Motivating Retail & Sales Staff

Motivated employees are the cornerstone of a retailer’s success. They are happy, enjoy their work, and perform optimally. They sell more products, engage with customers genuinely, and act as brand ambassadors both in the store and when they are off the clock.  

When you have fully engaged and motivated retail employees, your customers enjoy an enhanced experience and your company enjoys a healthier bottom line. That’s why it’s so important to invest time and resources in making sure your staff feels inspired to do their best.

What makes retail a unique industry

The retail industry is unlike any other when it comes to culture. Retailers need to be able to motivate and inspire employees who are under pressure from:

  • Long and irregular hours
  • Frequent promotional events
  • Stressful holiday assignments
  • Relatively low pay

Keeping employees happy in this environment is no small feat. It is very easy to become disillusioned while working in retail — especially around the holidays, when customers descend upon the store in droves, leaving never-ending lines and ruined displays in their wake.

Despite the challenges of motivation in the retail industry, it’s vital to stay committed to the goal because of the impact your sales team has on the overall success of your company. It’s the retail employees that are building relationships with clients, fostering your brand’s reputation, and enabling your growth. If these individuals are disgruntled, detached, or otherwise unhappy, it can damage everything — from your reputation, to your relationship with consumers, to your bottom line.

What motivates a sales staff

Every member of your team has unique aspirations, values, and motivators. However, there are a few common factors that tend to elicit a favorable response from the vast majority of workers in the retail industry. When trying to figure out how to motivate retail employees to sell, perform optimally, and engage genuinely with customers, the following retail staff incentive ideas are a great place to start:

  1. Unique benefits and incentives. Generous medical coverage for employees and their spouses and dependents. Meaningful employee discounts that increase with performance. Paid vacation days and flexible scheduling to promote a healthy work-life balance. Free food on a regular basis. Gym memberships, discounts on healthy groceries, and wellness perks. Educational scholarships. Maternity and paternity leave. Access to free and discounted classes to acquire new skills. These are just a few of the benefits, perks, and incentives that are offered by profitable, thriving retailers that also have reputations as great places to work.
  2. Respect. Angela Ahrendts, the SVP of retail and online stores at Apple, has said that she keeps the company’s retail employees happy by treating them with respect. “I don’t see them as retail employees. I see them as executives in the company who are touching the customers with the products that…took years to build.” Her approach seems to be working, as Apple’s retail retention rate has gone up under Ahrendts’ leadership.
  3. Opportunity for career growth. About 74 percent of retail workers leave their jobs for better opportunities. Progressive retailers are responding by offering a viable career path for their sales staff, which encourages them to view their job as a valuable professional opportunity, rather than a temporary detour on the road to a more fulfilling career.
  4. High pay. Money isn’t the only way to motivate employees, but it’s a major factor — especially in retail. The reality is that retailers with well-paid employees consistently outperform competitors that don’t invest as heavily in their staff. In fact, a recent study on retailers discovered that companies that invest significantly in their employees have high profits, low prices, and a reputation for great customer service. These companies are able to simultaneously provide their customers, employees, and investors with value. In addition, a Wharton School study found that every dollar in additional payroll led to between $4 and $28 in new sales.
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Understanding why your staff isn’t motivated

Although most retail employees will be motivated by robust benefits, opportunities for career advancement, respect from management, and great pay, the specifics will vary from company to company. For example, your staff may respond best to added health and wellness benefits, while another will be more interested in perks, such as PTO and employee discounts. As such, we strongly advise against changing things up and trying a new strategy without measurable data to support your decisions.

To obtain this information, we recommend going right to the source — your employees. You need to understand them at a deeper level. What drives them? What do they hope to accomplish professionally and personally? Why are they unmotivated in their current working environment and what changes can be made to increase their morale and overall happiness at work?

One of the best ways to collect this information is through the use of benchmarked surveys that can definitively measure your company’s culture and staff motivation levels, like the ones we offer at CultureIQ. They are custom-made for your organization and designed to uncover:

  • How your employees currently feel about all aspects of the company, including its leadership, management, culture, payscale, benefits, and more.
  • Exactly why your retail staff is unhappy or unmotivated at work.
  • How staff attitudes are affecting the customer experience, store culture, and bottom line.
  • What benefits, perks, and incentives will motivate your staff to perform optimally.

This data will support and inform your plan to strategically address your company’s low-morale challenges and increase employee motivation at your retail stores.

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Improving staff culture and morale

How CultureIQ Can Help You

Once you know why and how your staff is disengaged, you can begin implementing strategic changes to turn things around. To begin, you will need to take a close look at the feedback and data generated by your surveys. If you do this work with CultureIQ, your personal strategy team will guide you through the process, analyzing the data on your behalf and helping you figure out how to motivate sales staff and improve your culture.

In most cases, change will begin with implementing some of the benefits, perks, and retail staff incentive ideas your employees have requested. This may look like:

  • Restructuring the budget to allow for an increased investment in your workforce
  • Reworking the benefits package to offer better medical coverage and more vacation days
  • Offering other perks, such as employee discounts, continued education, wellness programs, gym memberships, flexible scheduling, etc.
  • Special events to boost morale, such as allowing each store to provide employees with free food once a week

If you learn through surveys that your employees feel disrespected or micromanaged by their store’s leadership, you might train your managers to interact with the sales team in a more positive way. As an example, this could look like giving retail employees more autonomy and trusting them to handle customer problems on their own.

Moving forward, it’s important to stay in contact with your staff about their working environment. Regularly talk to them about their experiences on the floor and interacting with management, and what the company’s leadership can do to foster a culture that retail employees love and never want to leave.

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Try CultureIQ

CultureIQ is the only culture management and employee survey platform that can help large retailers turn data into action — strategic action that motivates your retail employees and fosters a reputation as a great place to work.

Throughout the entire process, our seasoned strategy team is here as your guide. They will help you elicit honest feedback from your staff and translate that data into organizational change that creates a positive, inspiring culture where employees thrive.

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When Our Customers Succeed with CultureIQ

“Most importantly, utilizing CultureIQ has shown our employees that their feedback is important to us.”

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SMS Assist

“CultureIQ has been great. I believe all companies can benefit from engaging with their culture in this way.”

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“CultureIQ provides our companies with the ability to measure, assess, and take timely and appropriate actions in addressing the engagement of our rapidly growing and evolving global workforce.”

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Crane Companies

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General Assembly

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