Frontline Employee Engagement: 5 Strategies for Mastering Engagement in Retail

Frontline Employee Engagement: 5 Strategies for Mastering Engagement in Retail

15 August 2022

Employee engagement

Frontline employee engagement may sound like a corporate buzzword, but it has a real, palpable impact on your employees’ well-being and your business outcomes.

According to a Forbes article that argues Why Deskless Workers Need Better Tech In 2022, deskless workers make up 80% of the global workforce, yet employee engagement efforts are typically focused on those in offices.

In the retail industry where frontline employees are the face of the brand, the failure to invest in store teams can be fatal to a business.

This post will explain the impact of this failure to engage frontline employees, the challenges retailers face when trying to increase engagement, and strategies to effectively engage retail teams.


Why frontline employee engagement matters: 

The role of store employees is uniquely valuable to any retail brand. In the digital age, customers who choose to shop in-store are looking for a personalized, human experience. Every day, sales associates are in the position to make connections and have fulfilling in-person interactions which will win customer loyalty to your retail brand.

Yet a 2022 survey of 1,400 frontline employees found that 44% don’t feel that they are making an impact in their work and only 44% feel that their employer has invested in them.

This means higher turnover, diminished productivity, and lost revenue - a study by Gallup found that engaged workforces have 10% higher customer ratings, 17% higher productivity, and 20% higher sales.


What challenges do retailers face when trying to increase engagement?

Increasing employee engagement in retail comes with its own specific variety of challenges:

  • A notoriously fast turnover industry 

Retailers need to engage new workers quickly when they may only be around for a short period of time.

  • The media myth that brick and mortar is dead 

The myths that brick and mortar will soon be a think of the past and that store teams' jobs could be done by machines prevents employees from feeling empowered and understanding their unique role in the buying journey.

  • Disconnection 

When workers are spread out across lots of locations, working in varying shifts, and may never meet many of their co-workers or higher-ups, they are left feeling out of the loop and unheard.

Despite these challenges, with the right employee engagement strategies, it’s possible to create a genuinely engaged, productive, and profitable workforce.


5 strategies for improving retail employee engagement

1. Truly connect employees

Tools that typically are used to connect employees aren’t adapted to the realities of working in a store. An intranet on a desktop computer might work for office-based employees, but it won’t keep retail workers in the loop when they’re out on the shop floor interacting with customers.

But retail employees need to feel involved and connected to their organization in order to feel engaged with the company's mission, so they need to be equipped with tools built specifically for them. The best way to do this is with a digital workplace: a survey by Coresight Research uncovered that 75% of organizations that had used digital workplace technology to connect their employees reported that their companies have seen an improvement in the level of frontline employee engagement.

One-third of employees feel that a professional messaging app would make their job easier, so a digital workplace that incorporates this will help them feel truly connected.

Implement a BYOD policy or provide employees with mobile devices which they can use to access the digital workplace while on the shop floor. A company newsfeed that all employees can post on using gifs, polls, and videos makes engaging with company updates and connecting with coworkers more engaging.

2. Show them their impact

If employees understand the impact they are having, they will feel more motivated to engage with their work and empowered to perform their best. 

Highlight the impact they are having on customers and business outcomes by regularly posting positive customer reviews and data around how they’ve contributed to KPIs on the company newsfeed. 

Emphasize at onboarding the unique impact they can make as customer-facing workers, continuously highlight this in training, and give them the right training to be able to create genuinely meaningful customer experiences.

For specific tips on improving the quality of training, read this blog: How Retail Sales Training Makes or Breaks the Customer Shopping Experience

3. Give them the chance to build a community

68% of frontline workers value a strong workplace community, but a lot of the time retail communication is heavily top-down and many employees will never have the chance to interact with teams in other stores. This means that they miss out on all the knowledge and best practices that they could learn from each other.

For employees to truly engage with each other, they need a platform that also allows bottom-up and peer-to-peer communication.

To see how this can work, check out how fashion brand GANT connects and engages its store teams across the world!

Additionally, ask managers to recognize their employees with shout-outs and incentives. Rather than the classic ‘employee of the month’ title, use more specific awards for things like completing the most learning, getting named in the most positive reviews, or taking the time to share knowledge and coach other team members. 

Furthermore, use learning to build community with social training which encourages healthy competition between employees. Gamified training uses features like points, battles, and leaderboards to turn learning into a social activity that connects workers.

Read more about How Gamification of Training Boosts Employee Retention in this blog!

4. Show that you’re listening

Show your store teams that you value their input and that they have a role in steering the direction of the business. Invest in tools that allow store teams to give feedback to managers continuously in their day-to-day work.

Giving them the opportunity to regularly share their insights on things like which processes they think could be better, how clear task instructions are, or what they thought of a recent training course, allows HQ to make better decisions.

Additionally, give them a voice with pulse surveys sent regularly to mobile devices and feedback sessions to hear their thoughts.

Then, most importantly, share explanations around how you are implementing their feedback. If employees know that they are being listened to, they will feel more engaged.

5. Show them where their work can take them

There’s a perception of retail as a ‘dead-end job’, but the truth is that, as retail influencer and bestselling author Ron Thurston says:

“There has never been a more exciting, meaningful, and bountiful time to choose retail as a career.”

In fact, 64% want opportunities for career growth within their organization. 

But they don’t know how to get there: 58% of workers don't think their organization has invested in their professional development. 

Why would they engage with their work if they don’t think their employer is interested in helping them progress?

To engage employees and demonstrate that your organization is enthusiastic about their development, link training to progression with personalized learning paths. Learning paths show employees exactly what training they need to complete to reach their professional goals, which means they’ll be more motivated to complete it and apply their skills.

Want to know how a digital workplace could engage your frontline teams? Retailers including Lacoste, Vans, Boots, Logitech, and Audemars Piguet use YOOBIC’s AI-powered digital workplace to create an engaged and empowered workforce. Let us show you how it works!