How to make associates feel appreciated

Discussion
Mar 25, 2016

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

In an industry that is known for high turnover and low pay, some leading retailers are working to ensure their employees are happy. In turn, they’re experiencing improved employee loyalty.

Among the ways some are boosting associate morale:

Reasonable wages: While the federal minimum wage stands at $7.25, a higher starting salary can prevent turnover and even motivate better performance during the workday. Container Store pays its in-store sales associates an average of $50,000 per year, as of 2014. Kevin Graff, president of Graff Retail, said, “The more you invest in your staff, the more they give back to you.”

Flexible scheduling: The challenges of unpredictable scheduling, particularly for those working other jobs or arranging childcare, has recently received some attention in the mainstream press. Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR Research, said, “If they feel like ‘schleppers,’ they’re going to act like that. It’s pretty important to treat them like the differentiators they are.”

Education support: Wegmans and Starbucks are both known for the support they provide to associates to pursue higher education. While recognizing many employees will likely move on to different careers with greater education, the overall initiative builds brand loyalty.

Guiding store managers: The right store manager can instill companywide recognition and retention. Said Chris Petersen, CEO at Integrated Marketing Solutions, “Don’t hire them to be operationally sound or based on experience of running a store; hire a manager based on those skills that develop employees that have a track record interacting with other people.”

Deeper incentives: The traditional “Store Employee of the Month” program may not hold the same kind of value it did in the past with today’s diverse communication channels and the increasing number of Millennial employees. TOMS Shoes invites employees to travel abroad to deliver shoe donations after one year with the company. Said Mr. Peterson, “Employees stay there because they feel that it’s part of something bigger than just work or just selling products.”

Photo: TOMS

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think are some obvious and less obvious ways retailers can show their appreciation to store associates? Can you add any tips to those mentioned in the article?

Braintrust
"As Lou Holtz has often stated in his speeches, "People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much care.""
"Along with the many great suggestions above, I’d add that it’s important to mix your associates and other employees to keep everyone feeling like part of the same team."
"Best is the behavior to employees described by a number of BrainTrusters, i.e. the manager on the floor, and noting and showing appreciation for things done right — instill a sense of pride and satisfaction and teamwork."

Join the Discussion!

20 Comments on "How to make associates feel appreciated"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bob Phibbs
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Access to the visionary behind the brand is often overlooked. Regardless of the number of stores, having a personal connection to the owner makes the brand approachable and real. Look no further than a customer who says, “I know the owner” and they have to pay for the privilege!

Dick Seesel
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

The most obvious: Pay more! (I know, it doesn’t always fit every company’s financial model.) The Container Store — mentioned in the article — and Costco are two great examples of retailers whose hourly employees feel they have a career, not just a job.

The importance of the store manager also can’t be overstated. This brings to mind the recent panel discussion about the importance of managers’ visibility “on the floor,” not hiding in their offices reading email and reports. A manager knowing the names of his or her hourly employees goes a long way.

Max Goldberg
Guest
1 year 8 months ago
Great article. The most obvious way to show appreciation to store associates is to pay a living wage. Employees should not have to work a second job or be on welfare for the privilege of working for a retailer. Second is to be consistent. Employees want to know when they will be working, so they can plan their non-work lives. Third doesn’t cost anything: Feedback. Employees, particularly Millennials, want to know how they are doing. It takes little time to compliment or critique an employee, yet it yields great dividends. And fourth, show respect. Most employees consider retail jobs to… Read more »
Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
1 year 8 months ago
I would add a couple of points on the power of store managers. The best store managers are leaders more than managers of details who implement SOP in stores. Associates respond and respect store managers who are “talent developers.” There is nothing wrong with incentives focused on performance feedback. But monetary incentives are “impersonal” extrinsic motivators. People respond to people. The best motivators are those delivered by managers (and peers) who genuinely show appreciation for a job well done. The best way to show appreciation and motivate is to “catch” people doing the right things right. That takes an observant,… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Pay, pay, pay more. This is the easiest and most rewarding way to increase longevity at stores. Throwing in an extra meal in the restaurant business and giving employees regular feedback (whoever thought that once a year was sufficient for employee feedback?).

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
1 year 8 months ago
Empowering sales associates to interact with shoppers and allow them to do the right thing at any given moment without being bridled by corporate policies. The following story still haunts me relevant to this subject. A World War II veteran proudly presented his veterans ID card to the check out clerk at a prominent DIY brand to get his 10 percent discount that this brand proudly advertised for our serviceman and veterans only to be told that the discount would not be honored because she did not recognize the service card and questioned its authenticity. Because of my professional relationship… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
1 year 8 months ago
One of the best ways to show appreciation is to ensure new hires are in alignment with the rest of the employees, and more importantly, the company’s vision, mission, etc. When employees see the effort that leadership/management makes to add the right people with the right mindsets and personalities to the team, it has positive results. I also believe in creating a culture of F.U.N. F is for fulfillment: are your employees fulfilled? U is for uniqueness: are your employees allowed to utilize their unique talents and personalities as part of their responsibilities? N is for next: are the employees… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

I just managed a dinner discussion in Houston on this topic. Houston’s retail participants agree with all of the above, but they also focused on the importance of communicating with store associates. Ensuring that associates understand priorities and feel that they are heard is important in every setting.

