Retail can be a tough slog, even for the best retailers out there. So spare a thought for the staff who work hard all day to make sure your store is operating smoothly.

Running a steady ship means keeping your staff motivated every day, which can be one of the biggest challenges for store owners.

Sales Assistant of the Year 2012

Entering staff for our Sales Assistant of the Year Awards is a great way to show employees how much you appreciate their hard work. If you have someone on your team who frequently impresses you with their enthusiasm and bright ideas, then we want to hear about it. The overall winner of the Award will take home a total of £1,000 prize money, while their manager will be awarded £250 for their support.

Enter at and fill in our entry form, which includes six questions to be answered by your sales assistant, or email

According to Business Link, the main causes for a de-motivated workforce are predictable, monotonous work, lack of praise for achievements, employees feeling side-lined or ignored, little opportunity for advancement and a poor reward structure. If you can address these issues, you will go a long way to having a get-up-and-go workforce.

Sometimes even the best of us can struggle to inspire and need something extra to motivate the troops. Convenience Retailer of the Year David Knight of Knight’s Budgens of Hassocks, West Sussex, believes the ability to constantly motivate staff is the “Holy Grail” of retail management. “It can be so tough sometimes,” he says. “We’re a close-knit team but there are times when it can be difficult to get people motivated.”

He stresses the importance of having a happy and motivated team. “Without the staff we are nothing,” says David. “I’m not always here so it’s important that the team can go about their jobs happily without me around.”

David says that staff look to their managers for guidance and that even if they’re not feeling at their best, it’s vital that this mood doesn’t trickle down to the entire team. “If they can see that I’m not motivated, they’re more likely to think ‘well why should we be?’,” he says. “It’s not necessarily something you have to hide from employees but you have to be confident that they’re able to do their job well and are happy in their work at all times.”

Tips to motivate your team

● Trust - delegating key tasks can empower employees and stimulate innovation, although you will need to ensure that the ultimate business objective is understood.

● Respect - listen to and act upon what your employees tell you. By responding to their concerns you can demonstrate your trust in their judgement.

● Encouragement - if someone’s standards fall short, don’t just criticise, but find out what the problem is and try to get them back on track. Identify if more training is needed.

● Value diversity - what works for motivating one person, may not work for another. Be flexible and try to get the best out of different types of employee.

● Rewards - set clear objectives and celebrate employee achievement. You could consider offering financial rewards. Any reward should be proportionate to the achievement, and the system should be seen as fair and transparent by all staff.

Source: Business Link

A busy retailer may ask themselves if staff motivation is something they should be bothering with. After all, they receive an agreed wage for a job. But Investors In People specialist Vincent Dolan says that retailers who overlook the needs of their staff do so at their peril. “Low motivation can lead to high absenteeism, lack of customer care and high turnover of staff, all of which negatively impact a business,” he says. “Convenience stores have a loyal and regular customer base and if staff members are constantly changing or not providing the best service possible then they risk losing these customers.”

Sanjeev Vedhera of North East Convenience Stores agrees that a poorly-motivated team can have a negative effect on the business. North East Convenience boasts 250 staff members across 19 sites and Sanjeev says with an estate this big, it is vital to have an enthusiastic workforce. “When I’m not at a store, having the right staff is everything,” he says. “They’re the ones interacting with customers and representing you. If they’re not happy in their job then sales will fall.

“If your employees just turn up, do a shift, take their wages and go home then the business is not going to get anywhere. You have to help them get motivated about the company,” says Sanjeev. “They need to be taught the company ideals and what the plans are for the business. This gets them involved and they feel as though they’re working towards something.”

Previously the group suffered from high turnover of staff but that’s all changed now. “We introduced monthly awards for the business - employee of the month, manager of the month and store of the month,” he explains. “I was a bit worried at first that they seemed too American but the staff really responded to them and they all nominate each other for it. The prizes don’t have to be massive, it’s more the recognition of the hard work.”

