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Guide: Retail Employee Engagement, Rewards & Recognition

Over recent years, one factor has been key to successfully navigating the rapidly changing retail landscape: your employees. Whether it’s increasing productivity or reducing turnover, a… View Article


Guide: Retail Employee Engagement, Rewards & Recognition

Over recent years, one factor has been key to successfully navigating the rapidly changing retail landscape: your employees. Whether it’s increasing productivity or reducing turnover, a motivated workforce is essential to business success. In fact, Gallup found that companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable. But with only one-fifth of people saying they’re engaged at work in 2022, many companies have a long way to go to achieve this.

So, how can you make sure your employees are motivated? The simple act of acknowledging people’s contributions can have a huge impact on employee engagement in the retail sector. There are plenty of ways to do this, but nothing makes your front-line talent feel like real retail rockstars more than being nominated for an industry award.

It’s time to discover the best ways you can maximise your employee engagement. Get inspired with some employee recognition ideas in our “Ultimate Guide to Retail Employee Engagement, Rewards and Recognition.”

How to motivate & engage retail employees 

A customer’s experience of shopping for a product or service is critical to a retail business’ success. With engaged employees creating a 10% higher customer loyalty, it’s clear that if you want to better serve your customers, you need motivated people serving them. 

Of course, lots of factors can impact your employees’ engagement ( and you can find more about these in our employee engagement virtual conference, webinar and guide). But to keep you focused, we’ve compiled the top six areas that every retail business should consider when looking to improve workforce motivation:

  1. Recognise and reward your top performers

As the competition for talent escalates, the way organisations show that they value their employees’ contributions is more important than ever. To create and retain a workforce of top performers, you need to build a culture where employee recognition is a normal part of day-to-day life. 

Don’t just let your people’s enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment go unrecognised. Reward their achievements. Make those individuals feel truly valued and reinforce what great service looks like.  Internal awards related to targets, goals or overall performance are an excellent way of recognising the great job your staff are doing and how it contributes to your business. 

“We have various reward and incentive programmes to show our appreciation and reward our teams with something that is meaningful to them. Employees go above and beyond when they know that they are viewed as more than a cog in the wheel – they are a person too with other responsibilities outside of work”, says Superdrug people director Amy Davies. 

Or better yet, go to the next level by nominating your star employees for industry awards, like our People in Retail Awards 2023. Submit your nominations to honour your very best people, and show the industry what your organisation has to offer employees. 

  1. Connect your employees to your company

Make sure you keep your employees in the loop of what’s going on with your company. 

If you don’t share crucial information effectively, people will come to their own conclusions. At no time has this been more critical then during the COVID pandemic. 

“We’d put out communications on the company app after any government announcement so colleagues got instant communications, which showed them what to then communicate with customers. We could all see this on the app. Everybody could also see the Q&A’s. It was all transparent and we admitted when we didn’t know the answers. The communications became a bit more human,” says Sharon Ashcroft, HR director at Ford Retail. 

This type of open transparency and communication is important to nurture even now. Give your staff regular updates on your financial performance and business objectives. And, don’t forget to make it clear how this relates to their work. 

Get employees involved in your latest developments. Testing out new products is a great way to get people from across your organisation to engage with, and contribute to your wider business goals.

  1. Empower them to do their work effectively

It goes without saying that if employees aren’t equipped to do their job effectively, they will get frustrated. If this continues, it may lead to people checking out completely or ‘quiet quitting’. 

To avoid this, you need to make sure that everyone has what they need to do their job well – the right gear and information. For example, this can be as simple as publishing work schedules as soon as you’re able or making sure that people are introduced to every employee working their shift.

  1. Offer employee benefits

Employee rewards, benefits and discounts are more than just a ‘perk’ or an add-on. When properly considered, comprehensive and useful, benefits positively impact employees’ wellbeing and make them feel valued. 

Offering a workplace package that’s truly appreciative, supportive and flexible not only improves morale, but also makes you stand out from other employers. 

With the current recession in full swing, many retailers have opted out to introduce targeted benefits to help their employees shoulder the burden of rising costs. One example is The John Lewis Partnership. In September 2022 they announced that it will be awarding its staff a one-off payment and free food over the winter in response to the cost-of-living crisis. 

  1. Focus on learning and development 

In the ever-changing world of retail, learning and development are critical for staying ahead. If you’re not offering your employees opportunities to develop their skills, you’ll not only fall behind the competition but be faced with a disengaged workforce. A lack of learning and development opportunities impacts everything, from team morale to the customer experience. Ultimately, it will also stop you from staying up to date with the latest industry developments and meeting customer expectations. 

By setting clear, meaningful targets and goals and providing ongoing, constructive feedback, you keep employees motivated and create a sense of progression. Stay future-focused and your workforce will be confident in your business and the transferable skills they’re developing.

  1. Build a culture that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

Building a culture people can get behind is key to improving workforce motivation and engaging your employees. Luckily these days that culture is one that has people at the heart of the organisation. Creating an equitable and inclusive workplace also helps to create a positive employee experience.

A great idea is emphasize and define the importance of people within your ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiatives. A great example of this is at Groupon who within their ESG policy notes:

“We believe that DEI must be infused in every aspect of our business. In each of our offices around the world, we strive to create environments that transcend cultural differences, beliefs, or places of origin to create a beautiful tapestry reflective of our similarities and shared goals. Diverse voices and experiences make us a better company and unlock better decision-making processes and outcomes”.

What’s the importance of reward & recognition for retail employees?

Rewards and recognition can impact far more than just employee engagement. Before we explore some ways to promote an appreciative work culture, let’s look at the five biggest benefits that reward and recognition schemes for retail employees can bring to your business.

