The Art of Recognition: How to motivate and reward retail employees

Employee recognition is of huge importance. But how to create a culture of appreciation? Read all about it in this blog post. ✓

Ruben Wieman

The Art of Recognition: How to motivate and reward retail employees

Table of contents

Motivation at work is of huge importance. Not only does it improve productivity, it also boosts retention. But in certain industries, this motivation can be harder to find than in others. In retail, for instance, better incentives appear to be required. According to research by Q&A Insights & Consultancy, 68% of employees don’t want to work in retail, with 22% citing boredom and 12% low wages.

To motivate frontline workers to join (and stay) within the retail industry, organizations must show a willingness to recognize a job well done. This could be through financial incentives or any other sort of reward. Recognition motivates and engages employees. It ensures they feel valued. For deskless workers, who can feel distanced from the corporate hierarchy, this is particularly important.

Why is employee recognition important?

When retail employees achieve something, whether it’s in terms of delivering first-rate customer support or posting impressive sales figures, the sense of personal achievement is bound to motivate them. But this motivation is amplified significantly if others also notice their success.

Employee recognition can provide significant boosts to morale and performance. It also creates a supportive environment where workers and management encourage their colleagues to be the best workers they can possibly be. Recognition can come in many forms - it could just be an appreciative comment - but it shows your company is one where employees are appreciated. In retail, where employee turnover is especially high, this appreciation could help you keep your most talented workers.

What drives retail employees?

The importance of deskless workers to the global economy is indisputable. The majority of companies (88%) employ deskless workers of some description. Within this, the retail sector is similarly essential, accounting for approximately 9% of global GDP.

And yet, despite its importance, retail workers are not always valued as much as they should be. Compared with other industries, retail sits in the bottom 38% for employee engagement. But in order to flip this statistic on its head, retailers need to gain a better understanding of what it is that drives retail employees. What are their motivations and goals?

The Oneteam Magnet Framework for attracting and retaining employees represents a good guide to the kinds of things that drive retail employees, including:

  • Connection with the team
  • Benefits
  • Connection with the company
  • Employee experience
  • Work & life balance

All the above factors and many more can guide companies in their efforts to create a work environment that motivates their retail employees. But how can organizations promote these through employee recognition?

The Oneteam Magnet Framework for attracting and retaining employees

Types of employee recognition: From a shout-out on the social intranet to tangible rewards

There is no correct way to motivate and reward your retail employees. Every company and each worker is different. Even so, here are some of the most popular types of employee recognition initiatives being employed in the sector today:

1. Verbal praise

Something as small as a “thank you” or “well done” could be enough to show your retail employees that you value the work they are putting in. Whether this comes from managers or colleagues, whether public or during a private conversation, it is likely to be appreciated.

2. Written praise

A more formal type of employee recognition, written praise can seem more significant. It creates a permanent record of an employee's achievement.

3. Private recognition

Sometimes, employees may not appreciate being put in the spotlight for a good deed. Plus, retail workers may not have regular work hours where they can interact with their manager on a consistent basis. In that case, private recognition may be a better approach. An email message could work but where retail employees don’t have a corporate email address, an employee engagement app will do the trick.

4. Financial rewards

Money matters. For retail employees, offering a year-end bonus or a financial reward for impressive sales figures sends a clear message that hard work will be recognized and rewarded.

5. Formal incentive program

Although informal, ad-hoc recognition is a great way of showing your authenticity as a company, some businesses choose to create a formal incentive program to ensure they never forget to praise good work. Two-thirds of employees are motivated to remain in their current roles due to the existence of a corporate incentive program.

6. Employee awards

Monthly or annual awards can add a bit of friendly competition into the workplace. You can even get your employees to vote for these, adding a peer-to-peer element to the recognition you give.


How to measure the impact of employee recognition on performance and retention?

Making sure you recognize the good work of your retail employees isn’t important simply because it’s the right thing to do. It also has a genuine impact in terms of performance and retention. For instance, research suggests employee turnover may fall by as much as 31% when companies have a strong culture of employee appreciation when compared with organizations that don’t.

But to implement a recognition program (as well as measure its impact), companies need to measure employee performance. Keeping track of various performance metrics, including sales numbers, customer feedback, and absenteeism can help determine when an individual deserves a pat on the back. At the same time, retention metrics can tell retailers if their recognition program is keeping employers engaged at work.

Running periodic employee satisfaction surveys is another great way of assessing your recognition program. Do your retail workers feel valued? Do they receive support, guidance, and appreciation from their managers?  An employee experience app can provide a fast and easy way for deskless employees, like retail staff, to give their opinions on workplace recognition directly.

How to create a culture of appreciation?

Motivating your retail employees is about more than just offering rewards every now and then. Creating a culture of appreciation in the workplace is the only way to ensure your workers are motivated to produce their best for every shift. Here’s how you can achieve this at your store:

1. Put real thought into your rewards

Personalized rewards are more likely to be appreciated. Has a store manager heard workers talking excitedly about a newly opened nearby restaurant? If so, why not take the team out for a meal as part of a collective reward? Meaningful rewards can make a real impact within a recognition program.

2. Celebrate milestones

Keep track of any upcoming milestones, including length of service, sales figures or the completion of an e-learning module. Celebrating milestones shows you take an interest in your employees.

3. Enable peer-to-peer recognition

Appreciation doesn’t have to be top-down. Creating a culture of recognition should involve everyone. Mobile workplace apps can help colleagues give a quick digital thumbs-up or positive comment even if they work different retail shift patterns.

4. Acknowledge the little wins

Major successes might be worthy of celebration, but the little wins are important too. A culture of appreciation means acknowledging the retail workers that quietly put in top performances every day, not just those that achieve landmark successes.

5. Use an employee app

An employee experience app like Oneteam can help businesses create a culture of appreciation by acting as a centralized platform where retail workers can communicate, learn, and share their opinions. Without one, it can be difficult to provide praise across a medium that everyone has access to.

Be rewarded for recognition

According to research by consultancy firm Gallup, a culture of recognition could save large businesses up to $16.1 million in turnover costs annually. Employee recognition comes with significant benefits for organizations in terms of retention and worker performance. So, remember to share the love for a job well done. With Oneteam’s employee app, this suddenly becomes a lot easier.

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman is the founder of Oneteam. He mainly writes about the future of deskless employee experience and key frontline HR trends. Fun fact about Ruben: He started his professional career as a deskless employee at supermarkets and a pizza delivery guy. The frustrations he encountered lead him to build an employee experience app focused on making the deskless workforce successful and engaged.

Stay ahead

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on blog posts around the topic of employee experience.