By: Dustin Flynn

The shopping season is upon us. It kicked off with Halloween and New Year’s is the goal line for retail employees. As most of you know, increased sales come with increased stress, and customers’ tensions from the holiday pressures are frequently thrust onto retail employees. Here is a short survival guide to help keep you and your employees’ morale high through the shopping season.

Over acknowledge to maximize your employees’ strengths

Each of us has an ordinary set of skills, but we also excel in our own unique ways. During the shopping season, it is more important than ever not just to acknowledge, but over acknowledge where your employees excel. This will ensure that you get to maximize their usefulness and help to build long-lasting morale by fortifying your employees’ self-worth and confidence. This is also a great opportunity to showcase certain skills for other employees to see and learn from as well as give recognition where it is due. Because after all, everyone likes to be recognized for the hard work they have done.

Explain how an employee’s job fits into the big picture

For retail employees, understanding the impact their jobs have on the big picture can help to boost productivity, attitude and morale. It is too easy for employees to think, “duh, if the shelves aren’t stocked, then we can’t sell anything,” but we know it is more than just having stocked shelves and smiling faces. Product placement, store cleanliness and employees’ outward attitude directly affect sales, and it is important for employees to understand that without doing their part, the “machine” could fail. Take the time at the beginning of the shopping season to explain your company’s goals. Be specific, and don’t sugarcoat anything; everyone knows what time of year it is and what is coming. Do your best to ensure that employees clearly understand what the expectations are for the rest of the year. Then, make the connection between employee tasks and the company’s goals to help employees recognize just how important their part is. Review these goals regularly through the shopping season and hold yourself, and employees, accountable to these goals. Make sure to announce the completion of goals as well; there are very few things comparable to the gratification of completing a goal. It shows that you are staying vigilant and haven’t forgotten about them.

Facilitate employees’ creating a comfortable work environment

This does not mean that it is okay to start wearing pajamas to work, but it does mean that there should be added encouragement for employees to be comfortable in being themselves. Some ways that you can help facilitate comfortability is by taking the time to hire the right people, and when you have a baneful employee, get rid of him/her. Nothing can pull employee morale down faster than having a co-worker who just doesn’t fit or doesn’t hold his or her own.

Promote store and personal work station cleanliness; having a clean store and work area keeps employees in the proper state of mind and alleviates visual stress inducers, helping to keep morale high. Make sure there is a good place for employees to relax by providing a safe haven to retreat to on break from the busy shopping season. Being able to escape is key for most retail workers; that five to fifteen

minutes is sometimes all they have to look forward to, so having a comfortable environment to do so is paramount. For employees who smoke, ensure that they have a safe place out of the weather in which they can enjoy their break the same as the employees who will be staying inside. Also, no matter the break location, ensure there is a clock so that no one loses track of time while on his or her retreat.

Focus on your employee’s wellness; you can do this by being flexible and understanding to the fact that employees are also consumers who have to live up to the same holiday pressures as everyone else. Make sure that when you are scheduling, you take these factors into account. Verbally ask people if they will need extra time to achieve their personal goals during the shopping season so that you can attempt to plan accordingly. In doing these things, you will increase employee morale by building and promoting real connections that show you are being mindful of their personal goals while helping to achieve the company’s professional goals.

Let employees talk, and listen to them

The shopping season seems to bring its own set of problems with it, and if you have employees who have been with you through at least one season before, then it is good to pick their brains in an attempt to stop problems before they start. This will help to raise morale because it shows employees that you care, which helps build trust, and it can give employees the chance to vent, which helps in more ways than one. Try to do this either individually or in small groups. Larger groups tend to be unproductive and usually draw out one person who will attempt to rally everyone around his/her one problem. Also, show that you are paying attention, don’t interrupt and make sure to take notes. Nothing is worse than feeling like you’re not being listened to, especially when someone has asked for your opinion.

Holiday parties are not about the holidays

The point of holiday parties is to celebrate, but you can make a larger impact on morale if you focus the celebration on the people you are surrounded by and the great job they are doing. Make sure that the centerpiece of any work gathering is the employees and their families, the sacrifices they make and the time they spend making the company money, not the holiday. Don’t let the year’s hard work be overshadowed by the same consumer-driven stresses that your customers are facing. Facilitate an experience that helps your employees know their value to you and the company alike. Invite family members to share in the celebration of a job well done; their presence will increase interaction and comfortability. Try to schedule between Halloween and Thanksgiving to help keep morale high and continuous through the end of the shopping season. While you have everyone gathered, you will have the perfect opportunity to recognize any special persons and their extra efforts as well as celebrate any achieved goals or quotas that the company, team and employee have made happen.

These are just a few ways to keep employee morale high during the shopping season. Remember that respect, understanding, recognition, and a comfortable, clean work environment are important when raising or keeping employee morale high. Taking the time to explain how an employee’s job fits into the big picture offers them value and confidence and helps to alleviate stress during the shopping season. The benefits from doing these things are almost immediate and will help you to build stronger and longer-lasting relationships with your employees and in turn will help your company grow and keep customers coming back every shopping season.