Why employees don’t want to work for you

What are employees saying about the labor shortage?

November 18, 2021
  • Emily Albright Miller

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2022: The year of the employee

While the labor shortage impacts all industries, it seems like retailers and quick-service restaurants are feeling its effects more than anywhere else. 

This is particularly alarming because, from our recent research, we know that employees have the greatest impact on the consumer’s brand experience. But right now, the severe lack of employees is having a devastating effect on service and consumer experience. The impacts on brand will range from decreases in short-term visits and spend to long-term damage to perception and loyalty. 

We anticipate that in 2022, brands will invest in new and different ways to appeal to the employee, as a way of providing the brand experience consumers are looking for. The future design of stores will be more holistic and will need to factor in the experiential needs of employees, not just customers, to be successful. 

Who has the greatest control over the experience?

Knowing both the importance and current scarcity of employees, we surveyed and engaged with them directly to hear their concerns, frustrations, and get to the root of why they aren't returning to the workplace.

Employees are feeling dehumanized & like their basic needs aren't being met

Overwhelmingly, we heard is that there is a massive disconnect between employer and employee. Many employees don't feel valued by their employers. And, unsurprisingly, they are reluctant to work in environments where they aren't safe or comfortable.

When ranking the most important elements of their job, "the store/location feels safe and comfortable" landed in the top 3, underscoring the importance of meeting the employees' basic, physiological needs. Respect and happiness are critical, but ultimately meaningless without a feeling of safety.

When asked to define what they meant by "safe" and "comfortable," one employee responded with the following:

"Comfort is feeling mentally safe, particularly with the abusive/creepy customers, but it's also about knowing I can do what my body needs. It includes the ability to sit down without your boss freaking out because heaven forbid the public see that after 7 hours on concrete, you kind of need 3 minutes to sit. It's also being able to run to the bathroom and to take breaks as needed."

Workplace culture appears to be, at best, non-existent, and at worst, toxic

When asked about least-favorite jobs, common themes included a lack of diversity, inclusion, and clear communication. Employees feel frustrated when there's a perceived lack of control – over schedules, personal agency, and connections with coworkers. And this frustration often leads to resentment. They want a culture of recognition and desire an environment where they feel seen and respected. 

In our research, we asked them to indicate their employer of choice through the use of emojis. There was a huge spread of emojis across brands and sectors, indicating that no one brand has a standout reputation right now.

Employee perceptions of brand as a potential workplace


About the research

Big Red Rooster conducted thought leadership in early Q4 2021 designed to understand the employee perspective on brand experience and ways in which retailers/restaurants can become an employer of choice. Our study was conducted in partnership with ENGINE Insights and included a 3-day Digital Hive with 188 U.S. workers 15 years of age and older who are currently or were recently employed by national retailers and/or restaurants. Questions included a mix of open- and closed-ended discussion, ranking, and interactive exercises.


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Contact Emily Albright Miller

SVP, Strategy – Big Red Rooster, a JLL Company