Employee Motivation in Retail Sector: 3 Strategies for Motivating Retail Employees

Employee Motivation in the Retail Sector: 3 Strategies for Motivating Retail Employees

Jul 26, 2022 10:31:38 AM

Employee experience | Retail

Employee motivation in the retail sector is a tough one to crack. 

A 2022 survey of 1,400 retail and hospitality workers found that 47% of frontline employees don’t feel satisfied with the recognition they receive. 

Download the survey report to learn more!

Employee Motivation in Retail sector

This means they won’t feel motivated to perform their best.

When customers are demanding, hiring is a challenge, and store teams feel overloaded, keeping morale high can feel like an uphill battle.

Where are employers going wrong with motivating retail employees?

We’ve looked into the science of motivating retail employees and drawn up some strategies for retailers to keep employees engaged and motivated throughout the most stressful and testing times.


What creates employee engagement and motivation?

Which conditions create motivation on a general level? 

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely conducted an experiment mimicking workplace conditions to find out what makes us feel good about our work. What really motivates people to keep going, even when the going gets tough. 

Participants were given a sheet of paper filled with random letters and asked to circle identical pairs of letters. Participants were paid for each page they completed, and after each page, they were asked if they wanted to complete another for slightly less money.

The participants were divided into 3 groups. Participants in Group 1 would write their name on their page and hand it to the experimenter after they completed it. The experimenter would scan the sheet top to bottom, acknowledge the participant and then put the sheet on a pile beside them.

In Group 2, participants didn’t write their name and their completed sheets went straight into the pile without a scan or acknowledgment from the experimenter.

In Group 3, the completed sheets went right into a shredder.

And the results? Group 1 worked harder and longer until they were paid only 15 cents per page. Group 3, who saw their work destroyed before their eyes, stopped working at 30 cents per page.

But what about Group 2, who didn’t get any recognition for their work? They stopped working at just a few cents less than Group 3.

How does this apply to employee motivation in retail? It turns out that receiving no recognition for your work is almost as demotivating as seeing your work tossed into a shredder. People are willing to work for longer, even if the work isn’t the most exciting, because they’re recognized for it.

So how can employee motivation in the retail sector be done better? Use these 3 strategies for motivating retail employees to create an engaged and resilient workplace community.


Best practices for motivating retail employees

  1. Align with values

A shared sense of purpose and a mutual goal is a sure-fire way to build community. Workers who feel aligned with their company's purpose are more productive, healthier, more resilient, more likely to stay at the company, and more engaged than workers who don’t. 

Employees need to know how the work they do every day is contributing to business goals. Nothing is more motivating than seeing the progress you’ve made and seeing the wider impact of your work. Yet only 28% of millennials find it easy to understand whether their work meets company expectations.

Things like improving customer satisfaction levels, increasing conversion rate, and basket size are goals for every store. So it’s illogical that store associates have no visibility into what these metrics are and how they’re personally contributing to them.

 Providing store teams with real-time feedback and regular communication around how they’re making an impact makes it clear how they’re contributing to the company mission. Seeing real numbers around progress is a real source of motivation and team bonding for store associates.


2. Highlight paths to progression

Motivate retail employees by establishing complete transparency around how to progress towards goals. 64% want opportunities for career growth within the organization yet 1 in 2 aren’t satisfied with the opportunities for progression they currently have.

If employees know exactly which steps to take to reach their goals, they’ll feel more motivated to take them.

Use learning pathways in your training that clearly link training to progression. This shows store teams how to work towards their personal and professional goals, linking daily and weekly learning to long-term career development.


3. Build community

A key part of motivating retail employees is creating a social sense of community.

Frontline retail roles are social by nature, people apply for them because they enjoy interacting with others. Tap into this and create spaces where employees can collaborate and spur each other on.

According to our 2022 survey report, 30% of frontline workers feel that a professional messaging app would make their job easier and ¼ would appreciate being able to connect with company news and updates on breaks or whilst they are away.

Post positive customer feedback on the company newsfeed and encourage more experienced workers to mentor their peers by sharing advice and best practices in comments forums.


Retailers including GANT, Johnston & Murphy, Lancôme, Lacoste, The Kooples, and Leyland SDM maximize employee motivation using the YOOBIC all-in-one digital workplace. To see how it works, schedule a demo!