Dolan agrees that incentive schemes can work but they must be done fairly in order to succeed. “Often they can be seen as biased, so if a retailer does introduce one to the business, it’s important that the process is transparent and fair for everyone involved,” he says.

As a way of keeping people enthusiastic, David operates both the Musgrave employee incentives scheme and one he runs himself as motivation for his team. “The Musgrave scheme is done by a mystery shopper on a monthly basis and there is a cash reward, while our own is organised by category which helps people take responsibility for an area of the store,” he explains. With David’s own incentive scheme, staff are rewarded with a bottle of wine or chocolates. “Incentive schemes are a good way of offering something extra as you can ill afford to keep increasing wages when someone does a good job,” he says.

The 92 employees at Bishop Retail, which comprises nine sites in the North East, receive a monetary reward for performing well. “We pay our staff the minimum wage but offer them the opportunity to earn an extra £1 per hour weekly bonus for arriving to work on time and being properly presented,” says operations director Darren MacDonald.

Music to their ears

According to recent research conducted by music licensing organisations PPL and PRS for Music, 81% of retailers say that playing music in the workplace increases staff morale. The research also found that two-thirds (65%) believe music in the workplace makes their employees more productive. Furthermore of those surveyed two in five (40%) believe that playing music can increase sales or results for the business.

In the report, psychologist Dr Vicky Williamson explains why music has this effect. “Music provides an effective and adaptable tool for bringing a sense of pleasure and relaxation to the work environment, thereby promoting a positive attitude, higher job satisfaction and boosting a sense of brand identity and loyalty,” she says. “A completely silent work environment can lack stimulation, interest and, for many people, a dynamic and creative source of energy.”

Retailers considering playing music in their store need licences from both the PPL and PRS for Music.

However, he claims that money is just one part of the equation. “The money is what gets them to work, it’s everything else that keeps them there. We have a scheme at Bishop Retail which acknowledges when someone does something more than required,” he explains. “It’s called Above and Beyond the Call of Duty and it’s a simple certificate that recognises the work the person has done and how much we appreciate it.”

He also works with suppliers to set weekly and monthly targets for upselling where staff can win prizes.

Darren recommends entering awards as another way of encouraging staff members. “We’ve won a few awards for our stores so we put them up for everyone to see and make sure everyone knows that we see what a good job they’re doing.”

As well as incentive schemes, Sanjeev is a firm believer in helping his team forge a career in retail through further training. “A lot of our managers have worked their way up from the shop floor and we now offer National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in customer service to all employees,” he says. “It helps increase the commitment between us and the employee and improves morale. It also shows that we’re willing to help them progress within the retail world.”

Again, Dolan believes this is good practice but urges retailers to ensure that there is long-term planning behind it. “Retail can attract a lot of job-hoppers but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who could potentially be suitable for a long-term career in retail,” he says. “Offering up further training or qualifications is a good way to encourage this but it’s vital that the organisation has a career path for someone to follow. If they get an NVQ, what happens next? Will they be eligible to become a supervisor or manager? Or perhaps if the business is large enough, could they run their own store? It’s important that these questions are addressed before the training is offered up.”

Dolan urges retailers to engage with their staff as much as possible. “The top levels of the organisation should be in touch with the front-line staff,” he says. “This is true of all sectors, including convenience stores. Owners and managers should go back to the shop floor and do their staff’s job every once in a while.”

In order to combat ennui in the store, David tries to keep staff members in the loop as much as possible, starting from when they first join the team. “When they first start work, team members are taken through the company’s ideals and what we stand for and what we expect from them,” he says. “We use constant communication to keep them interested in the business and have management meetings every week to communicate financial performance as it’s important to share this with the team.”

Darren adds: “If you’re not communicating with your team, this will affect how they deal with customers. And then, it doesn’t matter how good your offers are, people won’t come back to your store if there’s a bad atmosphere.”