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Top tips - employee engagement in the retail sector

31st May 2013
Editor HRZone
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This article was written by Nigel Garrett, Business Development Director at Workplace.

In today’s challenging economic climate, the effective engagement of employees in the retail industry is an increasingly vital requirement to maintain exemplary customer service levels and maximise sales.

Making employees feel valued and striving to build genuine relationships with them can help retailers to reduce staff turnover and create loyalty amongst employees, boosting performance and maintaining positive attitudes; crucial to hitting sales targets.

The significance of shop floor employees is undeniable as they are essentially the ‘face’ of the business – they hold the relationship with the customer, and the effective engagement of employees is a fundamental part of successful workforce management. We commissioned research by Martec that found 56 percent of UK retailers specified employee turnover as a key performance indicator. These results highlight the challenge faced by retailers and the importance of retaining their best talent, and through offering a workplace which offers respect, autonomy and flexibility, employers can ensure their employees remain engaged.

Choice and control

It’s key for retail managers to empower their employees by making them part of day-to-day decision making processes and giving them a level of choice and control over their own work schedules, although within set parameters.

By providing a structured process for the management of employee scheduling, for example input into attendance and holidays, retail employees are able to manage their working times and take their own lives and commitments into account. The overall schedules are controlled by a manager to ensure they are suitable for purpose, while also providing employees with a level of self-discipline which boosts their engagement.

The promotion of employee input into managing schedules can lead to a reduction in turnover due to increased engagement and, therefore, motivation and satisfaction levels.

Anywhere, anytime access in the cloud

One of the many benefits of a cloud-based workforce management application is that it enables employees to access their schedules from anywhere and on any internet-enabled device.

This increased accessibility, made possible by the cloud, offers staff the flexibility to view shifts, bid for additional work, swap with colleagues, and take more ownership of their working hours simply by accessing an intuitive online application.

Although management retain control through setting the schedule frameworks, this allows employee flexibility, so they can add and change availability themselves in a structured way.

Train decision-makers

Training employees and giving them the ability to resolve disputes instantly and the authority to make certain decisions without approval from a manager, enables retailers to empower employees and improve decision-making efficiency.

Whether it is being able to issue a refund or offer a POS discount, even simple steps can motivate employees, instilling a sense of pride and responsibility and help them to make the best customer service decisions quickly and professionally.

Reward good service, not just sales

Sales targets are an essential part of any retail business, but rewarding employees for other actions such as attendance or customer service successes, can be just as fruitful.

Putting an emphasis on great service will help to lift management’s quantitative expectations, such as units sold, and will allow employees to see value in the way they perform their job, not simply the end result.

Introduce an element of competition and fun

‘Gamification’ has the potential to increase employee engagement, especially in the retail environment, and this doesn’t have to result in financial or other material rewards, it can purely be adding an element of competition to processes or targets. The psychological benefits of feeling like part of a team, and of healthy competition, can be reward enough if implemented well.

Through building a unified team with healthy competitive elements, employees can enjoy greater fulfilment from their roles, helping to ensure they have the right attitude and are focused on their time and productivity.

In Conclusion…

Retail managers need to have the right people in the right place at the right time, but in order for those people to perform to the best of their abilities and deliver exemplary customer service, they must have the right attitude.

If retailers are able to employ some of these tips and, in doing so, successfully engage their employees, they can expect to see increased job satisfaction and motivation, as well as additional outputs in terms of improved productivity, reduced company turnover and sickness absence. For both employees and employers, high workforce engagement is undoubtedly a ‘win-win’ scenario.

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