Natural Foods Merchandiser
9 ways to boost employee morale on a budget

9 ways to boost employee morale on a budget

When your employees are excited about natural health, enjoy their daily tasks and are eager to help others achieve their wellness goals, the entire environment within your store shines—and shoppers can feel it.

You know full well that a happy staff equals happy customers. Of course, every worker has a bad day now and then, and various internal issues will always arise. But by making sure your staff feel supported, challenged, rewarded and needed, you’ll foster a fantastic work climate and create positive vibes that can be felt from the break room to checkout. Use the following tips from industry experts to build a positive environment in your store.


Make meetings interesting and relevant. For all-store meetings, we incorporate rewards to encourage employee participation. If they answer a review question, they can reach into a grab bag and pull out a prize. We also focus on positive instruction and messages to create a sense of purpose and excitement about their work. As for manager meetings, keep them short and sweet. Write an agenda, and keep the discussion on-topic.

Praise employees publically. Recently, a snowstorm shut down our city, yet many employees decided to walk to work so the store could open for customers. One customer saw three of them walking and was impressed, so she took a picture and sent it to us. I posted it on Facebook and Twitter and wrote praise for our entire team on both websites. Employees enjoy the public praise; customers do too. Posts like these usually receive lots of likes and comments.

Always have their backs. Customers aren’t always right, but they must always be treated with respect and must win. We empower employees to deal with problems immediately, but when necessary, our managers will take over tricky conversations. If a customer crosses a line, the manager can show support of the employee by asking that shopper not to return. Of course this seldom happens.

–Bob Shea, General Manager of Elm City Market in New Haven, Conn.

Retail Consultant

Set tangible goals. People feel motivated when they accomplish goals—but feel patronized when goals are gimmes. Give them tasks that take effort, and be specific about what you’re seeking. For example, asking them to make a promotional endcap “look better” isn’t a real goal. It isn’t measurable and doesn’t produce motivation when finished. Instead, challenge them to arrange the endcap so sales of those products increase 10 percent this month.

Reward achievements. Everyone wants a raise, but permanent rewards like raises don’t fit every goal. Offer paid time off or gift cards to your store or other local merchants. Don’t get so focused on other projects or problems that you don’t promptly and graciously share the rewards you’ve promised. Not following through will have a chilling effect.

Make newbies feel welcome. Success in retail is a team effort, so the quicker a new employee becomes a part of your staff, and not “the new girl,” the better your whole team will be. Consider involving key employees in the interview and selection process so that they get to know new hires and have some investment in their success. It also helps to have strong staff members play a part in orienting and training new employees.

–Bill Crawford, Director of Retail Custom at New Hope

Workplace motivation expert

Let employees plan outings, outreach. Nonwork functions and community outreach events help your staff bond outside of the store. So does putting them in charge of the planning. Appoint one employee community organizer each month, or have a dedicated committee that picks which events it’ll attend. These activities boost morale, but also, when employees are living what your business is all about, that’s great advertising for your brand.

Tap their talents, interests. When employees are passionate about something, they’ll likely be happy to share their knowledge, which makes them feel good and can help your business too. Say someone is really into raw food and you haven’t focused much on that in your store. Ask if she wants to explore the concept, maybe by putting together an in-store raw food demo. Or if an employee is studying marketing in college, see if he wants to help with merchandising or contribute to your newsletter.

Ask their ideas. Every employee has a $50,000 idea if you can get it out of him, but that’s not going to happen with a suggestion box in the break room that never gets opened. Continually ask for their thoughts on things—after all, they’re closest to customers and know what they really want.

–Bob Nelson Author of 1501 Ways to Reward Employees (Workman Publishing Company, 2012)

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