September 24, 2012, 11:16 AM

How e-retailers can keep top talent

The e-commerce turnover rate is higher than for other industries.

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When 2-year-old discount e-retailer earlier this year decided it was ready to aggressively grow its sales, it knew that its home base of Vancouver, British Columbia, wasn’t the place to do it. In May, it moved its headquarters to New York, in part so it could tap into that city’s talent pool.

“There’s a tech boom happening here,” says Melina Ash,’s co-founder and chief merchandising officer. “The designers and suppliers we want to work with are here locally and it is where everything is happening.”

The 40-person company is hiring for positions across the organization, with the expectation that sales this year will hit $100 million. Ash says the e-retailer’s hiring efforts in New York have largely been successful and turnover in the new office so far is low.

Demand for workers with e-commerce skills increased 31% year over year in July, says recruiting business intelligence firm Wanted Technologies Corp. And the near-constant lure of greener pastures is causing e-commerce turnover rates to rise. The current median employee turnover rate for corporate e-retail jobs—that is, positions that don’t include warehouse work—is up 18%, compared with 10% in 2011, according to a survey of 54 major U.S. retailers from consulting firm Hay Group. That exceeds the median turnover rate for all corporate retail jobs, which stands at 12% this year, down from 14% a year ago.

Among the tactics that can help a company retain talent is transparency. For example, e-commerce services firm Mercent Corp. opens its books to all employees quarterly. The practice enables employees to see the impact of their work, CEO Eric Best says. Employees also have stock options, which Best views as a form of insurance should the company be acquired, merge or go public.

For much more about how e-retailers can keep hold of their top talent, read the upcoming October issue of Internet Retailer magazine.

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