Joe Saumweber
Guest
Joe Saumweber
1 year 8 months ago
Clearly paying more ranks towards the top of the list for most commentators. That’s also the most expensive option where massive investments in pay often translate to only a marginal improvement for individual associates. Here are two currencies that in-store associates appreciate that cost very little: First, give them more influence by creating channels to provide feedback to management and the home office. Problems are often most effectively solved by those on the front lines who have daily contact with the customer. These associates have great ideas and their loyalty is earned by those who listen. Second, provide your store-level… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

I try to think of where employees worship their employer. Demoulas Market Basket is a good example. There the CEO was like Santa Claus and put his employees before the bottom line. Sure it can be dangerous but very effective in showing appreciation to employees. Most incentives just come down to money in one form or another. Having some skin in the game such as giving employees ownership will work both ways with employees showing appreciation to their employer.

Sabrina Gray
Guest
Sabrina Gray
1 year 8 months ago
Retailers are missing a step here where the focus remains on the bottom line and making the “customer” happy in order to build loyalty. The real “customer” that is missed is the internal customer that spends just as much or even more than the external customer does on the consumer goods offered. This is largely due to employee discounts, but also a sense of loyalty on the part of the employee in shopping at the company that employs them. There should be associate loyalty programs that focus on retaining those employees through rewards and what is most valuable to them.… Read more »
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Guest
Patricia Vekich Waldron
1 year 8 months ago

Along with a living wage, behaving like retail is a career vs a job is what makes a difference. Everyone wants to feel like they are contributing, learning and making a difference.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

There are some great incentives listed in the article. The more valuable your staff feels, the more allegiance to the company they will tend to have. Higher pay is good, however, that is tough to instill on a daily basis. In retail, with so many part-timers, you have to make incentives that matter for them, too. Great supermarkets had a profit sharing program for every employee. If their particular store did well, everyone in the store would get a monthly bonus.

Roger Saunders
Guest
1 year 8 months ago
Glenn’s comments all are vital in helping associates feel appreciated and needed. Add to these programs an important few points: 1. Let associates know the company’s objectives, values, and goals 2. Keep associates apprised of key areas of focus on their shifts, week, and month 3. Let associates know what they can do to support the Points # 1 and # 2, and assure them that you value their perspective 4. Let associates know that you care about them — as Lou Holtz has often stated in his speeches, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much… Read more »
William Hogben
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Along with the many great suggestions above, I’d add that it’s important to mix your associates and other employees to keep everyone feeling like part of the same team. Many businesses are structured so that management and staff don’t interact — different lunchtimes and rooms, different bathrooms, closed meetings, etc. A company with a good mix of social bonds up and down the hierarchy is much more resilient to all sorts of problems, not just turnover.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
1 year 8 months ago

“Reasonable wages” is a good starting point, but the definition of “reasonable” is left to interpretation, and no matter how much you are being paid, “more” is always better — and just because someone is paid “reasonable wages” doesn’t at all ensure that the employee will perform better. Best is the behavior to employees described by a number of BrainTrusters, i.e. the manager on the floor, and noting and showing appreciation for things done right — instill a sense of pride and satisfaction and teamwork.

Matt Talbot
Guest
1 year 8 months ago
There are a multitude of ways companies can show their appreciation for their employees. If your core business model doesn’t give back to the community, like TOMS, employers could encourage employees to do charitable work without having to take time off. Offering a PTO day specifically designated for charity work will encourage associates to pursue outside hobbies and organizations that contribute to the greater good of the community, making them feel more valuable all around. Planning company retreats is also an incredibly effective way to enhance company culture and boost employee morale. Offering a different setting for employees to get… Read more »
Bill Fotsch
Guest
1 year 8 months ago
Treating employees like adults, involving them in the economics of the business, and helping them to think and act like business partners consistently drives profitable growth. The information engages their minds, and the trust engages their hearts. For 20+ years, 400+ clients of mine, including industry leaders like Southwest Airlines and Capital One, have consistently improved profits and the lives of the employees who drive those profits. Often referred to as Open-Book Management, here are a couple of articles that provide more context: Here are two short client videos that demonstrate employee engagement in a large company and a small… Read more »
karen Robbins
Guest
karen Robbins
1 year 8 months ago

I so agree if you make a work place happy, your employees will show up for work. I always try to make everyone have a great day when I’m at work. I take the time to speak to everyone whom I come in contact with and will even go out of my way to walk around and find them to ask how there are doing. That’s just how I am.

Michael Patrick
Guest
Michael Patrick
1 year 8 months ago
Today’s retail associate has multiple needs; internal (am I fulfilled?), external (am I paid my worth?), philosophical (Does this work do good beyond profit?) The more you can meet the whole person’s needs, the more motivated they’ll become. It doesn’t always need to be a company-wide program. Have leaders ask associates “What gets you excited to come to work?” “What value do you think we provide to the customers we serve?” Asking better questions help uncover what makes associates tick and what’s important to them personally. It also shows respect for their values and when they align with the company’s,… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As Lou Holtz has often stated in his speeches, "People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much care.""
"Along with the many great suggestions above, I’d add that it’s important to mix your associates and other employees to keep everyone feeling like part of the same team."
"Best is the behavior to employees described by a number of BrainTrusters, i.e. the manager on the floor, and noting and showing appreciation for things done right — instill a sense of pride and satisfaction and teamwork."

Take Our Instant Poll

Which of the five tips offered to improve associate retention and morale is most important?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...