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Staff Engagement

Guest Blog, Paul Russell: Productively lead and engage your retail workforce…

Employee engagement is the level of involvement an employee feels with their organisation which in turn affects their overall satisfaction with the job and their enthusiasm (or otherwise) for performing their role to the best of their ability. In retail, with its characteristic fast pace and numerous employee/customer interactions, engaging employees is particularly relevant. Where companies achieve the holy grail of retail, engaged staff, they can not only create and maintain the best service quality for customers, but increase employee productivity and customer satisfaction and reduce employee turnover. In essence, engaged staff means greater business success.

Work from Kahn suggested that there are three key aspects to employee engagement; meaningfulness, safety and availability. Meaningfulness is how vital an employee perceives their performance in their role to be, the value they place on what they do and how beneficial to overall business performance they find their work activities to be. A key way of managing perceptions of meaningfulness in employees is through effective leadership, clearly communicating not only the specific tasks that must be undertaken but the overall business benefits, where possible allowing retail staff to vary tasks and roles, and regularly sharing stories of success.  Employees can come to retail with subconscious negative perceptions of the role, or without effective leadership these can develop over time, and it is down to managers to identify and alter these beliefs before they erode engagement.

The safety aspect of employee engagement involves how able the employee feels to be authentic within their role. Environment is particularly relevant here, imagine for example a new luxury retail employee who has not worked in luxury before. There is a certain acclimatisation that needs to occur, of which training is key, before they understand both the environment and the customers and feel safe. Once this luxury acclimatisation has occurred and the employee feels confident and assured within their role, safety is no longer a barrier to employee engagement. Safety needs can also be met through strong leadership and effective internal communications that show support for staff, and that their wellbeing is being looked after.

Availability is concerned with resources, physical, cognitive and emotional, and the employee’s assessment of whether they have adequate resources to undertake their job. These resources can be both workplace and home based. From a workplace perspective, an employee would look at resources such as personal development provision and the training matrix put in place to cater to their physical, cognitive and emotional needs, alongside employee benefits schemes and rewards. Outside of work, an employees’ personal situation can impact upon their perception of resources available to do their job through tiredness and so forth and once more this is a management issue necessitating effective leadership.

The thread that links all elements of employee engagement is leadership and the creation of a workplace culture that promotes personal development. Equipping retail staff with the requisite skills and knowledge to provide excellent service to their retail customers results in confident, happy and above all engaged staff who will flourish in their positions.


Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Visakhapatnam. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, the United States, Middle East and Asia.