“Rewarded behavior is repeated behavior” is an oft-used adage in business and life. This universal truth is the argument in favor of employee recognition and incentive programs. But when they are not thoughtfully crafted, they can become ineffective or even backfire. To ensure recognition and reward programs reach their full potential, corporate and retail leaders should work together to understand the motivational drivers of both the individual workers and the teams as a whole.

The Frontline Leader Mindset

You meet regularly with your team members both one-on-one and in group settings. You understand their specific strengths and what they are most passionate about. You also understand the importance of regular recognition and rewards—key factors in keeping moral high. Each employee is unique, some wanting their praise in the limelight and some prefer it to be less conspicuous. Some view their retail job as a stepping stone in a larger retail career journey and others see it as a pit-stop while they are gaining expertise in another industry. Some like creamy peanut butter and others like crunchy. Your employees’ career ambitions provide you with valuable insight into what motivates them. When it comes time to give accolades, you want freedom and some financial bandwidth to give your team the recognition they desire.

The Corporate Mindset

You care for the well-being of all retail employees and want to ensure that good work is recognized and rewarded. You also want to ensure that recognition is happening across the board and acknowledge that some retail leaders possess a stronger skill-set in this area than others. Because you want to ensure consistency, your approach to recognition and reward programs is to go with the one that is universally liked—and therefore most impactful. Budget constraints can be limiting, which can make your task of finding the best program a bit more difficult than you expected. You want to ensure that the programs you implement are achieving the desired result and you remain open to feedback and suggestions from the store leadership team.

Have your cake and eat it too

Though these approaches can seem at odds, they can actually be complementary. While it’s important for retail teams to receive recognition from their peers and direct manager, they also need to understand how their efforts contribute to the company as a whole—and that someone outside of their store is taking notice.

  • For retail leaders, draw up a store-level recognition program that allows you to give bespoke rewards to each employee. For example, you can start an employee of the month type program, allowing the greater retail team to nominate their peers who are doing exceptional work. The reward can be within the same budget, but different for each person (i.e. a Starbucks gift card for me, but a mani-pedi for you). Send this plan to your corporate team to gain approval and buy-in. Who knows, it may become a retail-wide initiative.
  • For corporate employees, create broader recognition programs since consistency is important for culture. In addition, look for opportunities to be visible to the store employees or to bring them into your “world,” so to speak. The mystical corporate office can often seem elusive and opaque to an hourly retail team member, and many desire to better understand the inner workings of the corporate team—whether they want a career in retail or not. You can run a contest or initiative where the winning individual or team gets to spend a half-day in the office learning about another job that supports the retail channel. You just might spark a new passion in an employee where none existed before.
  • Whatever the details of you recognition program, corporate employees and retail leaders should maintain an open line of communication. Feedback traveling both ways can only make the end result better, which will make everyone happier and more successful in the long run.

There’s always something you can do to increase your Double//Vision.