Employee Incentive Strategy

01 Aug 2021

​5 Creative Ways to Reward Your Top Performing Employees

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Jake Levin

Specialty retailers tend to attract a very specific type of employee. Passionate about their industry and eager to share their knowledge, your frontline sales team is the face of your organization as well as your customers’ trusted shepherds when it comes to discovering and purchasing products.

Whether it's pet products, vitamins, or cosmetics, retail sales people are passionate about products and all of their unique benefits. Many have personal stories of how products on the shelf have helped them or a family-member, and they tend to have their fingers on the pulse of industry culture and developments. Whereas department store associates, for instance, seem like stealth ninjas evading customer interactions, your strongest sales associates tend to be experts who are eager to gush about the latest product or their favorite brand.

Also, unlike many commission-based salespeople, retail sales associates tend not to be pushy. They’re aware that customers in their stores are often novice consumers, and many are thrilled to be a trusted source of knowledge. Asking the right questions and having the right answers is all part of the job.

With many stores launching comprehensive training programs, the role of the retail salesperson is quickly evolving. Today’s store reps are expected to possess a depth of knowledge around products, their uses, benefits and shortcomings, and brand promises. From whey protein powders at a Vitamin Shoppe to face-serums at Sephora, these driven, passionate professionals have the answers.

Your employees are the lifeblood of any retail operation and they truly are the face of your brand. Therefore, retail owners and other leadership staff must take steps to ensure these integral team members are adequately rewarded for their efforts.

It can sometimes be challenging to establish sales-based incentives for your top performing employees. While your POS system likely tracks sales going out the door, manually pulling reports and crunching numbers can be a real headache.

Fortunately, we’ve assembled five creative ways you can successfully navigate these pains while creating an environment that celebrates success and rewards those who go above and beyond.

1. It’s More Than the Money

Before deciding on a program, keep in mind that being the best doesn’t always come down to a dollar amount.

Plus, there is much more to being a professional sales associate than just selling. Someone might push sales like nobody’s business, but that doesn’t account for how they collaborate and interact with colleagues. Nor does it mean that they show up for work on time and with an infectiously fantastic attitude. And lastly, a sales amount doesn’t speak to an employee’s attention to the small details that build the brand and keep customers coming back.

That isn’t to say that high-level salesmanship isn’t something that should be rewarded; just keep in mind that deciphering what qualifies as ‘top-performer’ requires a multi-dimensional approach with an array of considerations.

Employees can be rewarded for receiving a positive review on the dispensary’s Google Reviews page (or on Yelp, or Google Maps), for instance. Unlike accumulating sales, a positive review bolsters a brand’s image and attracts new business, turning one customer into hundreds—if not thousands of customers.

If a store does happen to thrive on sales-based incentives—rewarding on metrics besides just gross sales can be a powerful way to level the playing field. Consider rewarding employees with the highest units-per-transaction, or largest average ticket size. If you need help implementing this type of sales-based incentive program, checkout SparkPlug.

2. Cater to the Culture

A recent study shows that overall employee productivity jumps up 22% when incentive programs are put in place.

Now, that number – in and of itself – makes the proposition of a rewards-based system quite enticing. However, the very same study found that when incentivization is catered to the preferences of a team, it increases performance by a whopping 44%.

This means retail operators shouldn’t offer a rewards program just to check the box. Instead, they should study their team to grasp their culture wholeheartedly. Only then will they figure out what would genuinely motivate their unique team. Perhaps your employees frequent a local pizza spot after hours, or maybe there’s a concert coming up your team would like to attend. Personalizing these rewards so they resonate with your team’s unique culture is a terrific way to make your employees feel valued.

If you’re feeling stuck, asking your team for feedback and ideas will make them feel involved in the process and bought-in.

3. Encourage Teamwork

Sweetening those competitive juices with incentives-based programs will undoubtedly pay dividends for specialty retailers with that kind of culture.

However, some shops – and the sales employees who work there – might not see the value in such an individualized rewards system.

So, why not focus on an overall team goal? A team-based incentive will get the whole team working toward one collective goal—and therefore, it will promote collaboration and friendly cooperation between fellow colleagues.

When teams become closer and develop community, it makes communication fluid and seamless.

There’s an abundance of research indicating that workplace friendships are integral to the overall success of employees.

Therefore, if a sales goal is reached or exceeded—or if the store receives a specific amount of positive reviews, offer your entire frontline team a collective prize. Dividing your employees into teams can be a great way to promote friendly competition while maintaining a team-first culture. Consider a shift vs. shift approach to get the best of both worlds.

4. Don’t Limit to One Rewards Program

There’s no rule dictating that employee incentives should be limited to one. With all the potential positives, it only makes sense to consider doubling, tripling, and even quadrupling down on the number of challenges, games, and initiatives.

By doing this, it also encourages your team to see how they impact business from multiple perspectives. Your sales employees can sometimes feel isolated on the frontlines, and the more they understand about the company, the more they’ll be invested in its long-term success.

Also, if the budget doesn’t allow for multiple rewards at once, different challenges can be rotated in and out, depending on the time of day, week, month, or year.

Either way, it gives a chance for employees with different skillsets to shine and reap the fruits of their hard work.

5. Utilize Technology

Manually tracking employee’s incentive results might be possible, but so is communicating strictly through cave drawings. It’s 2021, and businesses failing to streamline their processes with technology are actively keeping themselves behind the pack.

Also, failing to utilize the optimal tools will likely lead to haphazard, non-committal execution.

Technologies take care of those difficult-to-monitor aspects of incentives and goals-based programs. With the right software or app, tricky matters such as incentive tiers, results maintenance, and tracking the overall effectiveness of programs become a breeze.

Keep in mind, these programs are at their most impactful when all employees have easy access to standings and results. It establishes trust and transparency and it also provides visual stimuli, so they know exactly where they stand and can – quite literally – keep their eyes on the prize.

With that said, we hope these tips helped with establishing an effective rewards program for your store!