In our latest Employee Well-Being Report, these two industry-specific findings stood out to us:

  • Employee happiness in the retail industry jumped 11% from January to December 2020.
  • Employee burnout in the manufacturing industry jumped 86% in 2020.

What are the stories behind these data insights? To better understand how employees in retail and manufacturing are feeling, we turned to Glint People Science expert Jeff Jokerst for his perspective.

Why do you think employee happiness in the retail industry rose last year?

One of the first elements to acknowledge is that increases in employee happiness should in no way imply that being in retail during this time has been easy. In fact, in working with several retail organizations, I can say the challenges and difficulties they have experienced during the pandemic have been severe.  

With that said, many retail organizations jumped on the opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to their employees that extended beyond traditional expressions. For example, instituting safety practices and checking in on how those safety practices are being followed to communicate concern beyond basic performance. 

That’s a good point. Perhaps more than any other industry, retail had to learn how to quickly ramp business up and down in accordance with public health and safety measures.

Yes. Closures forced organizations to be transparent with employees and get creative with solutions for reopening stores. I’ve heard from our retail customers that the pandemic forced them to prioritize technology that would enable consumers to access goods while keeping employees safe. The silver lining there is that, in many cases, there’s now a more seamless experience between the consumer and employee.  

So I think the gain in happiness among retail employees is, at least partially, a result of the stark contrast they’ve experienced: a full shutdown early in the pandemic, followed by a fast rebound (at least by leading retailers) to find creative and safe ways to get their employees back to work. 

Pivoting to the manufacturing industry, why are we seeing such heavy burnout there?

The October U.S. jobs report revealed that the manufacturing sector was still over 647,000 jobs shy of pre-pandemic levels. It’s true that many other industries also aren’t back up to pre-pandemic employment levels. But here’s what’s alarming about manufacturing: According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry had over 500,000 job openings before the pandemic started.  

So we’re seeing a workforce that was stretched extremely thin prior to the pandemic, which stretched it even further. The workload for manufacturing employees is simply getting unbearable.  

Wow—that sounds tough. Is there anything else contributing to burnout among manufacturing employees?

Well, it’s also likely that employees who maintained their jobs needed to fulfill roles and duties they previously were unfamiliar with, creating additional stress. And because job losses were a quick reaction to the pandemic, it’s likely that organizations were not as thoughtful as they could have been about the support employees needed to learn new roles and responsibilities.  

And I have one final thought: In many cases, there isn’t an opportunity for employees in the manufacturing industry to work remotely. That means they have had to adhere to new safety protocols and tracking procedures, which could feel burdensome and also limit the previously natural connection points co-workers had with each other during working hours. This is significant because, as we see in the report, feeling disconnected from colleagues is the most frequently cited burnout precursor, right above workload.

Check out the full Employee Well-Being Report, and learn more about promoting employee well-being with Glint’s People Success Platform.