Fact: Retail is an extremely people-centric industry. Stores may be in the business of selling physical goods, but as a retailer, you rely heavily on humans — i.e., salespeople, cashiers, back office staff, etc. — to keep products moving and ensure that customers are happy.
That’s why it’s essential to take good care of your employees. Research shows that companies with highly satisfied employees outperform businesses that don’t.
Data cited by Deloitte found that organizations with strong employee experiences saw 22% higher engagement rates among their staff. These companies also enjoyed 12% higher customer satisfaction compared with organizations that didn’t have compelling staff offerings.
All this to say that if you’re not prioritizing employee happiness and engagement in your business, you risk falling behind in your market.
Fortunately, there are several ways to improve staff satisfaction and retention in your retail business.
Let’s take a look at some ideas below.
Monetary perks are one of the most straightforward ways to incentivize your staff. And the best part? If you’re thinking about offering financial rewards to employees, check out the following.
Cash. Reward your top team members with cash when they hit their targets or meet a certain milestone. Cash is an ideal reward for sales competitions, as it provides an immediate benefit to those who win.
Bonus checks. Alternatively, the reward can come in the form of bonus checks. If you had a particularly good month or quarter, for example, you can show your appreciation by giving team members an extra paycheck.
Employee discounts. Exclusive discounts are another monetary-based perk that works well, particularly in the retail industry. It helps you move inventory while rewarding employees at the same time.
Some of the top retailers in the market offer this perk. Sephora, for example, has a generous employee discount program. “We receive 40% off Sephora Collection, including brushes, and 20% off all other brands. Once a year, we get an extra 10% off all the other brands. We are also allowed to give our family and friends our discount, but only once a year,” says one employee in an interview with Business Insider.
Gift cards. Not a fan of cash or checks? Gift cards are a good way to go. Prop tip: see if you can purchase gift cards in bulk and get a reduced rate.
Staff rewards don’t always have to be tactile. In many instances, showing and telling them how much they’re appreciated can go a long way. Consider the following.
Verbal recognition. Do you have team members doing an exceptional job in your business? Acknowledge the work that they’re doing in your meetings and 1-on-1s or make a company-wide announcement so everyone knows how valuable the employee is.
Peer to peer recognition. Encourage the rest of your team to give kudos to their fellow staff members. While being rewarded by the higher-ups is certainly valuable, there’s something special about being recognized by colleagues who work with you in the trenches.
Public recognition. Another cool way to recognize awesome team members is to publicly recognize them. That way, even your customers can get to know your best employees.
Check out this example from the baby clothing retailer Channing Baby & Co., which crafted a lovely Instagram post dedicated to the people behind the store.
Official awards. If you do want to provide a more tangible way to reward your top performers, you can make things official by giving out actual certificates or trophies to your team members. The good news is that these tokens are quite cost-effective. The pricing for employee recognition plaques and trophies start at just $15 and can go upto the low hundreds depending on the item.
Financial rewards are great, but experiential perks can actually be more meaningful to your staff. When implemented correctly, fun experiences allow employees to connect with your company in a more memorable way.
See if the following staff incentive ideas are feasible for your company.
Employee events. Throw a party in honor of your employees. Invite them for a company-sponsored day (or night) out, where everyone can catch up, swap work stories, and have a good time overall.
The BBQ restaurant SMACK’N held a “Class of 2021” dinner for its team to celebrate employees graduating that year.
Tickets to an event of their choice. Want to reward a specific employee? Find out what they love doing in their free time and pay for the experience. Maybe they love going to the movies, seeing Broadway shows, or watching sporting events. Determine what they like, then purchase tickets for them to enjoy.
Food and drink
Offering free food and drinks is a low-cost, but effective way to keep employees motivated and productive. Workers today are often busy and overwhelmed, so taking care of their meals gives them one less thing to worry about.
Free meals at work. Provide free meals at work if possible. This can be as simple as bringing bagels for breakfast or pizza for lunch. It’s a good gesture that can also improve your team’s work experience because it means they don’t have to leave the premises to grab a meal.
Gift cards for restaurants and food delivery. Alternatively, you can treat employees to some free meals by giving them gift cards or an allowance to spend on restaurants or food delivery apps such as DoorDash, UberEats, and Postmates.
Learning and development
Encourage your staff to upskill. Give them opportunities to broaden their knowledge and skills. This will benefit them and your business. As your employees grow and develop, they’ll be able to apply themselves better as they continue to work for you.
