How to Bring Out the Best in Your Retail Employees

Inventory may be retail’s bread and butter, but it’s still very much a people-centric business. From stock managers keeping products in check to associates assisting shoppers on the sales floor, retail businesses are run for people by people.

As such, the more engaged your employees are, the more likely your company will thrive. For this reason, improving employee performance must be paramount in your business. 

Read on to learn some expert-backed ways on how to bring out the best in your team and enable them to perform better.

Make employees feel like they matter

If your employees feel like they’re just another cog in a machine, they’re unlikely to bring their best selves to work. That’s why you should regularly communicate how valuable they are to your business. 

Collin Matthews of Cookwared says that as a founder or manager, you need to “Let your team understand that what they are performing makes a difference to the progress of the company.”

Accomplishing that takes more than just telling them that they matter, says Matthews. You need to be involved and invested in their progress and accomplishments, and then make them see the impact that they’re having on the business. 

“What you should do is designate tasks that test them, celebrate wins, review failures or losses, then keep moving forward,” he adds. 

For example, if a team member’s efforts directly resulted in a large sale, make sure they know how this impacts the business. On the other hand, if something doesn’t go according to plan, work out ways to improve and emphasize how important it is to the company.

Recognize their efforts

Industry data shows that 69% of employees would work harder if their efforts were recognized and companies with staff recognition programs experienced 31% lower turnover. 

“The research is quite conclusive that when employees across industries receive positive feedback from managers and are recognized for their accomplishments, job satisfaction goes up. People are more incentivized to give it their all when they know their efforts will be recognized, appreciated and rewarded,” explains Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer at Resume.io.

And the great thing is there are plenty of ways to recognize your employees. In some cases, this can be as simple as telling them that they’re doing great. 

According to Bax, “In a retail environment, this might involve team leaders and supervisors going out of their way to commend employees for handling a particularly busy day or holiday season or singling out a specific employee for having demonstrated exceptional customer service or conflict resolution skills.”

In other instances, having fellow employees provide recognition may prove to be more powerful. Julien Raby, CEO at Thermogears.com, suggests implementing a system where staff members nominate their colleagues. 

staff high-fiving
Photo credit: Shutterstock

“The recognition can be given by asking the employees to send nominations describing their achievements during a particular period of time. The best among the received nominations can be selected and rewarded,” he explains

Then there’s the classic “employee of the month” tactic, which could include a framed picture of the period’s top employee. 

Raby says, “You can create a recognition corner in the office, where you frame the picture of the best employee/team and hang it there. It is one of the best ways to engage and motivate employees. Remember to keep the picture updated so that everyone has the opportunity to make the ‘wall of fame’.”

The bottom line? There’s no shortage of methods to tell employees that they’re doing an excellent job. Select a method that works best for your workplace culture and go from there. 

Consider additional compensation

An effective way to unlock the potential of your retail employees is to “base their compensation on some kind of transactional bonus, sales commission, or daily or weekly spiff depending on the numbers,” says Baron Christopher Hanson, Lead Consultant and Owner of RedBaronUSA.

This is especially true in today’s challenging retail landscape. Hanson adds, “Merely paying an hourly retail wage alone is a non-starter and dead end. The challenge is that retail roles –– especially during and post-COVID –– can be gruelling. Staff tend to burn out fast or always seem to be looking for another well paying job. The excitement and incentive of potentially earning more in exchange for extra effort, passion, and communication –– both on the job and outside retail hours –– can be a powerful motivator for your staff, and a more lucrative arrangement as a business owner, if the numbers work out more profitably.”

So, review your current pay structures and see if there’s room to increase employee compensation. Consider implementing bonuses or rewards that offer mutual benefits for both your team and the business. 

Conduct regular training and team building

Bringing out the best in your employees isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. Think of employee drive as a fire that you must tend to regularly if you want to keep it going. 

In retail, one of the most effective ways to stoke that fire is through training and team building activities that take place on a continuous basis.

