7 ways to get the best out of your staff in 2024

22 January 2024, 10:17 AM
  • For food and drink retailers, taking time to review your staff and rota plans is essential for success
7 ways to get the best out of your staff in 2024

The start of a new year is a time of new beginnings and possibilities – so it’s also frequently the time for job moves and changes in career. Ensuring your employees are happy in their roles can be challenging for the time-stretched small business owner, but it’s key to keeping your customers engaged and your tills ringing throughout the year.

“The hospitality and retail industries are ones with typically high staff turnovers, so to alleviate staffing issues, to foster a healthy workplace, and to maximise sales, it’s important to motivate and empower your employees,” says Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, an HR software and consultancy firm that supports small retail and hospitality businesses. 

“Engaged employees can play a crucial role in boosting sales,” Alan continues. “Motivated teams tend to be more productive and committed to their work, not to mention provide excellent customer service that helps build strong relationships with customers and increases repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.”

Or, as Polly Robinson, leadership training and development coach for managers and business owners, says, “Happy staff equal happy customers.” Employee engagement, she says, “drives higher productivity and ultimately a more successful business. It boosts retention and reduces stress. Paying someone a competitive salary is not enough to ensure that they are engaged, loyal and committed to their job.”

So, how does a fine food retailer achieve this?

How to maximise employee engagement

1. A shared vision

Engagement starts with having a shared purpose, bringing everyone together around the reason you exist,” Polly says. “Managers need to connect employees with the mission and vision of the organisation by connecting their work to the bigger picture.”

Sometimes that means looking beyond your daily to-do list. “Instead of focusing on the day-to-day tasks, highlight how you want to make a difference to your customers and deliver a memorable experience. Do your team know why you are all there? What does your organisation want to be known for, how is your business special and how are you going to achieve that together? If you can communicate the vision with your team, the ‘WHY’, and give them the opportunity to contribute to the ‘HOW’ then you will build commitment. A culture where people have a sense of how they are part of creating something amazing.”

Alan agrees that creating a positive work environment can go a long way in motivating your employees. “This can be done by fostering a culture of teamwork, open communication where any concerns can be relayed to managers and resolved swiftly, and mutual respect.”

2. Form strong relationships

“The number one reason people leave a job is because they don’t get on with their manager,” Polly explains. If you’ve had a spate of leavers, it might be time to look at how you’re communicating with your team – and how they engage with one another. “The relationship between a manager and employee is vital, as is fostering good relationships between peers. 

Managers should communicate with their team regularly. Check in with your staff on a daily basis with a focussed ‘How are you?’ (rather than just a casual greeting). Ask questions and practise active listening. Make time for one-to-ones as well as team meetings. Consider the whole person, ask people what motivates them and what their passions are to get a sense of how fulfilled people are in their roles.”

3. Reward and recognise hard work

“Perhaps one of your team has received a rave review from a customer, or has gone above and beyond to help a colleague out,” Alan says. “It’s important to call out positive behaviours and reward them, whether that’s in the form of bonuses, promotions, or even just a simple thank you.”

“It’s human to want to feel seen, heard and valued,” Polly adds. “You can work as hard as you can, and be the best you can be, but if you don’t feel seen and heard, you will lose motivation and become disengaged. When we’re busy it is easy to forget to acknowledge people.” 

Recognition doesn’t have to be complicated. “On a daily basis, encourage people with a simple smile, celebrate success with a high-five, thank people at the end of a shift and highlight positive achievements to the whole team at the end of a shift and highlight positive achievements to the whole team,” Polly explains.

4. Trust your team

Handing over responsibility can be hard, especially if you’ve been used to running the whole show yourself. But, as Polly explains, it can lead to growth opportunities for your team. “In a culture where there is mutual trust and respect, staff trust leaders to make the best decisions and leaders trust staff to do their best work without needing to micromanage. When you give people responsibility and autonomy, they are likely to exceed your expectations.”

Perhaps an employee has come up with new ideas for your social media accounts. Consider how you could hand a bit of responsibility over to them to recognise their interests. “Employees who feel comfortable expressing themselves are more engaged, so aim to create an environment where people feel comfortable approaching you with ideas or concerns,” Polly says. “Be transparent, honest and consistent as a leader. Respect everyone and treat everyone the same whether they are full or part-time. Deal with conflict in the moment rather than sweeping it under the carpet and letting it fester.”

5. Foster career development

“Encourage your employees to grow and develop their skills by offering training programmes and opportunities for advancement within the company. With a goal to work towards, employees will generally be more engaged and have more purpose,” Alan says.

“People don’t just leave a job for more money – they leave because they’re not challenged, because they’re not learning and because they don’t see an opportunity for career development,” Polly adds. 

“We all have a natural curiosity to discover and learn new things,” she adds. “What opportunities do you offer for personal and professional growth and development? How do you support your staff to be the best they can be? This might be skills training for the job or mentoring from a colleague to develop soft skills. It might be giving formal or informal feedback to encourage people to push themselves forward or it could be talking about their future in the business.”

6. Offer flexibility where you can

“Flexibility means giving your staff the opportunity to enjoy their life outside of work as much as possible,” Polly says. While she acknowledges that flexibility on rotas isn’t easy to achieve, it’s important as an employer to be aware of your team’s other commitments, such as childcare or their studies. “Try to provide rotas with as much notice as possible, and avoid last-minute changes so people can plan their time away from work.”

Alan adds that offering flexibility where possible when creating rotas can help employees achieve a better work-life balance and avoid burnout. “Of course, the needs of the business must be met, but fairness when allocating shifts to staff can ensure workloads are divided evenly and everyone has an equal opportunity to work the most desirable shifts,” he says.

7. Look after your team’s wellbeing

“Plenty has been written about the importance of looking after your staff’s wellbeing,” Polly says. “When people feel stressed or that the balance of their life and work is wrong, they become disengaged.” 

Don’t wait until it’s too late. “Strive to establish the right work-life balance: encourage people to take breaks, monitor overtime and raise a flag if someone is doing too much. Try to set a manageable workload with the right balance of challenge and interest, and ensure that they have the right tools, equipment and training for their job. Create an environment where people feel they can talk to someone about any issues they are experiencing in or outside work. Weave wellbeing into your catch-ups, regularly ask how they are and how well they feel their work is going. Signpost people to additional support if needed.”

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