A quick look at the retail industry will show you that it features a higher turnover rate than any other industry. Why is that, you may ask? Primarily, retail sales motivation tends to be on the lower end. This is because the hours are often on the longer side, with employees sometimes spending the entirety of shifts on their feet. In addition, the pay can verge around minimum wage, with the added downside of there being no benefits.

Studies show that a huge amount of people, around 41 million, chose to quit their jobs in 2018, and in 2020, that number jumped to approximately 47 million.

Taking all of this into consideration, one thing is clear for any retail business - to retain employees is an uphill task. What isn’t clear, however, is how to increase it. The one key factor that could turn the tides in your favour – employee motivation.

Employees tend to feel that the retail industry treats them more like physical assets than actual people. Even though the typical retail manager doesn’t consider retail employees mindless drones that just show up to work, understanding the big picture requires a bit more probing.

It doesn’t matter what level you are at, how important your job is, or what you do for a living – motivation is intrinsic to all that we do. This is an opportunity to learn that every human being needs motivation to keep up their interest and investment in their jobs. In cases where this isn’t the natural order of things, a feeling of dejection and aimlessness can take over. This feeling of being caught up in the monotony of routine and a seemingly endless wait until it’s time to go home can be very detrimental.

What is Employee Motivation, Anyway?

Contemporary Management defines employee motivation as “the psychological forces that determine the direction of a person’s behaviour in an organisation, a person’s level of effort and a person’s level of persistence.” To put it in easier terms, motivated employees have a willingness to use their energy to achieve goals, and to go the extra mile.

How committed are they to your vision and your company? Answering this can be made easier by understanding what actually motivates employees. Surprisingly, a study based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, shows us that money is actually one of the most short-lived motivators for employees! As unexpected as it may sound, it is actually praise and recognition that motivate retail employees.

Employee rewards and recognition are paramount to their (and in turn, your own) success. Keeping this in mind, let’s explore 8 creative ways to engage your retail employees on the job.

How to Engage Retail Employees & Reduce Turnover

Give Employees A Sense Of Responsibility

Retail sales can be a monotonous job, and it can be hard to make retail employees feel valued. The sense that their contributions are making an actual difference to the business can be the key factor that swings things in your favour. A good way to enforce this is to reward employees with more responsibility.

Employees will tend to feel like your trust in them holds importance. This will then have a snowball effect by making them respect your business more. In addition, delegating tasks to them will help them feel more valuable, and also reduce your own workflow.

Take into consideration things like letting your employees be the ones in charge of counting down registers at the end of the workday, closing the store themselves, or running the entire floor on busy days. The additional challenge will hone their own skills while also showing that you’re invested in their professional growth.

Recognize Their Contributions

Letting retail employees know their efforts are appreciated and recognized is the best way to motivate them. For optimum employee engagement, it is important to value them for a job done well.

Implementing a formal company-wide recognition program can be an easy way to do this. Employees should be able to recognize and appreciate each other, with management joining in as well.

The choice to customize your reasons for recognition can also be a powerful way to align them with your company’s core values. The icing on the cake can be a social media feed where employees can like and comment on recognitions or add their own.

Read our blog on 4 Creative Sales Incentive Ideas for Retail Employees

Encourage Feedback

Feedback is your most potent tool for helping your business excel. The bridge between you and your customers is your employees' experiences with them. Your employees are the ones who can pass on these invaluable pieces of information that can take your business to the next level.

Make sure that your employees feel empowered and fearless enough to be able to voice opinions about what your company can be doing better. This can be done through monthly meetings that enable them to deliver feedback about ways that your workflow, services, and customer opinions can be improved.

Remain an active listener during these meetings, demonstrating an ability to take in everything they say without interrupting or losing focus. Take notes if possible, and draw out a plan to take actionable steps and things to pass on to upper management as well. You could even go the extra mile by using a formal survey tool to streamline the feedback process.

Reward Retail Employees for Great Work

Whether your retail business is a small business or a big one, your employees all have one thing in common – they are highly motivated by rewards. Whether you choose to give them gift cards for their favorite restaurants, or a fat bonus at the end of a particular time period, they will appreciate it nonetheless.

If possible, you should even consider personalized gratification in the form of rewards. This could be done through a platform that features a selection of customized rewards that employees could choose from so that they feel even more empowered in their quest to be rewarded.

Have Career Development Conversations

It’s a commonly held notion that retail employees tend to consider their jobs little more than cash in their pockets. This notion can be dispelled by helping them realize that their job can be a career-launching point.

If employees think that they are on course for bigger and better things, they are naturally more motivated to take their jobs more seriously and put in more effort.

This could be done by explaining to them the management hierarchy, and the steps required to make that position theirs. It could also be done by offering senior positions for employees who achieve certain sales goals.

Research has shown that millennials and Gen-Z workers believe that a promotion should come their way every two years, regardless of performance. The fact that these two demographics dominate the retail industry makes it clear that one should cater to these groups by providing adequate career development.

Spruce Up Your Break Room

Retail employees tend to spend so much time just helping customers, that the only downtime they get is a quick rest in the break room. This is why having a nice break room can be such a strong catalyst in reenergizing and refreshing your employees. A place that they can unwind and have a good time can be the factor that decides their overall motivation and happiness.

This is why it is so important to have a great break room. It should be transformed into a place where people can kick back, relax, eat and drink in a hospitable and welcoming room. Make sure to fill it up with comfortable chairs, a community dining table, and so on. Get creative with it – make sure things like warm color tones, quiet music, and plants populate the space to make it as inviting as possible.

Schedule Regular 1:1 Meetings

The equivalent of good customer service, when applied to management, is regular one-on-one communication with employees. Employee engagement can often hinge on these meetings, which help them feel like a trusting relationship exists between both parties.

In addition, it also lets you stay informed, aligned, and provide mutual feedback. Check-in on their workload, evaluate their schedule, go over their performance and offer words of encouragement whenever possible.

Keep Them On Their Toes With Surprises!

There is no better way to motivate retail employees and break the monotony than with a day dedicated to a nice surprise for them. These could be anything – from bringing them some baked goods like donuts or cookies, or a delicious pizza for lunch that they can savor in the break room.

If they had a particularly productive or good workday, maybe you could let them go home early, or take them out to dinner. Any gesture, big or small, is sure to be appreciated and helps them feel like their efforts are being valued.

The Choice To Motivate Is Yours!

While we have done our best to list out tips that we think would spark ideas and help you in your journey to motivate and engage your retail employees, the choice is ultimately yours. The choice to offer them recognition, career development, and effort that lets them feel valued. The chance to give them the motivation and encouragement they need is there for the taking – so go and do your best for them, and they will do the same for you. Good luck!