  1. Build company culture

Putting recognition at the heart of your operations will have a positive impact on your company’s culture. When praising peers’ strengths and recognising their hard work becomes a regular part of business, all employees benefit. A work culture based on mutual appreciation builds trust and respect among the members of the workforce and makes sure everyone is working together towards your business goals.

  1. Create a competitive edge 

Providing rewards and recognition will promote a sense of healthy competition between colleagues. That means employees will strive to do their best. This helps employees’ professional development and ensures you achieve your business goals faster, so you can stay ahead of the competition.

  1. Build relationships

Most employees’ experience at work is dependent on their colleague relationships – and particularly that with their manager. After all, it’s a well-worn phrase that “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers”. Reward and recognition for retail employees provide a way for managers to build relationships by showing how much they value their team. 

  1. Boost team spirit

Whether it’s an award, manager recognition or peer-to-peer praise, rewards and recognition play a vital role in team morale. When recognition becomes an everyday occurrence in your company, it builds a sense of camaraderie and improves your team spirit.

  1. Improve employee retention

Being recognised as a best-in-class employer will build your brand. If you’re recognised as the best, the top talent will want to work with you. A reputation for a positive work environment will support the development and retention of great employees, and attract excellent new recruits to your business.

Reward & recognition ideas to engage retail employees

So, how can you engage your employees with rewards and recognition and start to see some of these benefits? 

There are plenty of different approaches you can take to reward and recognise your employees. Here are five retail employee engagement ideas to get you inspired.

Get to know your staff

Every organisation is different. So, start by taking the time to get to know your staff. This will help you identify the best approach to rewards and recognition for motivating retail employees in your business. It will also show that you value your employees as individuals, and know their opinion matters. 

Make work fun with some gamification

Appeal to your employees’ competitive side by gamifying your rewards and recognition scheme. From exchanging rewards or appreciation to allocating points on an internal leaderboard, make work fun and you’ll boost the participation and impact of your scheme.

Provide development opportunities

Rather than simply focusing on monetary rewards, such as gift cards, reward employees with something that will progress their skills and career. Offering online classes on a subject of the employee’s choice is a great option. It maximises your employees’ engagement and enables further personal and professional development, which will create an even better performance.

Offer recognition regularly and promptly

If they’re going to have their intended effect, it’s essential that rewards are promptly and consistently applied. Whether it’s saying thank you or organising an employee appreciation event, have a range of rewards ready to go. The sooner that you show you appreciation, the bigger the impact it will have.

Nominate your star employees for awards

And last, but definitely not least, are awards. Both internal recognition schemes and retail sector awards, like our People in Retail Awards 2023, allow your star employees to shine at a company and industry level. This provides a great example of what can be achieved to your current and future employees. 

How to engage retail employees using rewards & recognition

If you’re going to create and maintain employee engagement, you need to show that you value your employees. Recognising and rewarding those who meet and go beyond your expectations can have a powerful effect on morale and performance.

Rewards and recognition in the retail industry can take many forms, but there are three main ways you can demonstrate that you appreciate your employees’ contribution.

Recognise everyday contributions

It may sound obvious, but showing gratitude to your employees can have a big impact. Whether it’s saying thank you face to face, sending a team or organisation-wide acknowledgement or even providing a small gift, authentically showing your appreciation makes employees feel valued. 

However, in the rush to meet targets and deadlines, this simple act can slip down the to-do list and be forgotten. Make sure recognition is a top priority so you don’t miss out on saying thank you to your deserving employees.

Celebrate milestones

Whether it’s a work anniversary or a promotion, celebrating milestones is a great way to acknowledge your employees’ time, effort, passion and energy. 

Sending a generic email to recognise these achievements is not enough. Make it feel personal and special by incorporating details of how their hard work has impacted you, your team members and your business.

Acknowledge and reward achievements 

Awards have always been a popular method of public acknowledgement. Trophies have been presented to distinguished individuals and sportspeople for centuries. And these days awards continue to thrive and recognise all kinds of achievement.

Whether it’s a regular team or company award celebrations or a wall of fame where accomplishments are displayed, an internal employee recognition program is a very effective way to acknowledge success and reward achievements. 

However, as mentioned, awards and trophies don’t have to stay as a ‘shout-out’ within your company. Industry award events, like our People in Retail Awards 2023, are a great way to create an even bigger sense of achievement for individuals and across your organisation. Just one employee receiving a nomination for an industry award can have a big impact on engagement. Winning an award will undoubtedly boost an individual’s confidence. It also nurtures a culture in which people can thrive, knowing their hard work is going to be recognised and rewarded publicly. This won’t just be noticed in your company, but across the industry and by potential future employees.

Final thoughts

After a tough couple of years in the retail industry, it’s even more important to find ways to keep people engaged and motivated. After all, your people are the heartbeat of your retail business.

It’s time employees’ contributions are acknowledged. And recognition and rewards are brilliant ways to show that you truly value their hard work. Providing the right rewards at the right time can have unparalleled positive effects on your organisation. It will lead to improved productivity, higher retention rates and a competitive edge. A better work culture, more positive relationships and boosted morale will ensure your employees are invested in your company goals. It’s win-win!

Of course, there are lots of great ways to say thank you. But if you really want to celebrate the difference your teams and employees are making in your company, nothing does it better than an industry award nomination.

Happy employees go the extra mile simply because they want to contribute to an organisation that cares about them. To us, this is something to be proud of and call out.

The nominations will open soon, so don’t miss out! The Awards will be judged by a panel of industry leaders and experts , including Vishal Talreja

Property Director at itsu, Heather Lee Head of Human Resources at Lincolnshire Co-op and Aaron Chatterley Co-Founder of indu. 

View our entry guide to find out more and book a table.

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