Rescuing Your Most Valuable Retail Team Members

Rescuing Your Most Valuable Retail Team Members

Building and developing a great team takes tremendous dedication and effort. As retail leaders we work tirelessly to guide and mentor our team and especially our top performers. Most of the time people leave because they are unhappy with their boss, their path, or their coworkers. Most of us have our A & B players [high-productivity & high-potential] that we are truly committed to saving. Part of the challenge of creating a high-performance retail team with an extraordinary reputation is that they are prime candidates for recruitment. Great retail leaders know talent when they see it, because it is so rare, and there needs to be a very real and actionable program in place to keep your best employees challenged, intrigued, and engaged in their work, the culture, and their organization. And to recognize and reward their contribution to the business.

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In retail we have the propensity to burn out our most valuable employees. It is an egregious reality that retail organizations, generally, do little more for their top performers than give them more work and added responsibilities. In a case like this, it is very compelling – from the employees perspective that – when an opportunity comes along that provides either a salary commensurate with the role that they are performing or an opportunity for to elevate their title and offer growth, development, and career path planning – for them to consider and accept the offer.

Or you may be risking losing someone who was great, still displays a lot of potential but has experienced a few set-backs in their career. They are valuable to the team and you want to bring them back to path of success.

A Sign Of A Remarkable Leader

As retail senior and executive leaders we understand the needs of the business and our commitment to our teams and we work relentlessly toward a purpose that we are passionate about, when you are so invested and engaged, burnout is almost inevitable. Great leaders know this; it’s part of the process, and we have our own strategy for dealing with it.

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When it’s your most valuable assets [your people] feeling the burn, on the other hand, you have a critical and time-sensitive problem on your hands. You have to take the right steps to assess the situation and determine your role in improving their happiness, job satisfaction, reputation, career path, etc. Reorienting can be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible—and the effort is absolutely worth it.

The great thing about being an involved and accessible retail leader is that you are committed to building relationships that support open communication. Usually when your best and most valuable employees start feeling a little “meh” about their work they will either show clear signs of disengagement or they will speak up. This is a call to action that must be addressed seriously and quickly.

Ideas To Help Rescue a Valuable Employee From Burnout

  • Send Them Away: Sometimes even just one gifted day away from the office [with pay – that doesn’t come out of their PTO] can do wonders. Send them to a spa for the day or a driving range and then treat them [and their significant other* & children] to a dinner and movie in the evening. Not only will that employee feel appreciated, but they will come back refreshed, recharged, and grateful. That small investment can go a long way in not only retaining the employee, but also maximizing their renewed productivity. This shows them that you care about their well-being and their sacrifice of time away from friends and family. *Research confirms that failures of executive new hires is close to 50%. Mostly due to personal and family dissent than job related issues.
  • Give Them Their Best Shot: Most of the time your best employee don’t need a lot of your time; they’re remarkable because they already have qualities that make them amazing and driven. But you can never step away from these people as they are the future leaders of the organization. But supporting and putting extra effort into a high-potential [but struggling] employee has tons of upside; rescue them and you make a tremendous difference. Granted, sometimes it won’t work out. When it doesn’t, don’t worry about it.  Let your effort be the reward. Frequently, a rescued employee will succeed—and you will have made a huge difference in a person’s professional life.

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  • Give Them Options: Would they prefer to shift roles with someone? Would like like to experience a different department or volume store? Ask your employee if they would like to learn something new and train someone else to help her with her current role. Doing something new will be a refreshing change of pace and will also increase that employee’s value to your organization. And, whoever they are cross-training will also become more valuable as well!
  • Have Them Tell You What Their Passion Project Would Be: Valuable employees are valuable because they are remarkable, innovative, and creative business drivers. They also are, likely, solution-oriented and focused on delivering unique and improved processes. Find out what these are and then allocate payroll to allow them to step away from their “job description” to do something that is energizing and engaging for them. Be available to them but get out of their way and let them own every aspect of this project. Spending time with your team supports finding out something that brings them joy, enthusiasm and excitement. Try to help connect them with that joy again.

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  • Encourage Them To Look Elsewhere: Retail is a fickle industry. Sometimes you have developed someone and they are anxious and antsy for the next step but it is not available to them, right now.  It is also filled with bureaucracy, red tape, and personal opinions. Sometimes your amazing team members have offended someone higher-up or just rub them the wrong way and opportunity is not as available to them as it may be to someone else. In a case like this –  you have an employee that may be truly bored, their attitude will become one of indifference and may hurt the morale and productivity of the rest of your team. Have an honest conversation and give this person space to look for a new role. A job search will help people define their passion; seeing other situations may even help them to realize that the grass isn’t greener elsewhere.  Honesty will go further than pacifying them by dangling a carrot that is unlikely to ever come to fruition. This will also support this person returning to your organization if the person(s) who stalled their growth moves on or if you move into a new organization that would be a fit for them. People work for people, after all.
  • Champion A Raise For Them: Retail can be a bit stingy when it comes to compensation; some moldy, crusty organizations still use matrix pay scales and min/max ranges to determine salaries and hourly rates for their team members, regardless of value, depth of skill, or ability to deliver results.  When you have a team member that delivers results that exceed expectation on their job description, is passionate for the business, the leadership, and the culture and contributes positively to all of those things – they are worth a conversation about a salary increase.


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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