Poor Employee Engagement Is the Biggest Retail Fail of 2015

Here's how to bounce back from it in 2016.

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By Sam Bahreini


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you had to think of a list of retail fails, the majority of them would probably have to do with the way a company interacts with customers. Maybe a product launch left a lot to be desired, or perhaps customer service took it on the chin more times than you'd care to admit.

While these are all important things to think about regarding the way your budding retail business operates, they unfortunately overlook what's perhaps the biggest fail of all -- a lack of focus on employee engagement.

Related: 3 Ways to Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

The problem with poor employee engagement

According to Gallup, only 30 percent of American employees feel actively engaged with their jobs. This disengagement costs the U.S. economy between $450 billion and $550 billion every year in squandered productivity. Beyond wasted dollars, dwindling employee engagement negatively affects your business in a number of other ways.

As engagement decreases, so do your employees' attitudes. At that point, they're just punching a clock -- a far cry from the loyal brand ambassadors you need them to be. When your business breeds negativity, it will bleed into customer interactions. Soon, customers will avoid your store, opting to do business with competitors instead.

Luckily, the reverse is also true. Engaged employees are more likely to be enthusiastic and diligent about satisfying customer needs. High employee engagement levels have also been tied to reduced sickness rates, lower employee turnover and more -- all of which can increase revenue and boost profits.

Encouraging engagement in 2016

As the founder of Victoria's Secret, Leslie Wexner is an incredibly successful businessman by any standard, but his dedication to employee engagement is second to none.

He believes shopping is a free form of entertainment -- people can get just as much satisfaction from going to a store as they do from going to the movies if the circumstances are right. With that, the key to his success has been simple: Make sure the circumstances are always right. By focusing on making his employees happy through profit sharing, bonuses and competitive pay, he instills a sense of pride in their work. As a result, engagement increases.

While your retail business is likely much smaller, the same sentiment rings true. According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review and The Energy Project, employees are more gratified at work when employers meet four core needs.

Related: 10 Simple Secrets You Need to Know to Increase Employee Engagement

1. Physical

Giving your employees the opportunity to recharge is crucial. Encourage them to take a full hour-long lunch break, if possible, and take one yourself. Employees want leaders to exhibit the behaviors they preach. Organize group events so everyone can have fun and collaborate. Whether you host an in-office contest, hold a volleyball tournament after hours or volunteer as a group, your employees will feel more connected to the company atmosphere.

2. Emotional

People want to feel valued and respected for their work. Thank employees for their contributions. This simple act can make a huge difference. In fact, employees who feel supported by their superiors are 1.3 times more likely to remain with the company and 67 percent more engaged.

3. Mental

Allowing your employees to define when and where they complete their work can make all the difference. Forty-four percent of employees rate flexible work provisions as the top benefit at work. While remote work may not be an option for on-the-ground salespeople, you can certainly give employees the autonomy to set and adjust their own schedules.

4. Spiritual

In my experience, helping employees do more of what they do best and enjoy the most will forge an all-important connection to your business. This starts on day one. Rather than ask new hires to fill out mounds of paperwork, walk them through your company's values. Communicate how each employee contributes to the overall success of your business. This will help them see that they're more than cogs in the machine.

When it comes to employee engagement, you truly reap what you sow. While 2015 may have been a less-than-stellar year for it, you have the chance to focus not only on engagement in the upcoming year, but also on the positive retail experiences that it's capable of creating.

Related: 6 Steps for Converting Employees Into Intrapreneurs

Sam Bahreini

Digital Marketer

Sam Bahreini is a serial entrepreneur and growth marketer, helping startups navigate from launch to scale. 

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