“In order to really unlock a team’s potential, employers should make sure to constantly optimize their training and development strategies and ensure a good company culture. Making sure that your team members are given the opportunities to grow and develop will not only be beneficial for them but for you as well,” says Simon Elkjær, Chief Marketing Officer at avXperten.

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He continues, “Making sure that your employees are constantly improving themselves makes them more able and allows them to easily handle the demands of your company.”

Regular training also allows employees to hone and practice their retail skills, ultimately helping them uplevel their performance. 

Retail staff team in a store

According to Meaghan Brophy, Retail and eCommerce Analyst at FitSmallBusiness, “Retail employees are usually trained when first starting the job. But, to bring out the best performance, retailers and managers need to provide consistent and ongoing training throughout the course of associates’ employment. Training includes customer service tips, sales techniques, and product knowledge. As the saying goes ‘practice makes perfect.’ The best way to improve customer service and sales is to practice.”

Another benefit of conducting regular training and team building? It gives you the opportunity to get to know employees and figure out who your best team members are. As Hanson points out, “Taking the time to make learning and training part of their job description helps business owners spot rock star performers, mavens, connectors, and salespeople whilst removing potential bad eggs or poor performers from the bus sooner rather than later.”

Tie business success with their personal goals

Encourage your employees to strive harder by tying business success with their individual endeavors. Doing so makes the goal more personal, which helps fuel their drive.

“One of my tactics is to align the employee’s personal goals with the company’s. Talk with your employees and listen to what is important for them and show how by helping the company, the employees move closer to their own goals,” says Chris Bolz, CEO at Retail CRM Cloud.

“This is a great way to boost engagement; you can’t expect the employees to work as hard or passionately as the CEO since they don’t care about the same things. But this way, you can make them understand how helping the company reach its targets helps them reach their own.”

District manager retail audit in a store with a tablet

One example of how you can apply this is by figuring out an area of personal growth that’s important to an employee. Let’s say you have a team member who wants to improve their confidence and people skills. By putting them on the sales floor and educating them on how their job helps them achieve their personal goals, they’re more likely to apply themselves and reach better outcomes. 

Figure out each employee’s unique motivators

Not everyone is driven by the same things. Part of your job as a leader is to discern the specific motivators of each team member and use that to boost their performance. 

“People are driven by different motivations and as an employer, you have to tailor these motivations and make sure it’s effective on your employees –– be it verbal recognition, material reward, monetary and non-monetary incentive,” says William Taylor, Senior Recruitment Advisor at VelvetJobs.

You may have employees who are more financially-motivated than others. In some cases, you’ll have team members who value status and recognition. The key is to figure out how each person ticks and tailor your motivational tactics to their needs and preferences.

Make sure there’s room for growth

Top performers are hardwired to seek growth and development. If a job feels stagnant, they’ll quickly lose their drive. As such, it’s important to lay out a growth path for your best employees. How will they move up your company? In what areas can they grow, and what will that development look like?

Mapping out a plan for your team can go a long way in encouraging them to perform better, says Ronnie Teja of SoftwareKeep.com.

“We’ve stipulated career paths mapped out for each department. This helps us in offering promotions to people who deserve to be promoted based on their ability to meet their KPIs,” he says, “With a clear road map, the employees stay motivated as they understand that the company values them.” 

Give them the right tools

Your employees won’t be able to do their best work if they’re hindered by cumbersome tools and processes. As such, make sure they’re equipped with apps and solutions that make their lives easier and allow them to focus on what they’re good at. 

Start by identifying low level tasks that are draining their time and energy, then see if there’s a way to automate it (or at least make the job easier). 

For instance, if many of your team members are spending too much time following up, retrieving information, or chasing down the right people, it may be helpful to use a centralized communication and collaboration platform that keeps everyone on the same page.

Are your employees struggling to track their to-dos and action items? Get yourself a task management system that makes it easy to assign tasks and set priorities. Every organization is different, so figure out the specific issues you need to address and see if technology can help.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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