If you're like most retailers, you're always looking for ways to improve your employees' satisfaction levels and keep them motivated. After all, a satisfied employee is more likely to provide better customer service.
And frankly, only feeling great satisfaction with their own job will get them to want to give great satisfaction to your shoppers.
You’ve heard me say it time and again, you don’t build your business. You build your frontline associates and they build your business.
So, what can you do to create a retail store that employees will love? Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Create a positive and upbeat store environment
When it comes to the store environment, it’s important to get it just right. You want your associates to feel comfortable and happy like they’re in a safe and supportive place where they can be themselves. But that also means they understand the guardrails of the retail job.
One way to create the right environment is by being positive and upbeat. No one wants to work with a Gloomy Gus – especially one who has the power to fire them. Show your associates that you’re happy to be there and working with them. Smile, say hello, and be positive throughout the day.
C-level execs often seem to miss the most important part of a store visit is giving time to those who can give the best feedback on culture – the retail associates. Make time and talk with them – not to them.
Another way to create a great work environment is by having fun. Playing music before you open that is a Staff Pick, holding regular team meetings, and getting everyone laughing and enjoying themselves are all key factors. Leaderboards for online training are becoming popular for good reason.
Creating more than a functional work environment is essential for having a successful store so focus on keeping things positive, not “being realistic” or worried. Teach that your entire day can change with the person who walks through that door. After all, that’s what your shopper feels as well when they meet someone with the right attitude.
2. Encourage employees to be creative
I know it can be tough to come up with new and creative ideas about training or merchandising or almost anything sometimes, but I have a little trick that always helps me get inspired. I encourage store associates to come up with their own ideas. One time I asked, “What is one thing we can do that would really get people talking?” Once you rule out discounts and breaking laws, some of the best ideas I’ve received were about sponsoring a charity or holding a different event for a specific type of customer. This exercise can be really rewarding. And it's a great way to show your associates, and then your customers that you care about them.
When associates feel like they're a part of something, they're more likely to want to help make it succeed.
3. Show appreciation for hard work
Rewarding store associates can be tricky. On the one hand, you want to show your appreciation for their hard work with bonuses, promotions, or other rewards. But on the other hand, you don't want to create a situation in which your employees feel like they're being bought off.
So how do you find the right balance? Here are a few tips:
• Make sure the rewards are meaningful.
If you're going to give your employees a bonus, make sure it's a good one - something that will really make them happy. I can hold a carrot in front of someone but if they hate carrots, they aren’t going to go out of their way to get one.
• Be consistent.
If you only give out rewards sporadically, your employees will start to feel like they're not appreciated. Try to be as consistent as possible in terms of when and how you reward your employees. But don’t keep doing the same thing over and over – mix it up, just keep the ideas coming.
• Avoid creating a "tit for tat" mentality.
It's important that your employees feel like they're being rewarded because they deserve it, not because they've been playing politics or sucking up to management. Avoid creating a "tit for tat" mentality in which employees feel like they have to do something in order to earn a reward like cleaning out the back room and you get the night off. They should clean out the back because it needs to be done. Give them the night off for exceeding their weekly goal.
4. Improve the back office
Most retail employees are on their feet all day long, and it can be really tough to keep going when you don't have a place to rest your feet. That's why it's so important that retail managers provide comfortable seating areas for breaks and lunches. I can’t tell you how many backrooms I’ve seen with nothing. You can’t always just “go into the mall,” or your car, or “for a walk” and relax.
This place can be anything from a few chairs in a quiet corner to a full-blown break room. The key is to make sure that associates have a place to relax and rejuvenate so they can keep serving customers at their best.
5. Offer training and development opportunities to help staff grow professionally
When it comes to providing customer service, it's important that employees are on the same page. That's why your retail management strategy should include giving retail employees ongoing training and development; not just onboarding orientation. This is especially important for seasoned pros who may have gotten into a rut.
Ongoing training can help employees stay up to date on the latest products, services, and sales techniques. It can also help them build better relationships with customers. Just one new thing you remind them about can make all the difference between a low-margin sale and a high one.
In addition to providing training, managers should also be available to answer questions and offer support. Unpacking what went right and wrong can be some of the best learning you can do. This can help employees feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it. And by providing support, managers can help ensure that customers receive the best possible customer service.
There are many ways to make working in a store more varied and interesting. By following these tips, managers can help their employees succeed both professionally and personally while providing support for ongoing promotions. Building your bench starts with providing growth opportunities through training that is more than just what is on sale or a product’s features.
Retailers should show appreciation by cheering on those who do the hard work of interacting with the public each day. This action and its cascading effect will create a store environment where sales are at their highest level because everyone – from associates to customers - feels appreciated in some specific way, shape, or form.
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