5 Proven Ways to Boost Employee Morale, Increase Productivity, and Drive Sales


Who you have in your store is nearly as important as what you have in it. Your staff has a direct effect on sales, customer satisfaction, and the overall success of your store, which is why it’s important that you should not only invest in finding and hiring the right people but also put in the effort to keep them happy and motivated.

To help you accomplish this, we’ve put together some pointers on how to drive employee morale and performance. Go through them and see whether you can apply them in your retail store.


Regularly recognize people for a job well done

Matt Heller, author of The Myth of Employee Burnout, says that recognition is one of the best ways to stimulate your employees to take the actions you want them to take.

If staff members are making a positive impact on your business, be sure to tell them how awesome they are. “The more people hear how they are having a positive impact on others, the more they will want to do it again and again,” adds Heller.

Also note that recognizing employees shouldn’t be something that you should only do every once in a while. The key to truly motivating people is recognizing the good that they’re doing on a regular basis.

“Too often company initiatives are talked about in an orientation program only to be never mentioned again. This can actually be very demotivating, because people start to wonder why they are doing what they are doing,” he says.

“On the other hand, if you regularly communicate how an employee’s behavior is impacting others, they will start to understand how they support the bigger picture and company goals.”

To illustrate how a storeowner could motivate the staff, Heller offers the following scenario:

Let’s say you have an employee, Josh, who is very good at resetting the store and displays after large crowds have come through. Recognition that ties his behaviors back to the company goals might sound like this:

“Josh, I noticed how quickly you get out on the floor to reset the displays after a big rush of guests. I really appreciate this! It helps the guests find what they need and ultimately creates a more pleasant shopping experience for everyone.”

Now Josh knows that what he does has a direct impact on the guest experience and the performance of the store, and is much more likely to be motivated to take that action again.

Keep this example in mind whenever you see your employees doing their job well. Verbalize how much you value their work and make sure they know that what they’re doing directly affects your business.


Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

Rachel Cooper, a marketing specialist at incentive program platform provider Perks.com, re-affirms the importance of employee recognition but adds that companies must also encourage their staff to recognize their fellow employees.

“Not only is it important that managers recognize employees for a job well done, it is equally important that there is some sort of peer-to-peer recognition going on at work,” mentions Cooper.

“Think about it. People you work with have a large impact on your self-esteem and ability to succeed. These are people you are seeing on a day-to-day basis. Even if you don’t want to admit it, their opinions matter.”

Promote a positive work environment by encouraging your workers to support and build each other up. One effective way of implementing this is by sharing “recognition stories.”

In an article on Forbes.com, Josh Bersin of HR research and advisory firm Bersin & Associates writes that they identified storytelling as one of the most powerful practices in employee recognition.

“When someone does something great and is recognized by their peers, tell people about it,” he writes. “These stories create employee engagement and learning.”

So the next time you have a meeting or even a social gathering with your staff, be sure to brag about their success by telling feel-good recognition stories.

On top of motivating employees to perform better, having a “recognition-rich-culture” can also lower turnover rates. According to a study by Bersin & Associates, companies that do a great job at fostering recognition and engagement “have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than their peers with ineffective recognition programs.”


Pay and train your employees well


(Image source: Harvard Business Review)

Money may not be the only thing driving your staff, but you have to admit that it does play a significant role when it comes to employees—especially in retail.

Multiple studies have shown that retailers with well-paid, well-trained employees outperform competitors that didn’t invest enough in their staff.

In a New Yorker.com piece about retail staffing, James Surowiecki cites a Wharton School study that found that “every dollar in additional payroll led to somewhere between four and twenty-eight dollars in new sales.”

Similarly, MIT professor Zeynep Ton conducted an in-depth study on the operations of various retailers and discovered that companies such as Trader Joe’s, Costco, QuikTrip, and Mercadona, which invest significantly more in their employees, “have high profits, low prices for their industry, excellent operational metrics, and a reputation for great customer service.”

“These retailers deliver great value to their customers, employees, and investors all at the same time,” she adds.

It may be tempting to cut labor costs when you’re trying to increase profits or reduce expenses, but Ton warns that doing this can cause your operations to suffer. Remember that properly stocking shelves and serving customers requires significant effort and judgment; not paying your staff well could discourage them from exerting themselves fully.

