Three ways to motivate employees, beyond commission

Apr 18, 2016

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

Employees don’t come to us hard-wired to perform well in a vacuum. Unless you can find a way to connect powerfully with your crew, your sales are doomed to failure.

I know, I know — it’s easy to say just pay them more. But many times, no matter how much you pay them, after a period of time their self-motivation wanes.

Here are three ideas to help motivate your sales associates that don’t involve paying them based on the number of units they move:

#1: Give them luxury: Give your best performing associates something special. A box of especially good chocolates. A 30-minute massage. A gift certificate towards a fine dining restaurant. One owner I know surprised her crew for beating their daily goal with pizza, bowling and champagne — and it worked great. How about a handwritten thank you note mailed to their house?

The more important you make them feel, the more likely they will make your customers feel important.

#2: Give them time: Give your top performer a half or full extra day off with pay. Do it without any fanfare. Just let this person stay home, sleep late, take care of their kids, or go to a movie while you cover their shift. Don’t make a big deal about it. It’s not a contest; it’s a gift for them. When they come back, they will be refreshed.

#3: Give them space: Office space, literally, can feel very much like home. When you designate physical space to an employee, you are telling that person that they have a place here. A permanent place. They matter.

For your best retail associates, carve out a place in the back to set their photos of their kids and their dogs, a place for them to pin ridiculous things they might print out from Facebook — whatever. You may not be able to let employees bring their dogs to work like Google and other big companies do, but you can help employees feel at home when they are at work.

What tips would you give for motivating employees beyond commission or other financial incentives? Which of the suggestions offered in the article are most effective and most underutilized?

"The easiest way to motivate employees is the same exact thing you’d do to motivate customers: find out what makes their lives easier and help them do that."

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10 Comments on "Three ways to motivate employees, beyond commission"

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Max Goldberg

Here is another motivational tool: Give them power. Empower employees with the power to solve problems and delight customers, then encourage them to use that power. People like to be rewarded and few rewards are better than making someone else happy.

Adrian Weidmann

A simple handwritten note carries more weight than anyone imagines. It’s personal, private and emotional — all of the elements that magnify the message. A recent survey found that Millennial employees would be willing to take $11k less in annual salary given the right environment and culture. Another powerful suggestion was quietly taking over someone’s shift. The employee recognizes the sacrifice of personal time is real and meaningful. Unlike simply writing a signature on a company check, you can’t phone in personal time and effort. Shallow effort is quickly recognized and treated as such. Personal and emotional effort will have substantial benefits.

Ralph Jacobson

I think the suggestions listed are great, and there are limitless additional ways to reward good and great performers. Even if the employee isn’t one of the best, be sure to reward those employees who are obviously trying their best. Also, just think about things that you’d like as rewards, as a leader, and try to apply that thinking and reward system to the staff. If you’d like it, most likely your staff will too.

Gene Detroyer

Luxury, time and space is missing the point entirely. Max and Adrian get this right. Give them power (let’s call it freedom) and a pat on the back. Study after study shows that the most effective motivation for employees is pretty simple … make them feel good about themselves. It tops even financial incentives.

Nikki Baird

The easiest way to motivate employees is the same exact thing you’d do to motivate customers: find out what makes their lives easier and help them do that. And do it every once in awhile in a way that surprises and delights. I think all three of Bob’s suggestions hit that mark.

However, I think there is a key component to this that is missing here: it has to be done with authenticity and genuine feeling. If this is an automated email message from corporate, forget it. If this is a store manager violating “the rules” in order to recognize a heroic employee, that helps engender loyalty to the store manager, but has no long term benefit to the company.

In other words, if the company doesn’t have a culture where employees are VALUED to begin with, a lot of this stuff is just shouting into the wind.

Kenneth Leung

The key is also that this has to tie to authenticity by management and corporate cultural. When the rewards are distilled down to a checklist item that the local management is compelled to do, and it shows, then it doesn’t work. Acknowledgement to employees also needs to come from authentic managers … otherwise it is not effective.

Kevin Kearns
Kevin Kearns
1 year 6 months ago

As on-call shifts are currently under scrutiny, it reinforces Nikki’s point about making an associate’s life easier. Offering an understanding and flexible scheduling process in order to allow an associate to balance their work and personal life while still putting in the hours necessary is essential. Authenticity and consideration are keys to employee satisfaction and morale.

Shep Hyken

Call it motivation or engagement, it all ties together. If someone hates their job, regardless of the pay, it will show. How do you get people to love their job? Two concepts:

  • Fulfillment: Give them responsibility that connects with them. Employees want to be fulfilled. What do you offer that gets your employees excited (beyond the paycheck).
  • Passion: I once met a server at a restaurant that loved his job. Said it was the best job he ever had. Because he loved serving food? No! Although he enjoyed the restaurant business, he loved that his manager let him take some videos about the restaurant and allowed him to post them on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Video was his passion. Make a part of an employee’s job/responsibility something that the employee is passionate about. Even if it is just a small part of the job.
gordon arnold

It is imaginative to say the least that anything will equal or supersede income, benefits and opportunity as motivators for employee enrollment and commitment. This is not to say that a fun place to work without stress isn’t important, just nowhere near as important. If you want the best, you must pay for it. If you want the best to stay, remember what brought them there.

George Nielsen
1 year 6 months ago

Clear, concise goals that, while they may take lots of effort, are attainable.

"The easiest way to motivate employees is the same exact thing you’d do to motivate customers: find out what makes their lives easier and help them do that."

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