Two Simple, Effective Management Tips to Motivate Retail Employees

Two Simple Ways You Can Motivate Your Retail Employees Every Day

Keep Employees Balanced
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These two management tips to motivate retail employees are easy to remember. They’re simple, but they work well when it comes to managing your retail employees and maintaining a positive atmosphere among them and in your store.

1. Be Up When They’re Down, and Be Down When They’re Up

We are never as good as our greatest successes, and we are never as bad as our biggest failures. This is true for your employees. As managers, we are responsible for results, but we are also responsible for the attitudes of the people who are generating the results. In other words, we want our employees to focus on ways to generate results. We want them to focus on the customer experience and how to improve business. We don't want them focused on how they might hate working at your retail store or how they dislike their coworkers.

We like to employ salespeople who are outgoing, bubbly, and full of personality — the type of person who enjoys working in retail stores. The type of person who enjoys people. But this type of person can also get down easily. Our job as managers is to create an even keel among the sales employees. We should share their successes but keep them in perspective. And when that person is down, we need to bring him or her up. It’s not what happens to the employee that matters, it’s what we do about it and how we handle it.

If a salesperson loses a big sale because they said something wrong or turned the customer off, they need to be cheered up, not put down for making an error. Some managers go by the moods of their employees. If employees are down, these managers put them in the ground even more. If employees are up, these managers bring them up even higher. This is the worse thing a manager can do because it creates discord in the manager-employee relationship. For example, if something bad happens or the employee does something wrong, the last thing the employee will want to do is share it with a manager because if they do share their mistake, they know the manager will exacerbate the situation.

Too many managers allow their personal mood to be set by the employees (and many by the customers.) If the employees are in a bad mood, then the manager is in a bad mood. What's really scary about this is when you are not a morning person. I am not a morning person. I'm not like those people who wake up bright-eyed and ready for the day. One of the main reasons I got into retail 30 years ago was because the stores didn't open till 10am. I struggled with this. When the employees came into the store in the morning and were all cheery and chatty, it drove me nuts. I wanted to hide in the office and be alone.

Thank goodness for a mentor who set me straight. Larry, one of my mentors, used to tell me "you are always fantastic whether you feel like it or not." I asked what that meant and he said, "your employees sales ability during the day is directly related to your attitude. So, when they come to work and ask you how you are, no matter what you are truly feeling, you say fantastic!" (I still do this to this day by the way.) 

2. Verbally Recognize Positive Behavior

Behavior that is rewarded is the behavior that is repeated. Employees never forget when managers compliment them. If you recognize a specific aspect of something the employee did (e.g. suggested the correct item to the customer, added customer information to the mailing list), you encourage the employee to repeat his or her behavior.

Employees never forget these rewards, even if the behavior or accomplishment is small. If employees constantly face criticism from a manager, how will they naturally react? They’re going to hate the manager. As much as managers think their criticism will straighten employees out, it doesn’t work.

I used to work for a manager that had a saying "I'm not here to tell you what you're doing right, I'm here to tell you what you're doing wrong." His philosophy was to use the little time he had with me to correct and improve me. My reward, he would say, was a paycheck. How motivating is that?

One note here, keep the feedback in line with the accomplishment. Don't throw a big party or call the attention of the entire store to something simple. And remember, the most powerful effective way to reward behavior is to simply say "thank you" to an employee when a job is well done. Remember that manager I told you about? He never said thank you to me for all the years I worked for him. And here I am many years later still thinking about it. Don't think praise is a big deal? 

A long time ago, I worked for a retail chain that rewarded positive employee behavior by giving out play money. Once a year, employees would attend an auction where they could use only the play money, and they’d auction off wonderful gifts. This reward system created incentives for employees to continue demonstrating positive behavior, and it worked.

At another company, we instituted a program called Hero Stars. If an employee (not the management by the way - the peers) witnessed another employee doing something great, they could give them a Hero Star. These stars would be stuck to the employee's locker. It was a visual recognition and source of pride for the employee. We later added an element where people could trade their stars for gifts; everyone wanted the gifts, but no one wanted to give up their stars. 

Reward positive behavior and remember — stay up when they’re down, and stay down when they’re up.