As Ton aptly puts it:

It’s the low-paid employee, not the inventory-management software, who notices that a shelf looks messy or that some of the products are in the wrong place. It’s the low-paid employee who notices that some of the lettuce has gone bad or that there are still signs up for last week’s promotion. It’s the low-paid cashier who can tell the difference between serrano peppers and jalapeno peppers during checkout. It’s the low-paid employee who notices that there are too many customers waiting in the checkout and offers to open an additional cash register. When retailers don’t invest in human capital, operational execution suffers and the company pays with lower sales and lower profits than it could have had.

It’s best to view labor as a sales driver rather than a cost driver. Realize that paying and training your employees well leads to better output and, in turn, higher sales and customer satisfaction.


Empower them with better tools

Invest in up-to-date and well-functioning tools and equipment. This not only empowers your staff but also increases productivity and helps them do their jobs better.

Let’s consider the case for upgrading your point-of-sale system. Having your employees use an outdated cash register with limited functionality slows them down, whereas having a cloud-based POS makes their job faster and easier and can enable them to get more things done. (Plus, using a sleek POS system feels much better than a clunky cash register).

The call to give workers more modern tools has been echoed by companies such as Intel. In a study on the effects mobile technology on employee productivity, Intel found that employees who were given a wireless notebook to work with gained nearly 100 hours of additional productivity per year.

See whether you can put this tip to work in your store. Look around for tools or equipment that are due for an upgrade and consider replacing them with something better.


Looking to upgrade your point-of-sale system? Give Vend’s free POS software a try. Your staff will love it!


Hire A-players

It goes without saying that you should always aim to hire A-players; they perform better and get results. But that’s not the only reason that you should go for superstar employees. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the mere presence of A-players in the company can have a positive effect on the performance of other employees.

As the Harvard Business Review cites:

On average, department-level output increases by 54% after the arrival of a star. A significant fraction of the star effect is indirect: after removing the direct contribution of the star, department level output still increases by 48%.

There are two explanations for this. The first is that A-players can motivate their colleagues to perform better, and the second is that they help the organization “recruit better talent going forward.”

Keep this study in mind whenever you’re dealing with staffing issues. Invest the necessary resources to find superstar employees, and be sure to apply the tips above to keep them.

Your take

How do you empower and motivate employees in your store? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Recommended Reading

Need more staffing tips and insights? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Training and Motivating Retail Employees, an in-depth resource packed with actionable takeaways for motivating employees and boosting staff productivity.  

Want to learn more about retail staffing?

Save your spot for our upcoming webinar on retail hiring. If you’re struggling to find and keep competent retail employees, you can’t afford to miss this event. In this webinar, you’ll learn then “Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer” system, a process that will lessen your staffing frustrations and help you become a hiring champion among all retailers – large and small.


Hope to see you there!

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

  • Katherine Frangos

    I already commented on a linkedin group, but Francesca, this is a great piece, well written and addresses an important issue. Actually it is really a “trend” that companies are starting to do (which isnt good) which is “dodging the training”. Basically, I can’t stand companies that “cut corners” and not invest in their employees. Nor can’t I stand “state of the obvious” training materials which leave new hires bored to tears. But if companies don’t do any training, it is only going to hurt them in the long run when people quit or rate them poorly online such as Glassdoor or what not

    • Thanks so much for weighing in, Katherine!

      Yep, slashing labor costs is one of those knee-jerk decisions that some companies make when they’re looking to cut down on expenses, because unlike the costs of goods, taxes, etc., how much they pay employees is something they can actually control.

      However, numerous studies have shown that skimping on payroll only decreases labor quality, and does the exact opposite of what companies want. Like you said, it’s only going to hurt them in the long run.

      My hope is that more businesses see the value in investing in their employees. Keeping your staff happy really is good for business!

  • Roger Boyd

    Nice work Francessca. Getting to the hear of what matters to retailers…cool…more…

    • Thank you, Roger! Yep, we’ll strive to publish more of the content you love. Be sure to let us know if you have any suggestions or if there’s anything you want to see on the Vend blog. 🙂

  • Marlena Kuczyńska

    Great article!
    I wanted to share my experience.
    In our company we implemented time tracking software – it tracks time of employee working hours and activites and to our suprise, productivity level raised! (about 42 minutes a day!) you can read more here: https://www.timecamp.com/blog/index.php/2015/10/we-tested-it-timecamp-time-tracking-software/

  • Anirudhan Vasudevan

    Great article with some solid points, thanks for sharing!
    With pay package becoming less of a motivator on its own, it certainly helps to keep in mind and implement other methods of driving your workforce.

    Additionally, we’ve added a few more productivity tips for leaders in our article, which I think offers some nice extra information to your blog. I’d love to hear your opinion: https://cavantics.com/blogs/how-to-drive-productivity-at-workplace/