their applicant tracking software to identify job candidates from underrepresented ethnic and other groups. Some ways to accomplish this goal include reaching out to historically Black colleges and universities, using recruiting agencies that specialize in diverse candidates, and making sure there is diversity among the recruiting staff within the organization’s HR team. For entry-level positions, internal programs that reward employees for recommending qualified candidates can improve diversity rates. Grocery retailers also need to create advancement opportunities to promote diversity at the senior management level, especially considering a 2021 finding by Deloitte that 58% of food industry retailers have leadership configurations that don’t represent the local population.

7. Establish recognition programs

Employee recognition can be recurring or ad hoc and include bonuses and other perks or not, but the important thing is that it be part of a conscious effort with specific goals and budgets. By recognizing and rewarding employees’ dedication to the business and customers, grocery retailers motivate those employees to perform at a high level and give them a sense of fulfillment that encourages them to stay long term. Such programs can include public, formal recognition as well as more regular informal recognition from managers. HR teams need to make sure that employee recognition is perceived as fair and equitable by all employees.

8. Foster team building

Grocery store managers have the biggest impact on team building, but HR managers can help foster it across the organization. First, make sure managers have the soft skills—mainly interpersonal communications, prioritization, and problem solving—to oversee their group of people. Not every manager has these skills at the start, but they can be taught. Store managers have responsibilities that keep them off the floor, including scheduling, hiring, and planning, but it’s crucial that they take the time to “walk the floor” and connect with workers. HR managers can support a team-oriented culture by creating programs that get employees to work together to find a solution to a specific scenario they’re likely to encounter or to build displays that highlight a product’s features.

9. Create a culture of open communication

Grocery store HR leaders can work with store managers to use online pulse surveys, town hall meetings, and one-on-one conversations to communicate company initiatives and job opportunities, as well as get feedback on employee challenges and concerns. Such two-way communication helps employees gain a clearer sense of how they fit into the store’s and organization’s big picture. Share customer stories. Explain to employees that they’re not just stocking and selling products; they’re helping parents feed their children or creating a meaningful moment when a teenager buys flowers for Mother’s Day. How your business helps people is the story that grocery retailers need to tell their employees.

10. Invest in workforce technology

Every grocery store has point-of-sale systems and most have inventory management software, but more grocery retailers are embracing HCM systems that provide employees with online portals to manage their shifts, learn about training opportunities and open positions, check their benefits and pay slips, reinforce workplace safety guidelines, and even learn new skills. Such applications also help managers recruit, onboard, and evaluate the performance of their people, giving executives the data they need to make strategic decisions. For example, HR might have data showing an increase in employee turnover and an associated increase in hiring costs, spurring management to reallocate money to higher wages and salaries to stem turnover.

HR Challenges for Grocery Stores

Grocery stores face all the HR challenges of other industries, including reducing high employee turnover, finding qualified replacements for those who leave, offering competitive salaries and wages, and cultivating a positive work culture—all in service of creating great customer experiences and building a profitable business. Here are seven of the biggest challenges that grocery store HR teams face now.

1. Turnover

The employee turnover rate is one metric that organizations use to measure their overall health. Generally included in that metric are involuntary departures (layoffs and firings) and voluntary turnover (resignations), factoring in the overall cost to replace a given type of employee. In 2021 grocery stores had a turnover rate of 48% for full-time employees and 67% for part-time employees, according to trade group FMI, with cumulative turnover rates that exceed 100%, partly due to the prevalence of part-time and seasonal workers. (This happens when grocery stores need to fill the same jobs over and over. Each employee who leaves is part of the organization’s overall turnover rate.) In a survey of frontline workers, including grocery employees, conducted in 2021 by training company Axonify and Arlington Research, nearly half of the respondents said they were planning to quit soon.

2. Compensation

In an industry where profit margins are very slim—they averaged 2.9% over the past three years—the ability to pay people what they want or think they deserve is a big pain point. Although HR doesn’t control the compensation budget, it can demonstrate to the organization the connection between salaries, success in recruiting, and retention—using both industry research and examples specific to the store. HR teams can also point out the value of ensuring pay equity, both to show a commitment to diversity initiatives and to avoid fines for unfair labor practices. In addition, HR can take the lead in benchmarking the company’s compensation levels against those of competitors, using third-party data.

