How to motivate and retain retail staff

Within the retail trade incentives are usually used as a means of achieving short term results, for example, to achieve high sales performance when a new product is launched.  Likewise, in the bar trade, special offers may be used to encourage customers to purchase new menu options, end of stock alcohol or new products. But such marketing efforts will not work to maximum effect if the staff are not motivated or engaged, or are not up to speed on everything that is going on.

Communication via team talks is a great way to engage staff and gives bar owners and managers an opportunity to motivate them, advise them of the deal of the day, discuss and resolve any issues and try out some role play exercises to assist them in conversing with customers.

The key to a successful incentive scheme is to keep it straightforward.  Simple tools to remind staff about what is on offer include quick reference guides in the staff room, small reminders on order-taking notepads, pens with inbuilt scrolls where the deals of the week can be scribed, and aprons or badges featuring key messages which are relevant to both the customer and staff member.

Managers need to be motivated themselves, and so the employer must drive motivation from the top down.  Being an employer of choice and offering pensions, employee benefit programmes and additional benefits all adds up. 

It is important to identify and understand the basic needs of each employee in order to run an effective incentive programme. Given the relatively low wages of bar staff, incentives don’t have to be complicated to be effective.  Retail vouchers are a good option, covering most people’s desires and providing instant rewards to challenges such as best sales of a certain item of the day, best customer service or best product knowledge demonstration.

Incentive programme ideas include:

  • To increase knowledge – ask staff to provide 3-5 key details of a certain item to every customer they speak to. This is monitored by the manager overhearing or watching, and the staff member gets rewarded every time someone then orders that item.  It becomes habitual and therefore they remember it
    To increase sales – use daily team talks to advise which products carry which reward.  The individual is than at liberty to push the products they prefer based on the reward they want to earn.
  • To improve customer service – ask the customer to complete a very simple questionnaire which is then passed to the manager for assessment.  The epos system can also ask a few questions before the individual pays by credit card. To be quirky, iPads could be used so customers answer whilst waiting for their drinks or food.

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