How to increase employee engagement in retail

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Employee engagement in retail has a direct affect on sales and customer satisfaction

We have all had good and bad experiences as customers in retail. It goes without saying that we are much less inclined to buy something if we get a poor reception, than if we are met by a nice and engaged person looking after us in the shop.

Retail is unique in the sense that the staff’s engagement can affect sales and customer satisfaction directly. If you are met by a service oriented person you will certainly prefer to buy the product in that particular shop, even if you can find the same product in other shops. Happy people sell 37% more than others, and are 31% more productive, according to an article in Harvard Business Review.

The reason for why this is so important in retail, is that the majority of the staff work directly with the customers. Regardless if it is out in the shop, by phone or digitally. Engaged staff has a direct affect on sales and customer satisfaction, but also on customer loyalty! In a study made by Microsoft, 96% of customers said that good customer service is an important part of their choice of brand. Engaged coworkers = better customer service = more sales.
So if you are a manager in retail, you and your team will feel and perform much better if you have high employee engagement!

Different reasons for low employee engagement in retail, and what you can do about it

Coworkers in retail have the same psychological needs as everyone else. You can read more about how you as a manager can work with these needs in our different blog posts: competence, autonomy and relatedness

But in retail, you can also point out some concrete examples of what often make coworkers demotivated. Here are some examples:

Badly planned work schedules

An example is when a member of staff ahead of the working week check their schedule, and to their aversion must arrange child care, with short notice, because they are working Wednesday night.

This is just one example of bad planning, that cause irritation among the staff.

Make sure that you have a good system and good routines to schedule the work load. Have a system that is easily accessible by the staff. This will avoid confusion and remove some of the stress among the coworkers.


Customers who have to wait for their turn, long queues, customers not getting the help they consider they have the right to, checkout systems that don’t work, lack of competence, understaffing, missing goods. The reasons behind stress in retail can be many.

It is important to pay attention to this so that you can act when you need to, preferably proactively. Talk about things that cause stress, and what you can influence and do.

Ensure that all employees get the opportunity to recover and to rest, after more stressful periods.

Unhappy customers

Working in retail can be very tough. Some customers are harder to satisfy than others. The treatment that your staff get from some customers can make them think not just that they do a bad job, but it can also lower their self-esteem and reduce their confidence.

It is important to create a good structure to handle this. Enable the coworkers to talk with each other, and of course with yourself, if they have experienced an unpleasant customer.

Try to work proactively with this: how should we act or respond when a customer is unhappy, angry, or sad? Underline that it is seldom the person that the customer is upset with, but the product or the customer experience.

Make sure to work with encouragement and praise to your staff, so that they feel appreciated despite grumpy and rude customers.

Difficult to be able to talk to your manager

Shift work can mean that coworkers within retail don’t get as much time to see and talk to their managers as they might wish. This can lead to a feeling of unclarity, lack of feedback, and that they create different ‘truths’ that can grow and create problems of something that actually isn’t a problem.

A good way is to book frequent one-to-one meetings between manager and coworker, and also trying to have regular meetings where everyone in the group participate.

It can be short meetings; but that everyone can feel seen, get feedback and opportunities to build relations with each other, is a prerequisite for high employee engagement.

Work actively with employee engagement in retail

Just as in other businesses, it is important to continuously measure engagement and wellbeing (link in Swedish) so that you can work with the right activities. This is particularly important in retail, where you might not have time to talk together as a team as often as you might like. Gather feedback and act on what is most important.

As a manager, it is important to focus particularly on continuously encouraging and praising your coworkers’ performance. Set a structure enabling a continuous dialogue between you and your staff, where you as a manager can listen in and support your coworkers.

How do others in retail work with employee engagement?

Panduro knows how employee engagement affects the business

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