Ways to Motivate Your Employees in Retail: 10 Tips to Get Started


Finding healthy ways to motivate your employees in retail is one of the most challenging parts of being a business manager or owner. You can’t afford for things to be too lax, but you also never want to strike the fear of God in them; it’s a difficult balance to find.

You also don’t want to rely on money as a motivating factor. You want your staff to feel great about the brand they are representing and eager to share that passion with every customer that walks through your doors.

So let’s take a look at a few of the best ways to motivate your employees and start improving your business.

1. Celebrate and Reward Your Team

Offering rewards for great performance is one of the most straightforward ways of motivating your team. People love to be acknowledged for their hard work, so don’t be afraid to do so.

Rewards can come in many forms. And there are many other ways to reward that don’t involve cheesy plaques:

  • Give a bonus
  • Send someone on a trip
  • Offer additional vacation days
  • Honor a team member at an event
  • Throw a party
  • Get tickets to a show or game

These are just a few ways to offer rewards, so get creative and find other ways to show your staff how much you appreciate them. Doing so will help keep them motivated to continue working hard for your retail business.

2. Pay Commission or Goal Bonuses

Many retailers structure their business around bonuses or commission. It doesn’t necessarily work for any retail business, but it will for many. Below are several of the top reasons to include a commission structure:

  • Drives great service
  • Rewards your top employees
  • Measures success
  • Boosts sales

But there are some downsides to commission and bonus pay that retailers should watch out for:

  • Aggressive salespeople
  • Overly competitive work environment
  • Poor income security
  • Low ceiling

So if you’re thinking about implementing commission pay at your store, be sure to consider the possible downsides. But done in the right way and at the right business, it’s a great way to motivate your employees.

Plus, setting up commission structures is easy with the right retail point of sale. You can set it to automatically calculate each employee’s payout at the end of every shift.

3. Create Some Competitions

Healthy competition is a great way to get your team in the spirit of selling. Come up with daily or weekly goals and track each staff member’s progress.

You should focus on making this fun rather than overly competitive. Don’t make prizes too big that others will resent the winner or feel bad about not selling more. Like commission, you don’t want it to create a poor work environment. You want to keep it lighthearted enough that it’s fun and motivating.

Again, your point of sale can help make this easy. Detailed shift reports will give you insight into each employee performance.

4. Learn How to Be a Leader

This is a harder one to implement quickly. And some owners and managers are more natural leaders than others, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be in part learned. There are some easy ways to get started:

  • Stay positive
  • Praise great performance
  • Act as you would expect employees to act
  • Listen well
  • Learn from those around you
  • Take feedback
  • Offer helpful critiques

Great leadership will attract a great team around you and motivate each staff member to improve their performance.

5. Give People Freedom and Flexibility

Few employees need constant direction and most will resent it quickly. Offer your staff adequate freedom and flexibility.

Start by allowing some leeway in scheduling. Always try to schedule people during their desired times. Allow some flexibility with vacation time and try to accommodate all reasonable scheduling requests.

Also provide some freedom on the retail floor. While it’s important to have consistency with policy and procedure, it’s important that your employees are free to be genuine and bring their own personality and style to the job.

6. Open the Door for Upward Mobility

Many retail professionals complain that the job often presents a low ceiling for their careers. Too often, employers are hesitant to hire internally, offer salaried roles, and provide benefits. And it’s exactly this attitude that leads to high employee turnover rates in retail.

Though incentivizing your staff with these friendlier offers might be more expensive in the short term, it will certainly save you money down the road. High turnover among your staff has several detrimental effects:

  • Severance pay
  • Unemployment pay
  • Recruiting agency fees
  • Job advertising
  • Time cost for interviewing and training
  • Training, orientation, and onboarding costs
  • Short staff costs
  • Initial lower productivity

Each of these factors are unavoidable when you have high turnover rates. All of these ways to motivate your team will help lessen turnover, but providing valuable career opportunities is the best way to keep your best staff members on your team and maintain a motivated group of employees.

7. Build a Great Retail Company Culture

Start by hiring well. You started your business for a reason and you’re passionate about what it stands for. So it’s important to find candidates that share your passion and values.

Starting this way means that you will have an excited and motivated team from the beginning and will translate into long-term success.

One of the best ways to build a strong culture at your business is to organize team building events. These can be so varied and we’ve had some customers tell us about their ideas:

  • Coffee shops host tastings/cuppings to discuss new coffees and teas
  • Wineries travel to other vineyards to taste different wines and learn about production
  • Apparel retailers include all staff in the buying process for a new product or line
  • General team-building activities are also helpful. Holiday parties and staff reward parties are a great way for everyone to get to know each other on a more personal level and create a more tight-knit group.

Just be sure to maintain the same passion you had when you started your business. This message needs to be coherent throughout your team.

“I’ve found that to keep the team motivated I need to give back to them. By that, I mean that I regularly organise socials and activities for my staff such as a karaoke night or a meal out with everybody. Not only is that great for the team building and the relationships between my staff but it also helps to let off steam after busy weeks. I also firmly believe in compliments. If somebody in my team has done a good job I think it’s important to say so. It helps my staff to feel satisfied in their roles  – and it seems to work as staff turnover is the lowest it has ever been.”

8. Motivate Your Team With Clear Goals and Expectations

Keep your expectations for your staff clear and concise. You need everyone on your team to be on the same page and know exactly what they need to do to perform their job effectively.

Start with great training. You and your existing team should take the training process seriously. Your onboarding efforts must be consistent and thorough and all training on company policy and procedures should be clear to all new employees.

Once team members are live on the retail floor, maintain motivation by setting clear goals and benchmarks. This helps keep people excited about meeting goals and provides you with something highly tangible to use in performance reviews down the road.

9. Instill Trust Through Responsibility

While you and your managers need to provide oversight and make sure your team performs well, give senior members more trust and responsibility. Great employees will be more motivated when they are given more to do. It feels good to have new roles at a company. And not only will they perform the tasks well, but they will be happier.

  • Ask veteran employees to assist with training new staff.
  • Have them help plan promotions.
  • Enlist team assistance with marketing, especially social media posts.
  • See if anyone would like to organize a team event.
  • Show trust in people’s opinions.

These are just a few ways to show your team that you respect them and their role at your business. This will instill in them more confidence and inspire better performance every day.

10. Offer and Ask for Honest Feedback

Schedule regular employee reviews for every staff member. Set given times for reviews (3 month, 6 month, 1 year, etc.) and alert everyone of the process during training so that it doesn’t make anyone anxious. Of course, it’s important to be kind and respectful but honest. It’s inevitable that you’ll have both positive and negative feedback for every person, so don’t be afraid to address both.

At the same time, don’t manage by fear. Instead, offer constructive ways to improve and make it clear that you and the rest of your team will be there for assistance when necessary.

Likewise, ask for their feedback, too. Everyone should feel that they can voice their opinion and be heard. Plus, at a retail store, your employees are the ones more often dealing with shoppers, so they’re likely to have an informed opinion. Offering the opportunity for them to give feedback will go a long way towards motivating a great performance on the job.

Ways to Manage Your Employees in Retail with KORONA POS

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About the Author

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Michael Chalberg

Michael has long focused his writing on the world of retail and small businesses. He''s been a part of the KORONA POS team since 2018 and loves helping entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and succeed. In his spare time, you'll likely find him hiking somewhere in the Southwest.

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