The Art of Employee Engagement and Positive Impact in Retail
Consumers today are demanding the highest levels of environmental responsibility and consciousness from the retailers they shop with. A recent study by Nielsen found that 55 percent of global online consumers are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
And retailers, which once focused their efforts around traditional business operations like improving the supply chain and manufacturing, are responding to these new demands. Remember REI’s successful #OptOutside Black Friday campaign? Or Patagonia’s creative Worn Wear initiative, in which customers are encouraged to repair or recycle their old Patagonia gear rather than buying new items? These are just two of many examples of retailers connecting with this new breed of consumer.
Shoppers are far from the only ones that care about social responsibility and sustainability efforts. Retailers’ greatest asset — their own employee base — can make a powerful difference when engaged around these efforts. In general, engaged employees result in an abundance of benefits for retailers, including higher annual revenues and increased customer loyalty and satisfaction. In fact, according to research from Gallup, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors’ earnings by 147 percent.
So how do retailers ensure their employees are engaged? How do you elevate them from complacent or moderately satisfied workers? The answer is to implement and involve them in corporate initiatives that play to their individual passions and interests. Whether it’s sustainability activities, personal wellness initiatives or community giving campaigns, retailers can use these strategic initiatives to better foster an engaged work environment and, as a result, drive positive impact and achieve corporate goals.
Here are five tips for retailers looking to implement successful employee engagement programs:
1. Offer a variety of options. Different employees are motivated and inspired by different things. Some care about the environment and, therefore, will be receptive to corporate recycling initiatives. Others care more about social programs, such as volunteering and citizenship. Offer choices to draw a bigger crowd and demonstrate that your organizational values are aligned to your employee's values.
2. Leverage the network effect. We're all social beings; the more employees who are involved in employee engagement programs, the more enticing it is for others to join. Find ways via your existing communication channels and/or new technology to enable employees to invite and interact with others.
3. Lead by example. When the boss enthusiastically participates in and supports a program, everyone signs up. The same can be said for top executives or influential managers. When employees see their superiors chipping in, they're more inclined to participate themselves.
4. Bring your program to your employees. The average age of a retail employee is 37. According to the Pew Research Center, 83 percent of 37-year-old Americans own a smartphone. Therefore, just because these employees aren’t always within the same physical location at one time doesn’t mean you can’t reach them at scale. Bringing your employee engagement program to the device your employees use every day is key to putting the “engagement” into your employee engagement program.
5. Take an online and offline approach. It’s not good enough to put together an employee engagement strategy that doesn’t have both a strong online and offline component. Unlike the "Field of Dreams," just because you build an employee engagement strategy doesn’t mean they will come. Use all available marketing channels to create awareness of your programs. Think SMS, bulletin boards, emails, paycheck/paystub inserts, information included in benefits packages, etc.
No matter a retailer’s size or sector, it’s crucial to devote the time and resources necessary to increasing employee engagement. Much like today’s consumers and their interest in environmental sustainability and social consciousness, today’s millennial workforce is more concerned with job fulfillment vs. salary alone. By implementing captivating employee engagement programs, retailers will not only drive revenue and increase customer satisfaction, but also mitigate turnover and provide employees with the purpose and gratification they now require at work.
Susan Hunt Stevens is the founder and CEO of WeSpire, an employee engagement platform company.