Keep Employees Motivated This Holiday Season

Because of the economic downturn, a majority of you are working with fewer people, less merchandise, and shrinking marketing dollars. That means your team will work harder and longer between Nov. 26 and Jan. 1 than they probably ever have. Fortunately, you can motivate them without spending your holiday profits.

Many of our jewelry partners are implementing a sales incentive program to thank employees and reward hard work, long hours, and good performance. Although some feel that such initiatives destroy a friendly atmosphere with cutthroat competition, we’ve found that employees at stores without incentive programs still feel competitive regarding clients. (Besides, some competition is healthy.)

Many programs are performance based, with commissions paid on profits, not gross margins. The percentage paid may vary by category, depending on their margins, but be wary of too many value structures or you risk an accounting nightmare.

Also consider incentives for team efforts, such as add-on sales, turnovers, extended service plans, and credit applications. On snow days, offer incentives for sales over the phone or clients persuaded to come in.

Besides monetary incentives, consider offering extra vacation time or days off. Some employees prefer flexibility more than cash. You might also offer dinners to fine restaurants, theater tickets, gift cards, spa days, weekend getaways, gas cards, car washes, or (of course) jewelry. You might even give away an all-expenses-paid vacation. To control costs, solicit other businesses and reach out to your professional network to negotiate an exchange or discounts on one another’s merchandise.

Whatever the incentive, keep track of every transaction and speak with your accountant about what must be reported to Uncle Sam.

If you’re unsure which incentives would work best for your staff, ask them. Give them a questionnaire. Depending on staff size, you might offer different incentives based on different positions. Your support team is no less important than your sales team, but they may have different preferences.

Roll out the program the first part of November and make a big deal of it. Announce it at a Saturday morning meeting when everyone is alert, or take your staff to dinner to foster team spirit. If you’re excited about it, your staff will be, too.

Make sure your hard-working staffers know they’re appreciated and valued. By offering incentives for a job well done, you thank them for their long hours and contribute to an enjoyable working environment. Even if sales are off, stay positive to keep your team positive. Work with your staff, laugh with them, and ease some of the tension that creeps in with the holidays. Your team will appreciate your efforts and stay motivated well into the new year.

Suzanne DeVries is president and founder of Diamond Staffing Solutions Inc., a jewelry placement firm in Derry, N.H., that matches elite candidates with leading retailers and manufacturers. Diamond Staffing Solutions is an official AGS sustaining member. Contact DeVries at (877) 396-6377, e-mail: suzanne@diamondstaffing.com, or visit www.diamondstaffing.com.