Recognition in Retail

Recognition in Retail

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89% of senior managers said their organization is good at showing appreciation to workers.

30% of employees gave their firms low marks when it comes to shining a light on their achievements.

Unfortunately, this type of disparity in what Executive/Senior Leadership perceives to what the employees experience is nothing new. These two entities inside a retail organization work within their own bubbles and often times initiatives and programs that are believed to be functioning, go by the wayside for any number of reasons, such as:

  • They aren’t made to be important
  • The team leaders don’t feel recognized/appreciated so why should they recognize their team [this actually happens]
  • They aren’t consistent
  • It becomes a program of compliance and therefore becomes disingenuous

Done well, a recognition program, is a valuable tool that will help improve:

  • Employee Retention
  • Employee Happiness/Wellbeing
  • Peer-to-Peer Relationships
  • Consistent Focus on Company Values/Mission Statement
  • Consistent Performance Results Relative To Company Goals & Objectives

From Robert Half’s OfficeTeam, here are some Easy Ways To Rock Recognition:

  1. Say Thanks: Regularly acknowledge employees’ great work verbally. Point out how their efforts will help the company, or assist colleagues, and customers.
  2. Put It In Writing: Prepare a handwritten thank-you note or copy senior executives on an email about a worker’s accomplishment.
  3. Publicize Achievements: Feature standout employees in the company newsletter or recognize them at a staff meeting [Do this first!].
  4. Keep A Record: Save reminders of each employees’s contributions so you have that information handy and can  refer to it during stay interviews/performance reviews – this will ensure balance in feedback and multiple opportunities for recognition.
  5. Spread The Word: Share a message sent by a customer or an executive lauding the work of a fellow team member. Using a recognition platform can help keep this process social and engaging for your team. When they are involved, it will become a great source of interaction and accomplishment.
  6. Encourage Professional Development: Give them the tools they need to become passionate self-directed learners. Pay for or reimburse your employees for participation in industry associations or relevant conference opportunities that will build their career capital.
  7. Award Them: Nominate staff for external or internal accolades, such as employee of the month. Company awards may come with enviable prizes like flex-time opportunities or the opportunity to learn other areas of the business.
  8. Meet & Eat: Treat your direct reports to lunch to discuss career goals and department objectives – or just to say “thank you” for their hard work.
  9. Monetary Rewards: If budgets permit, consider spot bonuses for truly amazing contributions.
  10. Give A Little: Offer gift cards, movie passes or sporting event tickets to employees who go above and beyond on a project. Tailor these to the people that matter most to the employee [if it’s a working parent with a spouse and two children – make sure you give the appropriate number of passes]. Including the family and/or the person(s) that matter most to the employee will help connect that the employer truly cares about them.
  11. Show Your Appreciation: You know your team best, make the reward personal and meaningful to your team member for their contribution to the business.
  12. Celebrate Milestones: Organize team lunches or off-site outings to recognize the completion of projects or special events, such as work anniversaries [make sure you invite the significant other of the person you are celebrating if it is a birthday or anniversary!].
  13. Give The Gift Of Time:  Offer [and encourage] time off or extra vacation days for a job well-done.
  14. Introduce Them To Management: Reward workers with a coffee or lunch meeting with company executives. [One of my favorite programs that I implemented was to take a photo of my top performer/team for the month and create a “newsletter” around them and their success/contributions – I would then send this to my bosses. This put names and faces to great results and when my bosses interacted with that person/team they knew how special they were and served as a powerful icebreaker and communication tool.]
  15. Offer The Power Of Choice: Give your top performers the first option of working on desirable or challenging projects.
  16. Develop Leaders: Recognize an employee’s skills by asking him or her to mentor others.
  17. Present Advancement Opportunities: Even the most engaged employees will grow restless in the same role for too long. Make sure you take the time to career path plan with this employee so they understand their future and their importance within your organization.

