The Importance of Effective HR Strategies in Large Retail Environments

JCPenney focuses on frontline flexibility to boost engagement and retention.

February 14th, 2024


In the bustling aisles of retail, where change is the only constant, the role of HR is more critical than ever. Amidst the backdrop of 5.5 million unfilled positions in the retail sector in the United States, the question looms large: How can HR departments reduce turnover and transform the retail workplace for hourly workers? Dive into the heart of retail’s revolution, where HR strategies are not just about filling vacancies, but about crafting a culture that brings out the best in every employee and offers work-life balance.  

Role of HR in Fostering a Positive Workplace Culture

Creating a positive workplace culture for hourly employees goes beyond the aesthetics of the break room or the occasional team meeting. It roots itself deep in the values of the company and the daily interactions between staff and management. HR departments are the vanguard in fostering this positivity, which, in turn, propels productivity and brand loyalty — and in retail, those young workers of today can be loyal buyers of tomorrow. By focusing on employee engagement, HR professionals at large retail firms can instigate a cycle of success that benefits both the workforce and the organization. 

Leveraging HR to Navigate Unique Challenges in Retail

With high turnover rates that often characterize the retail industry, HR holds the key to steadying the ship. Enterprise retailers are finding that traditional hiring practices aren’t enough to attract and retain top talent on the frontlines. Forward thinking HR strategies become essential in this environment for addressing worker engagement and offering an employment value proposition that stands out against other retailers.


By leveraging HR, retails can provide:  

  • More Effective Communication: Opening clear channels of communication between employees and management. 
  • Training and Development: Offering avenues for professional growth and personal development. 
  • Career Pathing: Illustrating clear trajectories for advancement within the company. 
  • Recognition Initiatives: Regularly acknowledging employee achievements to foster a sense of accomplishment. 

Benefits of Innovative HR Practices in Retail

JCPenney showcases a stellar example of how to leverage HR strategies effectively. Their multi-dimensional approach combines flexible scheduling, earned wage access, and managerial time savings is not just a blueprint for success — it’s a beacon of innovation in retail HR — and according to Andre Joyner, CHRO at JCPenney, once these benefits were implemented, employee referrals increased by three times the rate.  

  • Flexible Scheduling: Empowering employees by granting them control over their work hours, leading to improved work-life balance and job satisfaction. 
  • Earned Wage Access: Offering financial freedom by allowing employees access to earned wages before the standard payday. 
  • Managerial Process Efficiency: Utilizing technology to handle administrative tasks so managers can focus on people rather than paperwork. 

These initiatives resulted in tangible business outcomes for JCPenney, showcasing the potential gains for other large retailers who follow suit. 


The modern retail landscape is unforgiving, but within it lies an opportunity for HR departments to redefine the role of human resources. Effective HR strategies foster a culture of engagement, empowerment, and financial well-being that addresses the specific challenges of retail. By following the examples of industry leaders like JCPenney, retailers can become the employers of choice for top talent, making the HR department not just a function of recruitment but a cornerstone of the business’s overall success. So, let’s embrace the revolution and transform the retail workplace together.  


To watch the full WorkJam and JCPenney Big Ideas Session at NRF 2024, click below: 
WorkJam and JCPenney’s NRF Big Ideas Session 

Additional HR Resources

Let’s continue to stay informed about the ever-evolving landscape of HR in retail. Together, we can foster a positive workplace culture that brings out the best in every employee.  

For further insights into effective HR strategies in retail, check out these additional resources: 

  • The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a variety of resources specifically tailored to the retail industry, including articles, webcasts, and events. Click here to access their toolkit for managing the retail workforce. 
  • The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) provides a wealth of resources on HR topics such as talent acquisition, retention, and development. Click here to access RILA’s website and for a list of topics and upcoming events for retail.  
  • The Harvard Business Review (HBR) offers a range of articles and case studies on HR strategies in the retail industry. Click here to access their collection of retail-focused content.

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