The Top Challenges in Retail Payroll and HR (and The Solutions)

retail payroll and hr


2024/25 Payroll Legislation Guide

The facts, figures, thresholds and allowances for 2024/25, in one handy guide.

There’s nothing easy about working in HR and Payroll in retail. You’re juggling hundreds of different variables and being pulled in every direction. Your hands are tied by compliance red tape and your responsibility to your employees is huge.

That’s amplified in an industry like retail where things are in constant flux.  Multiple locations, seasonal pressure, and high employee turnover. It’s like a personnel perfect storm.

But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming… Let’s explore the pain points, and how these can be cured with an integrated HR and Payroll software platform!

The challenges in retail payroll and HR

1. Complex Contracts

In retail you’re dealing with one of the most diverse workforces in terms of contract types. There’s full-time, part-time, salaried, hourly, seasonal, permanent, temporary… and the list goes on. Now think about the fact that all employees are compensated differently, whether that’s for weekends, overtime, holiday working, or even lunches. No wonder retail payroll teams are pretty busy people!

2. Lifecycle discomfort

There’s a LOT to consider when you’re on-boarding. You can handle the complexity. But imagine handling this level of contractual complexity for an organisation with unbelievably high employee turnover. In some industries your employees’ lifecycle spans years. Not in retail.

In retail you’re dealing with fireflies – employees who burn bright for a few weeks but then they’re gone. Seasonal surges, a competitive job market and relatively low wages means that employees come and go with alarming regularity. We could be talking around 60% turnover per year. That’s a lot to handle.

3. The Four Seasons

Next you have to consider seasonal ups and downs. Lifecycle isn’t just driven by supply. It’s also driven by demand. At Christmas you’re going to need more hands on deck. In February, not so much. And recruitment in retail is a battlefield. Getting the talent in the door can take up almost all of the HR team’s time.

4. Talent Shortages

What about the gaps? When you have high turnover, you’re going to have unfilled positions. And finding the right talent to fill the gaps is difficult. Not only is retention a big part of the problem, so is the time and effort you have to put into recruitment. That all adds complexity.

5. Locations and Roles

Unfortunately, it gets even more complex! In retail, you’re handling employees who work across multiple locations, in a range of different roles. Think warehousing, offices, retail spaces and all the logistics it takes to keep shoppers shopping.

The impact

How’s that spreadsheet looking now? Pretty complicated? We thought so… Even many payroll or HR systems just aren’t built to handle this level of complexity. With so much pressure on an inadequate system, it’s bound to collapse.

1. Payroll problems

The retail sector has been in the news in recent years when employees received the wrong pay. With so much changing every day, it can be easy for something to slip through the net. But there isn’t a single aspect of HR or payroll that you can afford to lose track of. Not least payroll. Because payroll problems lead to an unhappy workforce and huge reputational damage.

2. Admin overload

The HR team are overloaded managing the ‘front-end’ of this machine – fighting for new recruits, on-boarding, administrating, and training. Employees who are on-board now have to fend for themselves. No HR team wants to find themselves in that situation. You want to be investing in your people and making their experience better. But when two-thirds are walking out the door every year, how can you? You’re trapped in a vicious cycle.

3. Employee dis-engagement

Overworked and underpaid? That’s not a nice place to be. And if you add to that a HR team who are so busy taking care of the basics that they don’t have time to focus on what really matters, then problems mount up. When everyone is stretched to deliver the basics, you can’t implement the extras. And those are the things that keep your teams happy and engaged. On the frontline of retail recruitment, you can’t afford for employees to feel disconnected, or worse, dissatisfied. That’s why it’s so important to improve employee engagement in the retail sector.

4.Customer discontentment

If your employees are unhappy, that’s going to radiate out to the customers. The retail experience will be affected. And so will the bottom-line.

The solutions

There’s a solution—fully integrated HR and Payroll. A system that gives you everything you could need to manage the whole employee lifecycle in one integrated software platform. With a solution like that, you can give time to the things you care about: like improving employee experience to create happier teams, better employee retention and a healthier bottom-line.

1. Payroll admin automation

Let’s start with the really glamorous bit. Your payroll software will manage all the fiddly admin of all those contracts. Without even breaking a sweat. And with a system that integrates fully with your HR package, we’re talking single-point data entry across all of payroll and HR. That reduces errors and streamlines the whole process. If you want to know more, check out our Ultimate Guide to Payroll Software.

2. Cloud-based technology

We all live in the cloud now. And we’re used to technology we can access anytime, anywhere. And with your integrated HR and payroll software fully cloud-based, that’s exactly what you’ll have. Which means easy access and instant control from whichever device is easiest for you. Plus, no tricky tech stuff, and total confidence that your data security is being handled by a trustworthy provider.

3. Payroll delegation

You don’t have to carry the load. We love delegation. Cintra Groups is the transformational add-on that gives your managers the power to own and enter payroll data for their stores. By capturing information directly at source—from contract changes to new starters—you remove single points of failure, share the admin burden and speed up the payroll process.

4. Powerful insights

Visibility can transform your business. With an integrated HR and payroll system, your analytics will be amplified across people, places and projects. You’ll have access to tangible insights at the touch of a button, across all the metrics that matter.

5. Employee voice

A great employee experience translates into an incredible customer experience. And that starts with listening. You can build a culture of engaged employees with employee feedback and wellbeing check-ins. Everyone, from shop floor teams, to team leaders, to the CEO can use the self-service system to log-in and check-in. You will be empowered to take pre-emptive steps to keep everyone thriving.

6. Outsourced services

If you choose a payroll outsourcing service, you can rest assured that you’re in expert hands. A fully-managed payroll solution gives you access to an integrated system, and the time-consuming side of payroll can be passed on to our dedicated team of payroll professionals. Which gives you more time to invest in what matters most. To explore this option, have a look at our Guide to Payroll Software vs Outsourced Payroll.

The next step

What started as a perfect storm, can transform into an exciting, innovative HR challenge. Managing multiple locations, high employee turnover and all those variable shift patterns while keeping things under control and fully compliant feels like a manageable task once the right systems and support are in place.

At Cintra, we’re dedicated to finding new ways to make your life easier. We’re proud of the functionality our systems offer and would love to show you how they can make retail payroll and HR simpler.

We can help you to work out what that support could look like. Choose from a menu of solutions, including:

  • Integrated HR and Payroll systems
  • Employee self-service
  • Bolt-ons like Cintra Groups for delegation
  • Outsourced payroll with access to a team of payroll professionals.

Whatever the solution, we would love to chat to you! Book a demo today.


Find out more about how to attract, retain and engage your teams from head office to shop floor.

Picture of Danielle Nicholson
Danielle Nicholson
Danielle is our Communications and Content Manager, leading the content strategy for Cintra. Outside of her passion for all things copywriting, she loves being on the water in a kayak or taking long walks with her Golden Retriever!