Fighting employee turnover in the retail environment

Posted on · Posted in Motivation, Productivity, Teams, The Happy Workplace

Guest post from Chris Garrett. The average employee in the modern business setting spends more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else. For most of us full-time work is not optional and for many even the luxury of choosing their workplace or field is just out of reach. As an employer, especially in the retail environment, this reality means that finding ways to motivate and retain your employees can be a constant challenge.

Unless you can afford to offer your clerks and stock workers an amazing wage with great healthcare, you’re probably looking for creative ways to show that you value them. Carefully considering these five aspects of your relationship with your employees will help you hang on to and get the most out of your critical (if low wage) crew.


Most retail locations will have some sort of system in place to honor the top sales person, or the employee of the month, but many do so in such a way that it does as much harm as good. Do the employees know how the winner is determined? Do they know who makes the final decision? If there is a feeling among the crew that employee of the month always goes to the owner’s favorite, or isn’t impacted by their performance, then it is no longer an effective motivation.

Any type of recurring recognition should be clearly defined to the employees, and should be referenced throughout the month. The impact of the competitions will be drastically reduced if employees forget about their existence until the end of the month, when they find out they’ve lost. Be sure to incentivize these competitions with more than a photo on a wall or a pat on the back.

Even just a $10 gift card or a cheap, novelty prize will keep it from feeling like an empty victory. Try to reward more than one type of excellence, to ensure that all competent employees feel that they’re in the running for something.


Hopefully your business has grown enough that you are no longer working the register on an average day. In this case, your employees are in the trenches, on the frontline, and in the line of fire. They are the people who hear customer complaints and compliments; they know what is wasting their time in the course of the day, and what is working for their customers.

When your employees come to you with suggestions or concerns, don’t dismiss them immediately. You’ve come up with a plan, they have to implement it. Be open to their ideas and issues and they will feel valued and respected, even in a low-paying job.


For many retail employees, the phrase ‘dead-end job’ is never far from their thoughts. Believing that there is no opportunity for advancement leaves employees feeling stuck and desperate, and this will make it difficult to get the best out of them. If, however, your business is structured in such a way that there are a few mid-level, higher paying positions to which entry level employees can aspire, you can create hope and encourage longer-term commitments, as well as higher levels of performance.


Whether your retail environment is a small mom and pop shop or a big box store in a mall, offering a space for your employees to relax and bond during breaks and lunches will help them feel appreciated and connected to the other members of their team. Cramming a folding card table in between two stacks of freight doesn’t count as a break room, and whether intentional or not will suggest to your employees exactly how much you value them as people.


The Problems with TeamsOne of the most underused assets in employee relations is the culture of your company. You most likely use it for marketing to your customers, but may not remember its value when interacting with employees.

Bookstore employees tend to be readers, record store employees tend to be music aficionados, and art supply stores tend to be staffed by artists. Use your niche to unite your employees, changing them from a staff to a team. Try to encourage after-hours activities, incorporate your products into your rewards system, and facilitate discussions in the workplace related to your industry.

Some turnover is inevitable, but by treating your employees with respect, recognizing their achievements, giving them hope, and encouraging a team dynamic, you will be able to hang on to them longer, saving yourself the cost of training a new batch of short-term employees every few months.

Chris Garrett is a freelance writer with many years of marketing and retail experience. He has worked with both large and small businesses to coordinate branding materials and develop company culture. He currently writes for, producer of high quality custom wallpapers for commercial décor.