COMMENT: The secret to maximising employee satisfaction in retail

Unhappy employees are often less productive and can cost billions in lost revenue, so staff satisfaction levels need to be a top priority for retailers. Decathalon's recruitment leader Michael McHale explains why.

employee satisfaction

A study has revealed that a third of Brits are spending over half of their working life dissatisfied due to a lack of purpose and unmanageable stress levels.

Given that unhappy and unengaged staff members are said to be 10 per cent less productive and can cost UK businesses billions of pounds worth of lost revenue, employee satisfaction levels need to be a top priority for retailers.

However, the retail sector’s staff turnover rates are considerably higher than the national average, highlighting that there is still a lot that needs to be done to increase happiness in the workplace.

Successfully addressing this problem could see businesses boost productivity, creativity and staff retention.

Decathlon has made it a priority by making employee satisfaction one of the main KPIs. To achieve this, people need proper induction, training, a tailored development plan and above all, an environment where they can be themselves.

Research supports this and suggests that people are most satisfied at work when they are being treated with fairness and respect and they feel appreciated by their employer. For this reason, retailers need to reassess the treatment of their workforce, paying particular attention to incorporating these values.

With this in mind, here are some measures retailers need to take to ensure they are maximising employee satisfaction and bolstering business success.

Be flexible

Given that over half (51 per cent) of people wish their company offered more flexible working options, this is clearly an area that retailers need to address in order to boost satisfaction levels.

To achieve this, brands need to consider their employees’ lifestyle and needs when implementing ways of working. Enabling members of staff to work from home and use flexi-time are common ways of boosting flexibility however, retailers need to go beyond this to truly accommodate their workforce.

Aside from time management, brands need to assess whether an employee’s day-to-day activities are tailored to their skillset and interests. By analysing a person’s strengths and weaknesses, asking them which aspects of the job they like and dislike, you can tailor their job to focus on areas they are more passionate about. This has the potential to peak their engagement and keep them motivated at work.

Vodafone has commissioned a research to help organisations find better ways of working. Drawing upon the findings from a survey of 1,366 employees and managers across UK business of all sizes and sectors, the research identified that 75 per cent of employees felt flexible working boosts their job satisfaction, while 72 per cent said the same about work-life balance. Over half (54 percent) felt they are more productive.

Training triggers success

The importance of training is another area that should not be overlooked. Providing staff with regular training to enhance their skills is something that benefits both employees and retailers.

This is because offering high-quality courses to workers demonstrates that an employer values them enough to invest in helping them progress. In turn, this helps improve loyalty and staff retention.

It also allows retailers to choose which skills they want their workforce to develop, addressing any weaknesses in the team. This has the potential to help increase a business’s overall productivity.

This is supported by a study that found the top performing businesses were those that put employee learning and development at the heart of their strategy. It revealed that 94 per cent of these businesses believed staff training was critical to success and staff retention.

Think outside of the box

When trying to create a content workplace, it is also important to consider what makes people happy outside of work.

Encouraging an active and healthy environment is a great way of doing this.

In recent years there has been a significant rise in sport at work. The reason for this being that it is said to significantly boost staff satisfaction levels and increase productivity.

This is echoed by research that found 80 per cent of people across the UK believe incorporating sporting activities into their working day could not only improve their performance at work, but also help colleagues work better as a team and improve morale.

There are various ways of putting this into action, from setting up company sport teams and holding practices on a regular basis, to “fitness hours”, where businesses allocate a specific number of hours a week for employees to take up a sporting activity of their choice.

Not sure? Just ask

To ensure that the above changes make a positive impact, brands need to monitor employee satisfaction on a regular basis.

Anonymous staff surveys are said to be the most effective way of doing this as they easily allow retailers to receive honest feedback from their team.

At Decathlon, this has proved particularly effective. It undertakes monthly, quarterly and annual surveys to get feedback from the team about their level of happiness. This helps identify what is working well within the business and areas that could be improved.

Adopting this practice allows businesses to identify any issues before they start to negatively impact the workforce and ensures maximum staff satisfaction levels.

Time to put it into practice

Pleasing everyone can often be difficult, but when addressing staff satisfaction it is important to find the balance between freedom and responsibilities, “doing what you love” and economical performance.

To effectively achieve this, retailers need to build up a level of trust with their staff and listen to their queries and concerns. These relationships are the foundations of any great business and allow an employer to offer not what is expected of them, but what employees actually want and need.

In turn, retailers can expect to create a team that is hard-working, dedicated and constantly pushing for better results – a combination that has the potential to trigger improved outcomes across businesses as a whole.

Michael McHale is the recruitment leader at Decathlon.

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