Learning events. Send your best team members to industry conferences and expos. This will help them keep up with trends in your market so they can be even better equipped to sell and serve your customers.
Online courses. Not comfortable sending people to in-person events yet? The internet has you covered. There are numerous retail courses and programs that people can take online, so explore these opportunities and see if you and your team can take advantage of them.
Scholarships. If you have employees who are in school (or are planning to go back to school) find ways to support their education. Consider setting up a scholarship fund for deserving employees.
Take a look at what Chick-fil-A is doing. The fast food chain offers the Remarkable Futures Scholarships program, which supports team members in their college education.
Perks that can be enjoyed at work
Sometimes, the best perks are the ones that make people’s work lives easier and more enjoyable. If you’re cooking up ways to keep workers happy, find opportunities to improve their workspace.
Top of the line work tools. Equip your employees with tools and apps that enable them to do their jobs better. In retail, for example, giving cashiers a complete point of sale system can take a lot of stress out of their work days. A solid POS solution streamlines checkout and inventory management, so team members can focus more on serving customers.
Transit or parking passes. Make it easy for employees to go to work by alleviating any costs or stress in their commute.
Enhanced workplace. Look for ways to improve your workspace. Maybe the employee break room could use a revamp. Do you need to upgrade any furniture, fixtures, or appliances? Sprucing up the work area can make people’s days more pleasant.
Exclusive employee access. Give your team members exclusive shopping privileges in your store. Perhaps you can offer first dibs on certain items, giving your team the chance to buy them before anyone else.
Freebies and gifts
Let your employees know that you value them with gifts and free stuff.
Free merchandise. Give some of your products for free. Samples sizes or surplus merchandise can be of great use here.
Gift baskets. Curate gift baskets for your team members. Depending on the occasion, you can even create these baskets around certain themes or seasons.
Employee-specific gifts. To quote the Spice Girls, “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want So tell me what you want, what you really, really want…”
Get your employees to specify the gifts they want to receive and give it to them. For instance, if you have a top-performer who’s looking to replace their AirPods, then why not give it to them as a present?
Health, wellness, and security
Invest in your employees’ health and wellbeing. Doing so not only keeps them happy and motivated, it also ensures that your team members stay at the top of their game.
Health and dental insurance. Providing health and dental benefits has become table stakes for many businesses, especially if you have full-time employees. If possible, extend this benefit to part-time workers.
That’s what Janet Wright, the owner of Floorplay Socks is doing to keep her staff happy. Unlike other employers, Janet offers full benefits even to part-time staff.
“Once they get to 20 hours a week, they have full benefits, dental, prescription, eyeglasses — I pay 100% for them,” says Janet.
Because of how well she treats her team, employees at Floorplay Socks stay longer and perform better.
Extended insurance policies. Take things a step further by providing additional insurance policies. At Costco, for instance, employees get life insurance along with a Healthcare Reimbursement Account.
Disaster recovery. Some of the most highly rated retail employers offer disaster assistance and recovery to their employees. Take Trader Joe’s, which has the Trader Joe’s Crew Member Disaster Relief Fund — a program that was launched to support employees who go through natural disasters or personal emergencies.
Health and fitness perks. Promote better physical and mental health in your team by giving fitness incentives. Think: free gym memberships, coaching services or reimbursement for fitness- and health-related expenses.
Wellness resources. Other things that can improve the wellbeing of your employees are wellness services like massages, spa days, etc.
Free PPE and sanitizing materials. The world may be opening back up, but the threat of COVID-19 is still very real. Help your employees feel safe and secure by giving them free PPE (masks, gloves, face shields) as well as sanitizers and cleaning supplies.
Flexibility is increasingly becoming an important factor for employees, so find ways to help them achieve a better work-life balance.
Flexible time off. If possible, avoid being too rigid with your time-off policies. Implement practices that make it easy for team members to take time off when necessary. This is particularly important for working parents as well as staff members who need to care for sick relatives.
Scheduling flexibility. In the same vein, implement a scheduling system that makes it easy for staff to pick up and swap shifts, so they can better integrate work into their busy schedules.
Don’t skimp on your employees
In today’s modern retail landscape, having a loyal and happy workforce can give you a massive competitive advantage. That’s why it’s critical to continuously support and reward them. Hopefully, the tips above gave you some ideas on how to do just that!
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.