Driving retail team performance isn’t always easy. The ever-changing industry has left retail workers burnt out and disengaged. But even before the pandemic decimated workforces, concerns around retail team engagement were emerging. A benchmark study conducted by the Temkin Group found that the retail sector had the least engaged employees, with 50% being slightly or fully disengaged at work. But with brick and mortar stores becoming less transactional and more experiential, engaging retail employees to drive sales and improve the customer experience is more important than ever. 

The size of the retail industry and workforce is growing, employees are younger, communication is difficult, and disengagement is affecting the performance of retail teams worldwide. This we know. But how can you pull it all together? Yes, increasing engagement and your choice of communication channels are important, but understanding how to harness these options and drive your team’s performance is even more critical to success. Here are a few tactics to help you make this happen:

1. Set goals and establish KPIs

Communicating clear goals to your retail team is a critical step in driving the discretionary effort retailers need. It ensures associates are fully aligned on how their tasks contribute to the organization’s success. Work with your team to establish store-wide or company-wide sales goals. Are you working towards an overall sales target? Or are you focusing on selling a specific product or promotion? Then, establish key performance indicators to measure the success of the specific goals. KPIs could range from measuring customer satisfaction, sales, and gross margin, or sales per square foot.

Goal setting will help to create a sense of focus amongst the retail team. Working towards one common goal will give your store or company initial momentum to having a well-oiled, high functioning retail team.

2. Share, share, share information (then look for gaps!)

Consumers are informed like never before. When you’re mobilizing your team around specific KPIs in retail – whether it be for a product launch, new promo, or other key event – a crucial early step is ensuring your associates are armed with the information they need to really make the launch shine. 

“Customers have access to so much information that they’re often walking into a location with more knowledge than an associate,” explains Nudge COO Jordan Ekers in a recent interview. “We as consumers have all experienced this. That is completely broken and causing a fundamental shift where brands are investing more in their people.”

So how can retailers deliver the information associates need to drive memorable customer experiences? We recommend bite-sized info to avoid info overload. Then use knowledge testing to identify retention rates and cast a light on the gaps that need addressing.

3. Standardize task execution

Effective communication isn’t just about providing context on products and promotions. It’s also about being clear and direct on the tasks and processes associates are expected to complete. We’ve already talked about the importance of clear goals and KPIs, and ensuring your retail team knows exactly how to reach these goals through task execution is a critical component of keeping them aligned on how they can contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Our recommendation? Bake task executions and checklists right into your existing communication channels to keep everything corralled into one place (we can recommend a great one). 

4. Create a sense of challenge

Create a sense of challenge amongst your staff based on the goals and KPIs that you are trying to reach. Then, gamify the challenge to take motivation and performance to the next level. Applying game-design principles to non-game scenarios, such as reaching a sales goal, has the potential of increasing employee engagement by 48%. Try setting up a point system or leaderboard to motivate your team to reach the next goal. You can set up a challenge or contest manually, online, or through a mobile application. It will help to keep company goals in mind and will generate excitement amongst team members!

5. Foster a culture of learning

On-the-job learning should be continuous- even after employees have been onboarded and trained. It’s important to keep your employees updated on new products, promotions, and company-wide goals. Educating customer-facing employees is a key component to improving the overall customer experience.

That also might mean reinforcing tasks on an ongoing basis. The repeated recall of information can improve knowledge retention by up to 80 percent, so reiterating SOPs, tasks, and goals during huddles or through microlearning is a great way to ensure your staff is prepared. After all, a highly educated employee is an employee that will perform well. Organizations with a strong learning culture have proven to be 52% more productive and 17% more profitable than their peers.

6. Establish a continuous feedback loop

Make communication between head office and frontline employees a business priority. Provide a space for two-way communication, where employees can give feedback and get responses, whether it is through your digital communication platform or other feedback channel.

Getting continuous feedback from your retail staff can be beneficial to both parties. Does your frontline have ideas to make your next in-store promotion better? Are there inefficiencies that need addressing? Does the promotional material need clarifying? Asking these questions will help you build stronger relationships and create opportunities for innovation and problem-solving.

7. Retail employee recognition | NudgeCelebrate performance and achievement

The valuation of our work is directly tied to the amount of effort we’ve put in. The harder the project is, the prouder we feel of it, even if it does not generate big results. Try providing prizes, rewards, or even simple recognition to employees from their managers to celebrate positive performance. Acknowledging an employee’s achievements can all go a long way.

After all, according to our research, 40% of retail associates say recognition makes them feel engaged and motivated at work. Recognition is an important psychological need, which means it should be an important piece of your internal business structure.

Driving frontline performance and hitting those KPIs in retail starts with preparation and monitoring your workforce readiness on an ongoing basis. Once you start to hone in on those indicators, you can really start to unlock operational consistency – and retail team success.