3. Risk management

Grocery stores face many risks related to food safety and quality, customer and worker safety, shoplifting and robbery, and other factors. HR focuses on the employee-related ones. Stockers, store managers, and other grocery workers need to be able to lift heavy boxes, sometimes to high shelves, and they tend to move around more than employees in other lines of work, increasing their risk of injury. Stores can lose key employees for extended periods due to injury, while having to foot the considerable cost of workers’ compensation. Workers need training on proper lifting techniques, how to handle cleaning chemicals, and how to climb ladders safely.

4. A seasonal workforce

Grocery stores don’t have the same peaks and valleys during the year as other types of retailers, but they still need extra help around the holidays and during the summer months to cover for full-time staffers on vacation. For grocery store HR teams, it’s a challenge to recruit, engage, and get the best performance from employees who will be around for only two to three months.

5. Inexperienced employees

Grocery store jobs, especially cashiers, baggers, and stockers, are frequently an employee’s first job, with few or no requirements up front. As a result, grocery store HR teams need to expand conventional onboarding training to include basic work behaviors, such as showing up on time, what to wear, and how to greet a customer. HR managers shouldn’t just tell employees what to do—they need to provide clear, real-life examples, including in formats such as video and infographics, so that new employees understand what it takes to do the job well.

6. Theft

Employee theft accounts for at least 30% of the $50 billion in cash and goods stolen from US retailers each year, according to the National Retail Federation. The most common type of employee theft is “sweethearting,” whereby employees give away or discount merchandise to family or friends. Techniques include avoiding scans of certain merchandise, overriding the actual price of an item, processing fake refunds to gift cards that the employee can keep or sell, and processing bogus voids or discounts to conceal missing cash. Time theft—when employees goof off at work or enter false information on their timecard—is also costly for grocers.

7. Safety

Related to the risk management issues covered above are grocery store safety concerns, ranging from minor repetitive strain injuries to serious slip-and-fall injuries. With the increase in organized retail crime, grocery stores are also beginning to plan and develop training around violent crime. In a 2022 survey of 18 food retailers representing more than 12,000 stores, grocery trade group FMI found that 72% of those organizations have programs or plans to prevent workplace violence, while 88% say they’re ready to deal with robberies.

Oracle Workforce Management Software for Grocery Stores

Grocery store HR teams have their work cut out for them, having to hire, train, and help retain employees who in many cases are early in their work life. Oracle Fusion Cloud Human Capital Management (HCM) is a comprehensive, integrated suite of applications to help HR managers automate the recruiting process, reduce the complexity and cost of payroll tasks, provide new employees with personalized onboarding and to-do lists, create an “opportunity marketplace” that employees can use to try other jobs within the store, and handle complex union and legislative regulations. The cloud application suite also lets employees schedule shifts, check their benefits, pursue training opportunities, give managers feedback, and perform other tasks. And because it’s in the cloud, Oracle Cloud HCM connects every employee and every HR process across multiple stores, all using the same interface.

For even better results, grocery stores and supermarkets that implement Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP along with Oracle Cloud HCM can combine HR and finance into a single, unified system. By connecting HR and finance, store leaders gain insights into how workforce fluctuations affect budgets, forecasts, and resource allocation. And when those core HR and finance systems connect to a store’s merchandising, inventory management, planning, and customer engagement products, leaders can gain a holistic view of store operations and shopper behaviors.

HR in Grocery Stores FAQs

What is the goal of HR in the retail industry?

Grocery store HR teams are responsible mainly for hiring, training, and working to retain employees, with the goal of providing the best customer experience possible while maximizing sales and profits.

What is the salary of an HR position in the retail industry?

The average salary for an HR manager in retail is $96,830, according to 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is HR in the food industry?

Beyond the hiring, benefits management, and termination processes that all HR teams oversee, those in the food industry must deal with evolving government regulations and certification requirements, workforce safety concerns, and especially strong competition for workers with other service companies, such as other kinds of retailers, hotels, and restaurants.

See how Oracle Retail’s grocery solutions deliver a more efficient shopping experience.