How to attract, motivate and retain employees

Why is it important to attract, motivate and retain employees?

Well it is because your employees are your greatest assets. In the retail environment your customer-facing staff are key to your reputation and service delivery. So attracting the right people to serve your customers is key to your success.

What do you look for in an employee? It’s a useful question when recruiting: it shouldn’t just focus on the obvious ability to do the role but also consider personality, fit to the team, ambition and communication skills.



Good reputation

Consider who in your business does the recruitment. Start with ensuring the process is professional but inviting. The initial advert needs to not only reflect the requirements of the role on offer but the culture of your business. Consider the tone of the advert. Does it present the image of the business as you would like to be perceived?

When I am asked to recruit for a client I don’t just look at the persons’ ability to do the job. I consider the team the successful candidate will be joining and the culture they’ll be working in. You can’t necessarily change the culture but you can at least take it into account when recruiting a fit to that culture.

How many people would you expect to apply for the role? Is the location for the role the problem? What is the local workforce like? What are the transport links like? Some of these you can’t do much about, but it may mean that the pay and benefits need to reflect demand. You’ll need to make sure you are competitive with similar businesses in your area.

Ensure that throughout your recruitment process you comply with the law.

Once you find a candidate ensure there is an induction process in place to welcome them to the business. Don’t just leave them to fend for themselves.

Staff motivation

There are generally three reasons why people don’t do their job:

  • They don’t want to
  • They don’t know how
  • Something/someone is keeping them from it.

All of these you can address. 1) and 2) are all about clarity, motivation and (if necessary) training or upskilling; 3) is all about the working environment.

As a manager you should be aiming to achieve tasks whilst building and motivating the team and motivating and developing individuals within that team. That doesn’t mean that individuals can’t be rewarded – on the contrary, fostering a degree of friendly competition can act as motivation to do better.

Your staff should have clear objectives – not just monetary ones, customer service standards matter too. They’ll also need regular feedback to confirm to them whether they are actually meeting those objectives and standards. A staff member who is unclear about what standards they should be meeting will be aimless, which in turn could affect their levels of motivation.

You may well have heard of the hierarchy of needs – a pyramid – depicting five psychological human needs. At the bottom of the pyramid, we have physiological needs or what we call our basic needs – water, food, and shelter. Once we get our physical needs met we tend to be satisfied – however, there are other needs that need to be fulfilled in order to motivate us.

A sense of safety comes next, then a sense of belonging. In other words, we need friends or colleagues. After that, we need a sense of self-esteem and, finally, self-actualization. How is this relevant to the workplace? Well, having our needs met is great motivation for loyalty and continued productivity. We all consider work a place to get our physical needs met: work for money to exchange for shelter, food, etc. But managers can utilise the rest of the pyramid to inspire their teams.

Ensure the physical safety of your staff. People won’t risk their health and lives in a retail role. Encourage a sense of job security in your team. If they make mistakes, consider it a learning experience and help or encourage them to correct errors and try again. Give them feedback on their performance. By doing this, you’ll avoid staff feeling insecure which could reduce their motivation and productivity. Try to avoid a blame culture.

We can move further up the pyramid and ensure a happy workplace giving them a sense of belonging. Building a team is so important to motivation. Deal with conflict and protect and gain the trust of the team. People work best for people they trust.

Provide training and development to meet their self-actualisation needs. Employees like to have confidence that they know what they are doing. Staff training can be a great motivator as it not only provides learning but shows the business values them by investing in them – and developing staff skills is often cheaper than recruitment and can add great value to the business. For many people training and development opportunities are just as important as money. You might ask, what’s the point of training if my staff leave? Instead you should be asking, what if they stay – and how can I keep them from leaving?

There are also the obvious sales commission incentives you can employ to motivate staff – but they need not stop there: how about introducing time-off incentives or prizes for good feedback? People view benefits of the job differently – poor job satisfaction or lack of flexibility can’t be compensated for purely via financial incentives. Ask your team what motivates them. Don’t just assume it is just money.

Staff retention

People who are engaged and feel listened to are often more committed. Ask yourself honestly: is your existing team a supportive one? Is the working environment all that it should be – and if not, is what can you do about it? It sounds obvious, but a safe, clean, friendly working environment – i.e. one of mutual respect – goes a long way to giving your staff a reason to stay.
Your customer facing employees are often the ones who understand customer needs best. Listen to them. Empower them to help your business grow.

Ensure staff have the resources and the support to do the job. If you don’t then you risk losing them to a business who will. Remember good staff are worth supporting.
Think! Your staff are most likely your single biggest expense and your greatest asset. Properly treated and motivated, they will perform well and be great advocates for your business both in terms of attracting future staff and customers.

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