A person with colourful shoes walking up stairs

Dozens of studies have shown that employee engagement is essential for organizations to reach their goals. The common advice for increasing employee engagement may work well in a corporate environment, but doesn’t necessarily translate to the retail sales floor.

In this article we’ll share ten achievable steps toward engaging your retail employees, and in doing so, empowering them to love the work they do.

1. Be clear about pathways for career progression

The career progression of retail employees is often viewed as an afterthought. Large retail organizations often have very clear pathways for career progression among corporate roles, while guidelines for the progression of retail employees—the majority of that organization’s workforce—are left hazy and undefined. Clear guidelines for career progression are essential at all levels of your organization, and in the retail sector, your highest performing sales associates are also those most likely to care about progressing at their store, and taking on new roles and responsibilities.

By leaving these steps for career progression undefined, progression is likely based on a manager’s subjective judgment of whether that staff member is “ready” to progress. Without clear criteria for progression, your best employees may be left frustrated by a sense that they don’t see a path forward.

By documenting the requirements to progress into different roles, and making this available to all employees, you’re providing your best employees with something to strive for, and a clear understanding of whether they are on track to meet their goals.

Hand holding a notebook with a drawing of a compass on the open page

2. Give employees their schedule as soon as possible

A simple tip, but one that makes a real difference to retail employees: publish schedules as far in advance as possible. This is a quality of life improvement for every employee who does shift-based work. It allows them to make plans without having to hold off until the last minute because they might be working. It also allows employees to ensure they get a good night’s sleep before an early shift.

3. Set measurable goals and reward employees for achieving them

A common issue among retail employees is unclear priorities. In busy stores, there may be a tension between time spent with customers (which may be correlated with the quality of the customer’s experience) and the speed at which the employee can serve multiple customers. For example, an employee who spends a long time helping a customer is probably going to create a fantastic experience for that customer. However, it may impact on the experience of the other customers who had to wait for assistance during that time. Which of these things is more important to your organization?

It’s not an easy question to answer at an organizational level. Don’t leave it up to your employees to answer that question for themselves. Ideally, employees should have targets for every interaction with a customer. They should understand how much they are expected to sell, how long they are expected to spend per customer (on average), and the behaviours that are expected of them during peak periods at the store.

In addition to these targets, you can also set up weekly or monthly goals to encourage important behaviours. These might include sales goals, number of customers served, tracking upsells, or sales of a particular product or service. Setting goals and rewarding employees for meeting them is a powerful way to make work more engaging.

Tracking goal progress and handling rewards

Most retail organizations plan to implement employee goals and rewards, but never do. This is because tracking goals and handling rewards is a difficult problem to solve. For the organizations that solve this problem, tracking and rewarding goals can become a competitive advantage.

Arcade is a platform that allows you to set up goals for your retail employees in the form of Contests and Games. These can be used to do things like:

  • Set goals for activewear sales (upsells)
  • Set goals for numbers of cars sold per week (# sales)
  • Set goals for number of loyalty program signups
  • Set goals for accessories sold to customers buying a new cell phone

Arcade also handles the allocation of rewards for employees and teams who win these Contests and Games. They can win things like gift cards to their favourite stores, or movie tickets. If you’d like to start using goals and games in your retail organization you can try Arcade for free.

4. One-on-one meetings

Your best employees prize one-on-one time with their managers. This is an opportunity to get feedback on their performance, and to identify areas of improvement. This is also time they can get help with any challenges they’re facing at work. If your managers don’t meet with their employees regularly, you are essentially leaving your employees on ‘autopilot’… and they may be heading in the wrong direction!

If you don’t currently do this, you can start by letting your managers know that you expect them to meet with their employees regularly. This should be done in private, ideally in the break-room or somewhere away from customers.

