How to Create Loyal Retail Employees

By Bob Phibbs

how to create loyal retail employeesYou don't want the reason you have loyal retail employees to be because they don't ask for a raise or they've been there for a long time without challenging you. You want loyal retail employees who are passionate about your business and you are constantly working to develop.

This past week I discovered Mr. Steve, a guy who tweeted, “Barnes and Noble just fires almost every single receiving manager as a cost cutting measure. I worked with them for over 17 years and my weekly Storytimes are massively popular. And in the blink of an eye, I'm fired.”

Mr-steve.jpgHe was featured in this article he posted on Twitter as,The King of Storytimes.

The location he worked at commented on his Facebook page, “The Norman store loves Mr. Steve and is mourning in the light of corporate staff cuts. There simply are no words for what Mr. Steve has meant to our store and to the Norman community.”

How do you develop trust and loyalty in your employees so they add to your brand like Steve?  

Here are 15 ways to create loyal employees:

1. Have a Winning Company Culture. You have to model respect for everyone from the janitor or busboy, to the warehouse clerk to the salesperson on the floor, to your vendors. When respect is given while managing employees, it is usually respected. An additional bonus is loyal employees spread the word and potential new hires will share similar values.

2. Guard The Doors. You can’t just hire whoever will work a shift once a week and expect them to sign-on to your values. You need to make sure it is a cultural fit and not just a convenience fit.

3. Find Out What Interests Each Employee. Sit down with your new hires and ask them about their favorite projects, what they’ve done that they love, the moments when they’ve felt most energized at their previous jobs, and the passions they have outside work. Armed with that knowledge, you can build loyal employees right from the start. is one of the most useful ways to drive loyalty especially when managing Millennials who need a greater purpose than just selling stuff.

4. Lead the Team. You can’t hang out in the back office and hope people do their jobs. Leading means being seen, creating goals and promoting passions and opportunities, but it also means correcting bad behaviors and letting go.

5. Give Back. Younger employees especially are concerned and motivated by how your business is making your community a better place, not just a paycheck. Whether through ongoing programs or even a day when you all go and pitch in at a non-profit, your mission has to be bigger than just selling stuff.

6. Clear Communication. You can’t manage by email. Taking the time to make sure everyone understands exactly what their job is and how to do it is crucial. Those who are really with you need you to communicate boundaries, not just goals.  If you’re not comfortable leading and communicating, join Toastmasters and get some practice.

7. Review, Reward, and Recognize. Employees want to know how they are doing. Younger employees have grown up with constant reinforcement. While that is not practical in many settings, if you don’t give it to them, they won’t feel good about working for you.

8. Pay Better Than You Have To. It’s simple, people with greater work ethics generally won’t work for less than they feel they are worth. Hiring at minimum wage and resenting paying new minimum wage laws makes it a them versus us which employees pick up on. Good people cost more if you want them to sell more. And...when they are out there doing amazing work, other companies will try to poach them with more money.

9. Perks. The most common perks in retail are employee discounts. Finding out what is meaningful to your crew is easy – ask them. While it might be a 401K for some, a membership to SoulCycle or free parking might be motivating too.

10. Training. No one comes to your store fully formed. A culture of training means change and upgrade is a way of life. Investing in your crew shows them you care and gives them new tools to keep from becoming jaded.

11. Cross Train.  Your employee development plan should include working other departments or other jobs, if only for a few days, can help employees make connections between what they do and how other departments support or work together as well. Pigeonholing someone to one job or one department can make them grow bored and look for better opportunities to grow elsewhere.

12. Proper Tools. Frustrated employees are ones most likely to leave. Broken fixtures, old POS systems based on DOS, scanners that don’t work - all must be taken seriously if you want employees to stay.

13. Open Door Policy. Being heard is a big one for all of us. It shouldn’t have to take an appointment or a once a year review to talk to the boss. Be generous with your time, understand your employees, and encourage them; they may not have the same coping mechanisms as you do. You can also give them career coaching – it’s never in your best interests to let someone become stagnant.

14. Don’t Micromanage. It’s one of the hardest things not to do as an entrepreneur because you think no one can do it like you. But they could do it better if you let them. Give them proper training and mentoring and let them show you what they can do.

15. Keep A Wall. The best managers keep the pressure off the crew and remain positive. If sales are down, they aren’t sharing the worry and stress. That goes for personal lives as well. Let them do their jobs.

See also, 9 Secrets To Effectively Managing Retail Employees

In Sum

I had a boss who once said, “Your job is when I say jump, you say ‘How high’?”

Employees aren’t animals, they are vital to any business success. And while I understand Barnes & Noble’s sales dropped 6% during the holiday quarter, a wholesale purge of employees like Steve who obviously added to customer delight seems short-sided.

Especially since Barnes & Noble, the one-time book-selling juggernaut, has been struggling to compete with Amazon by providing a better in-store customer experience.

And especially because those longtime and loyal employees still there saw the capricious actions of management and will re-examine their own loyalty to such a management team.

Retailers lose loyalty from employees because they often forget that it is about what the individual brings to the brand, not just the cost of their employment.

Use these tips to grow loyalty with your employees because when you make their day, they can make your shoppers’ day.

And that’s what drives customer loyalty and profitability.

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