There’s nothing like the feeling of a job well done — except maybe being recognized for your efforts.
Intrinsic rewards are satisfying, but knowing your efforts are valued by others can be equally motivating. That’s the thought behind employee recognition: The formal acknowledgment of an employee’s exceptional effort in supporting an organization’s goals and values.
This concept is just as applicable in the world of retail. As a retailer, your employees are your biggest asset — and motivating them can also be one of your biggest challenges. But that’s where employee recognition comes in.
The Value of Appreciation
Appreciation and recognition are essential to a successful workplace. Employees respond to positive recognition because it confirms their work is valued by others. This, in turn, makes them more satisfied in their job and motivates them to continue performing at peak levels.
Satisfied employees are more productive, offer better customer service, and have better relationships with suppliers. A survey from CareerBuilder found that 50% of employees believed better recognition would lead to less voluntary turnover, and the benefits of recognizing your employees for their superior work have far-reaching results.
According to an analysis of 10,000 business units in 30 industries conducted by Gallup, these benefits can also include:
- Higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.
- Enhanced teamwork between employees.
- Better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.
- Lower negative effects such as absenteeism and stress.
Recognizing employees for their efforts is a huge component in communication, and while measuring the direct impact on profitability is hard because it’s only one factor in the equation, what we do know is that in 2016, only about a third of U.S. employees were engaged at work, which reflects a lack of motivation that recognition could help to increase.
FURTHER READING: Learn more tactics to motivate your retail employees and optimize productivity.
Guidelines For Recognition
In order to most effectively recognize your staff, there are some simple guidelines you can put into place:
Create Goals and Action Plans for Employee Recognition
Don’t use a scattershot approach when recognizing your employees by trying to implement too many things in the hope one sticks. Just like you have goals and plans for your retail store, you need to goals and plans for what you want to achieve through your employee recognition efforts.
Ari Kopoulos, CEO at HR software provider EmployeeConnect, recommends creating clear criteria for work performance as a best practice for encouraging a culture of employee recognition. And establishing a recognition program can take your efforts to the next level.
“...a formal employee recognition program is so important for your organization regardless of industry, size or customer base,” he says in a recent article in Human Resources Today.
What will constitute recognition? How often will this take place? Figure out the actions, behaviors, and accomplishments that you know will make your business more productive and efficient. Kopoulos recommends tying your employee performance directly to your retail business goals so that employees understand these benchmarks and how their actions impact the business.
For example, if they exceed a certain amount of sales in a month, recognize this effort with an “employee of the month” lunch on your tab or a bonus in their check. This way they know that certain behavior will be rewarded and when that reward will take place.
Ensure Criteria Is Fair, Clear, and Consistent
Employees need to see that everyone has an equal likelihood of receiving recognition for their efforts and that higher-ups don’t play favorites. When an employee is recognized, make sure everyone knows why and that the criteria for employee recognition is clearly stated and understood.
Kopoulos emphasizes that it’s important to reward “people based on objective accomplishments and not subjective opinions” — which is why it’s crucial to be clear and consistent when recognizing any of your retail employees.
Analysis by the Gallup organization found that only one in three U.S. workers strongly agree they have received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past week. However, there’s a fine line between positively acknowledging employee behavior and employees expecting that recognition each and every time they perform the action and that they begin to feel entitled.
For example, if employees are given free lunch every time they receive a compliment from a customer, they’ll come to expect a free lunch every time and it ceases to be effective — and they will become bitter at the lack of reward. Each retailer will have to find their own system.
Be Specific About Each Recognition Received
It’s not useful to just give someone a reward for being "employee of the month." Instead reward them for a certain behavior — excellent customer service, a creative floor display, etc. — that you would like to see them continue to do in the future.
“It’s critical to be specific, personal and accurate. Nothing could be more counterproductive than getting the facts wrong and recognizing someone for general work while ignoring specific accomplishments,” Kopoulos says.
Implement Peer-To-Peer Recognition
While you would like to think that as a retail manager your word is as reward enough, the reality is that your employees would also like to be recognized and acknowledged by their peers.
Coworkers are intimately familiar with each other’s day-to-day work, so when they’re acknowledged for their efforts, it has a meaningful impact. A JetBlue survey revealed that for every 10% increase in people reporting being recognized, JetBlue saw a 3% increase in retention and a 2% increase in engagement.
Many peer recognition programs are "social" — anyone in the company can recognize anyone else using something like a point system. The recognition can be public and displayed on a "leaderboard" so everyone can see them. In addition, companies like Achievers and Globoforce sell cloud-based platforms that make this easy. The point is to form a sense of community in which every person’s efforts are valued, leading to a more positive work environment — and hopefully more profits.
Provide Immediate Feedback
When a person performs positively, recognize that behavior as soon as possible. Timely reinforcement of behavior will enhance positive feelings. An IBM survey found that engagement levels of employees that receive recognition from their managers are almost three times higher than those who do not. And a comprehensive study from Adobe found that 80% of employees prefer immediate feedback to annual reviews.
Many — or even most — achievements might easily be forgotten in a 12-month long gap. Tell the employee something you like about what they’re doing, offer up a couple of suggestions to make it even better, and follow up with a compliment around something more personal like their dedication to that particular task even though the store was busy.
Employee Recognition Ideas
Employees can be recognized in a variety of ways. While one person may enjoy recognition during a team huddle, another might prefer a little something extra in their paycheck. The best way to determine what an employee finds rewarding is to ask them, but here are a few ideas:
There are simply cards given out every time you want to reward their behavior, with one to three cards given out each week. The cards are worth between $2 and $5 can be redeemed by you, the manager, for gift cards to the local cafe or bookstore, for example.
If you’ve set up a peer-to-peer recognition program, enter your employee’s name into a jar every time they recognize ones of their colleagues. The more times they acknowledge their peers, the higher the chance their name will be chosen. At the end of the week, draw out two names from the jar and send them out to lunch.
Every month, take to your store’s social media channels and profile an employee who exemplified great customer service behavior during the month. Introduce them to your fans, and encourage them to come into the store and meet the employee themselves.
Hootsuite is a great example of this, as they frequently feature their employees on their Instagram account. Whether it’s pointing out an exceptional job being done or highlighting a fun team-building activity, they never fail to tag the employee in the description, which usually results in more engagement.
Offer “Secret” Surprises
If an employee goes above and beyond the call of duty, surprise them by including a surprise bonus in their paycheck or with a gift card to their favorite local lunch spot.
Send Them a Card
Yes, an actual card. Sending a handwritten note directly to their house will show how much you appreciate their efforts.
If you see an employee going above and beyond, reward them by doubling the amount of time they can take for their lunch break. If you want to recognize a group, have that lunch catered in.
Build An Employee Retention Program
In an effort to keep employees around, reward them with a cash bonus for every year they are employed at your store. When they reach five years, offer days of paid time off that they must use. They’ll appreciate it and come back refreshed.
FURTHER READING: Learn more about how to increase your retail employee retention rate.
Moving Forward With Employee Recognition
Each retailer is different, so what works for one might not work for another. But there really aren’t any drawbacks to letting your employees know you appreciate their hard work. Try a different idea here and there, and be genuine with your recognition.