Two people having coffee

5. Gather customer feedback and reward employees who create great experiences

Do you know what the average experience is for customers who enter your stores? If you’re not regularly surveying customers it can be hard to tell. Sales and profits may rise and fall for no apparent reason. This is one of the reasons why capturing customer email addresses is important: it allows you to communicate with customers about their in-store experience, as well as bringing them back to the store with coupons and deals.

Once you’re able to survey customers about their in-store experience, you can begin to link this with rewards for your employees. You might do this based on a Net Promoter Score (NPS) system and track the average NPS on a per-store basis, or per employee basis. Stores or employees that reach NPS milestones can be rewarded.

6. Make sure your break-room is comfortable and well stocked

Another simple tip, but one that makes a difference to your retail sales associates. Is their break-room a calm, comfortable, private space, or is it used as a de facto storage room? Is it clean and cosy, or cluttered and cramped? Do employees have a private, hygienic place to change into their uniforms? Can they make themselves a cup of tea or coffee with the supplies available?

You may be limited by a lack of space, but making the most of the space you have is a simple thing you can do to keep your employees engaged and happy.

7. Reward employees for excellent merchandising

Your store’s appearance and merchandising is one of the keys to driving sales. We’ve all been to stores where product was jumbled or piled messily on shelves. We’ve also been to stores where clothes were perfectly folded, and products beautifully presented. Even if you have clear guidelines for how your stores should be merchandised, some employees take more pride than others in how faithfully they execute those guidelines.

By starting a “Best Merchandising” competition in your stores, you can reward employees who take care to make your store look as good as possible. Have them take a photo of their merchandising efforts and share them on an internal channel, like an email list or, if you are an Arcade customer, the Arcade Newsfeed. Offer prizes to the team or employee judged to have done the best job of merchandising. Rewarding employees for taking pride in their work is one of the best ways to boost engagement in a retail setting.

A beautifully merchandised store

8. Connect employees between store locations and give them access to the brains trust

Connecting and empowering employees across disparate store locations is one of the most difficult challenges for retail organizations. How do you ensure your stores are not information silos? How do you ensure that your portfolio of stores do not have to solve the same problem, or come up with the same innovation, multiple times?

Arcade is a communication platform that allows employees across multiple stores to share information and get help from each other instantaneously using a secure chat platform. We’ve seen our users share ideas for dressing product displays, swapping sales tactics, and working toward shared goals. Allowing your employees to work together across multiple locations unlocks new capabilities in your workforce.

9. Reward your employees for the success of your organisation

Though your retail employees might feel connected and engaged with their team, or their store, it can be difficult to build engagement with the organization as a whole. By rewarding your employees for milestones achieved by your organization, you can help them feel connected to the broader goals of the organization. Employee Stock Purchase Plans are one option to encourage employees to invest (literally) in the organization. To avoid extra costs, you may simply allow your employees the option to allocate a percentage of their salary (say, 0.5% or 1%) to purchasing company stock at a slight discount.

Another option is give employees small bonuses based on financial results for the organization, or yearly profits. This helps employees feel more connected to and invested in the organization beyond their own store, and also to understand how their actions on a micro level may affect the organization on a macro level.

10. Empower employees to take on new responsibilities and roles

Your most engaged employees are those most likely to want to be exposed to new responsibilities and roles in their stores. They crave variety, and they want to be trusted to take on new responsibilities. Rather than allocating these roles and responsibilities based on availability or convenience, give employees the ability to mark down their interest in these roles and responsibilities, and then to try them out (subject to their manager’s approval). If your best employees feel that the allocation of these roles and responsibilities is unclear or unfair, this is a pathway to disengagement. By making the system as clear, and fair, as possible, you are providing the most engaging experience possible to your top performing employees.

Try Arcade

Arcade is a workplace engagement platform built for your retail workforce. It’s built to help your employees set and meet their goals, be rewarded for great work, and communicate with each other. By increasing engagement, Arcade has boosted sales revenue at stores using the platform by as much as 12.4%. Try Arcade free today.