Retail is constantly evolving, with changes in consumer behavior and employee demands creating new problems alongside the ones that never seem to go away. Ensuring your employees are engaged is a mainstay issue that employers need to solve.
Keep reading to find out what causes low engagement among retail employees and how you can improve employee engagement.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the extent to which employees are emotionally invested in their work and workplace, and the discretionary effort they put into their role.
It should not be confused with employee satisfaction, which measures how happy your employees are. Some are satisfied with putting in minimal effort and collecting a paycheck. While engaged employees are happy, they’re also motivated and highly involved in their work.
Why is employee engagement important in retail?
Your employees are the heart of the operation. You can have the best technology and training available, but if your employees aren’t engaged enough to optimize them, they become redundant.
And in addition to being the heart, they’re also the face. Your customers interact with your employees, and it’s these interactions that determine their experience. A good experience can lead to a sale, a loyal customer, and a positive review. Simply put, the employee experience determines the customer experience.
An engaged workforce helps solve other retail issues too, such as employee retention. When employees are engaged, they’re enthusiastic about their job and are driven to turn up. As a result, engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their companies.
They also perform better—20% better, in fact. When engaged, individuals are more willing to help other team members, take on more responsibility, and find ways to carry out their job more effectively.
What are the causes of low engagement among retail workers?
Burnout is a state of emotional and physical engagement caused by working long hours in a stressful environment. This leads to a lack of motivation and tiredness—pretty much the exact opposite of engagement.
Some retailers foster an environment that causes burnout, with long hours and increasing workloads driving employees to the brink. A 2022 survey discovered that 72% of retail workers feel drained at the end of their shift.
And burnout isn’t only bad for your workforce, it’s also bad for business. Individuals suffering from exhaustion are 160% more likely to be looking for a new job.
Lack of recognition
Employee recognition is the acknowledgement and praise of your employee’s achievements. Organizations that take the time to recognize the hard work of their workforce find their staff to be more motivated and productive.
And recognition has a clear relationship with engagement, with research showing that employees who feel their work will be recognized are likely to be 2.7x more engaged. So naturally, retailers who fail to recognize the achievements of their staff risk promoting disengagement.
Lack of flexibility
Flexibility in the workplace means allowing employees to negotiate working conditions that suit them. This could take the form of specific working hours, additional responsibility, and a certain degree of autonomy within their role.
In retail, working patterns and role requirements have been traditionally dictated by business and customer demands, leaving little wiggle room for a more flexible approach. And while some retail roles are designed for flexibility—think part-time shop assistant—this isn’t the case for managerial positions, leaving some on the shop floor feeling trapped and unable to move up the corporate ladder.
No clear opportunities for growth
Growth in the workplace can take many forms, including professional growth, financial growth, and personal growth. In fact, growth in any form is invaluable for ensuring your employees are motivated and engaged. Those with access to professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged.
Employees will feel more emotionally invested in your company if they work towards a bigger goal. Without this chance, expect your workforce to feel demoralized and look for opportunities elsewhere.
Poor communication is never a good thing, but it’s especially detrimental in the workplace. If your employees are unable to effectively reach management or HR when a problem arises, they’ll end up feeling defeated and disengaged.
And when communication between retailers and their employees breaks down, staff lose sight of company goals and how they’re actively contributing. This is especially the case in retail, where 36% of employees feel detached from their organization.
7 ways to improve retail employee engagement
1. Introduce flexible working options
It’s time for retailers to embrace flexible working at all levels. Start by offering part-time retail management positions, so those who work flexibly in junior frontline positions can progress in their career. Knowing that their need for flexibility is no longer a hindrance will motivate and engage your employees, and as an employer, you’ll benefit from optimizing the talent within your workforce.
To make this possible, ensure your scheduling practices are optimized, and take advantage of modern shift-scheduling platforms that make your life easier.
2. Provide better benefits
Another way to improve retail employee engagement is to offer retail workers a comprehensive benefits package that extends beyond the typical paid holidays and pensions scheme. Benefits are incredibly valued by all workers, with 90% stating they’d choose an improved benefits package over higher pay.
Offer an inclusive package that benefits as many employees as possible, not just a select few. For retail workers, the benefits that matter most include sick pay, health insurance, and childcare provisions. These can be supplemented with access to leisure activities such as a free gym membership. And make sure what you’re offering aligns with what your employees want—there’s no point offering a cycle-to-work scheme if none of your staff ride a bike.
By offering your employees increased security in their daily life and the opportunity to engage in outside work activities that they enjoy, you’ll discover a happier and more engaged workforce. In fact, employees that are satisfied with their workplace benefits estimate their engagement to be 11.5% higher than the average.
3. Encourage feedback
Employee feedback is no longer optional for retailers looking to thrive. With its plethora of benefits, employers should be jumping on any opportunity to give feedback to employees. And you would make your employees happy too—65% of workers say they want more feedback.
Feedback drives engagement, with 43% of highly engaged employees receiving feedback at least once a week. Utilize tried-and-true methods such as surveys and one-to-one meetings with management to highlight your employee’s strengths and what they need to work on. With modern technology, surveys are easy to create, edit and disperse to your workers.
4. Offer incentives and rewards
The prospect of a reward has been used to effectively motivate humans for hundreds of years. In the workplace, incentives and rewards boost productivity, morale, retention and engagement.
Make sure your incentives extend beyond traditional bonuses and commission-based rewards. While these examples of extrinsic motivations are effective, they’re not the only way of engaging staff. We recommend implementing gamification—in the shape of leaderboards and employee of the month programs—to add an element of intrinsic motivation that further enhances employee motivation and engagement.
5. Strengthen training programs
Effective training is key to employee engagement. When your workforce feels supported and equipped to succeed in their role, they’re more invested in the business and will work harder to reach the company’s goals.
For retailers, training can prove problematic for a workforce that’s constantly on the move and working varying shift patterns. Invest in something practical—like mobile learning—that can provide role-relevant training to employees when they need it most, and doesn’t disrupt the flow of work.
6. Set goals
Setting goals for your employees creates a clear pathway for progression and development within your company. They allow your team to build a skillset, take on more responsibility, and prove to themselves and the company what they’re capable of.
Goal-setting improves engagement because it proves to employees that progression is achievable and encouraged.
7. Empower with technology
Technology in retail can be a blessing or a curse. Stores that continue to use outdated or unreliable technology quickly find their workforce lacking motivation and engagement.
Imagine spending most of your shift navigating technological limitations instead of making a difference and helping customers on the shop floor—it’s demoralizing. One third of employees feel they’re being held back by managers who are using outdated technology.
Updating the tech you use can help in countless areas of your retail business, including comms, employee training, and scheduling, meaning your employees can instead focus on the work that really matters to them.
eduMe is a mobile-learning platform that utilizes gamification to engage your workforce throughout the training process. Thanks to our seamless learning technology, eduMe clients increase engagement with learning content by 300%. Visit our website to find out more.