The Reality Of Employee Recognition

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According to TinyPulse’s 2014 Employee Engagement Report, they identified that a massive 79% of employees don’t feel strongly valued for the work they put in. Since employee recognition plays such a critical role in impacting employee happiness, they determined what other factors it affects too. They surveyed over 4,500 employees around the world to find out how important employee recognition truly is. Here are the trends they found:

  • Retention is tied to recognition: Employees want to work for an organization that not only values their work but also shows them appreciation. We found a strong relationship between recognition and likelihood to stick around at the job.
  • Praise sways the perception of the work environment: No one wants to work at a place that ignores its employees. Our research revealed the positive link between recognition and an employee’s perception of the workplace.
  • Appreciation improves peer-to-peer relationships: Employees want to recognize their peers. When someone feels valued, they’re more likely to rate their colleague with a higher score.
  • Employee-supervisor relationships rely on recognition: The same goes with managers. Employees want to work for someone who appreciates their contributions to the organization, and our research validated that point.

But surprisingly, recognition plays a tremendous role in fighting attrition. This survey found a strong relationship between how valued an employee feels at work and the likelihood that they would “reapply” to their job [what an interesting concept and a great question to ask your team!].  If an employee shows enthusiasm to reapply to their current position, it’s an indicator that they are currently satisfied with their work and will, likely, be there for a while. When the survey asked employees how likely they would reapply for their current job, it was apparent that feeling valued and getting recognized play a critical role in their happiness. As I have said before, we look at – especially in the field – our team members as being revolving door employees. We believe they will jump ship for a little more money in a different company. They won’t if they are treated fairly, respectfully, and given a path plan for their future that they are involved in.

If Employee Retention isn’t an initiative your retail organization considers, it needs to be. Just look at the stats TalentWise discovered:

  • When employees leave, they take 70% of their knowledge with them
  • To replace an employee, it costs up to 150% of the annual salary associated with that position
  • It takes eight months for a new employee to become fully productive

While the monetary impact of a poor hire can be up to $200K, functioning without employees in key roles can cost more than $7,000 per day — $210,000 every month a position isn’t filled.

What organization can afford that expense and loss of knowledge? Additionally, as I have mentioned in a previous article:

  • “55% of workers say they would leave their current jobs for a company that clearly recognizes its employee efforts and contributions” [Source: Globoforce]
  • “47% of employees cite a lack of recognition or a negative company culture as a reason for leaving their last employer”
  • “Just 21% of employees feel strongly valued in their workplace, and just one out of four feels fully recognized for doing great work.”

The Power of Workplace Relationships

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70% of employees credited their peers for creating an engaging environment, while perks such as work functions, parties, or amenities only accounted for 8%. [Source: TinyPulse] In fact, in retail there shouldn’t be a clear, distinct line dividing work from fun. Fun and enjoyment of your culture, your role, your coworkers is a critical workplace motivator. Badgeville’s survey revealed that 90% of employees find a fun work environment very or extremely motivating.

Randy Stocklin, CEO of One Click, shares why he believes workplace fun and peers are intertwined:

“Everything we do, from our culture to our corporate values and our customer experience, is dependent upon engaged and committed team members enjoying what they do every day. We believe that happy team members who are having fun make happy, loyal customers, and that is the key to building lasting relationships and highly respected brands.”

Here are six easy-to-implement ideas today to show your appreciation to the people who help your brand be great every single day:

  1. Be specific in your appreciation – “Thank you for making your week happen.” “Thank you for staying late to finish the project – it looks incredible” The message shows that you noticed and care and the person knows what you value and can repeat the action for you!
  2. Thank immediately – Make it easy for yourself by having a few “Thank-you” cards on hand. The few minutes it takes sign and send a card speak volumes more about your appreciation than a quickly drafted email.
  3. Share the news – If you do use email to show appreciation, be sure to c.c. the CEO, or manager, outlining how the employee’s effort helped the company. This builds trust and integrity in the culture.
  4. Smile – It’s easy (and free!) to do – just makes sure it’s genuine.
  5. Make it personal – Today, visit face-to-face all the people on your team. Tell them one great thing they do to make your job easier.
  6. Cultivate kindness – Start a daily “Act of Kindness” campaign [this has a HUGE impact!] – tie these into the company mission and values for full impact.

Genuine recognition is such a driver for so many areas of the business. To not make it a focus and a business priority – when it delivers so much benefit when done correctly – means that your company will continue the cycle of turnover and your organization will continue to incur costs by having key roles, and customer-facing roles open and filled with team members who are maybe just “good enough” but will never deliver greatness to your brand, their peers, the customer.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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